As someone whit a special interest in both document management and social business anything that touches the both of them and improves the user experience of file management is of special interest to me.
Today was a great day for me in that respect as I got to see/try out some really good new features that help user work with their files in IBM Connections.
IBM Desktop & MS Office Connectors
IBM Connections as a platform is often host to many files. Files can be stored in communities, personal files, folders and / or CCM libraries. An important factor with these files is that users need to be able to work with them quickly and directly and therefore IBM offers not just the browser interface but also a desktop connector and MS Office add-in ribbons so users can access and edit their files directly from within their productivity tools.
These connectors and the mobile apps are a great asset to any IBM Connections installation and help intertwine the IBM Connections environment with every level of the users day-to-day work. Unfortunately there were still a few points in which this was lacking though… With the release of version 15.7 of the Connectors that came out last week most of these have now been resolved:
1). It is now possible to store files from MS Office directly to the IBM Connections environment. Either by clicking on the “Files” or “Communities” icons in the IBM Connections ribbons while in the document or by using the “Save as” option under the [File] menu:
Until now you had to store the file locally first before you could upload it to IBM Connections as the system would not allow you to store a ‘new’ document directly to it. People who work with files a lot will probably recognize this and I for one am really happy with the fact that this is now resolved!
2). The second big improvement is the fact that it is now possible to store files not just to the community files section but to specific libraries & library folders within those communities as well:
A seemingly simple thing but something that wasn’t possible in the previous release and that will make live a lot easier for those of us working with libraries a lot.
3). Which brings us to the last big change with this latest version of the desktop connector: the fact that the system will now – on close of a document stored in the IBM Connections environment – prompt you to publish it to the environment. Before this update the document was stored in a local folder and the user would have to open the tray icon to upload/publish it, with the new version that is all handled directly and intuitively right at the moment of closing the file. Which means users are less likely to forget and which is a lot simpler.
File Jockey 2.0
Apart from the IBM Connections connectors there is however also another great product that can help you deliver a seamless integration between your IBM Connections environment and the users other applications: File Jockey. As a WebDav tool File Jockey already allows the bulk syncing of IBM Connections data to mobile devices but with version 2.0 that is about to be released it is now also possible to map a network drive to IBM Connections. Why is this relevant? Well, because it allows you to access your IBM Connections files & communities as if it was an ordinary network drive on both Mac as well as Windows and in doing so making it available for not just the MS Office suite applications but any application that needs to access and store files in the IBM Connections environment. Simply by using the [open] and [save as] options.
This might seem obvious but is something that is currently not possible outside of the MS Office suite. File Jockey therefore really opens up the file management experience to other applications like MS Visio, Project management tools, Acrobat reader, AutoCAD and even simple applications like Wordpad and Notepad. All in all a neat little addition to the IBM Connections experience!
But…. which one should I use?
A good question…. There are a few things to keep in mind:
Cost/maintenance: The IBM Connectors are included with the product and therefore free whereas File Jockey is a third party product and might require you to purchase licenses and perform an install (although I understand that hosting is possible).
Application integration: File Jockey allows you to access your IBM Connections environment through the [Open] and [Save as] dialogs in any application that allows access to mapped network drives whereas the IBM Connectors only allow this type of access for the MS Office suite. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t other ways to store files to IBM Connections from other applications but they usually require extra steps for the user.
Additional features: The IBM Connectors offer far more options then the File Jockey integrations. Where File Jockey really only offers access to the files, the IBM connectors offer additional options like Check-in/Check-out, viewing of the versions and storing content to wiki’s, activities and blogs as well. There level of integration is deeper but therefore also limited to the MS Office suite applications.
On prem/Cloud?: Both connectors work with on prem as well as cloud.
The beauty is that you do not need to make a choice but can use both. So instead of seeing the two as competitors I would strongly advise organizations who want to stimulate their users to utilize their IBM Connections environment for file management to look at implementing both.
All in all these new connectors really offer great new options for users to work with their IBM Connections files and are worth checking out. With these and the rumors around upcoming changes in file/folder management in the new release of IBM Connections I can’t wait to see where IBM will be taking IBM Connections file management from here!
- The IBM Connectors are available and can be tried out here
- A description of File Jockey and an instruction on how to try it out against the Smartcloud environment can be found here. No account on Smartcloud? Try it on Greenhouse instead