Friday, September 19, 2014

Benefits of SmartCloud: The Network Effect

An interesting aspect of IBM Connections Cloud (formerly known as IBM SmartCloud for Social Business) is that all organizations that participate in it belong to a single directory. That fact has some useful implications. In particular it means that, if they want to, Connections Cloud users can interact, within Connections Cloud, with other Connections Cloud users outside their own organization. Here's an example of what I mean:

My organization, Rockteam, is an IBM Business Partner providing software and hardware services for a number of IBM customers. Years ago Rockteam migrated our mail to Connections Cloud (back when it was branded LotusLive), and later we subscribed to the features known until recently as IBM SmartCloud Connections (now known as IBM Connections Social Cloud), IBM SmartCloud Meetings (now IBM Connections Meetings Cloud), and IBM SmartCloud Docs (now IBM Connections Docs Cloud) in order to maximally leverage Connections Cloud's benefits. My own role at Rockteam is to help our clients install, configure, and maintain a variety of IBM's server products. I also help my customers (and other IBM Business Partners) to join and migrate their mail to IBM Connections Cloud themselves and to find the best ways to maximize its benefits for their organizations. In other words, I develop relationships; and IBM Connections Cloud can strengthen these relationships.

A nice thing about using Connections Cloud for mail is that Sametime Instant Messaging is included with it. What's really nice about that is that, not only can you chat with the other Connections Cloud mail users in your own organization, but you can also chat with any other Connections Cloud mail user in any other organization. For me that provides two benefits:
  1. I can chat up IBM experts when I need to.
  2. My customers can chat me up when they need to.
How does that work? Well, a few weeks ago I wrote in this very post a detailed description of a procedure for enabling SmartCloud users outside my SmartCloud organization to see my SmartCloud Profile. From there I described how one could parlay that into things like chatting with each other in Sametime Instant Messaging. Then, a week or two later, at approximately the same time as it rebranded SmartCloud to Connections Cloud, IBM rolled out a major upgrade to SmartCloud Connections. Mostly the upgrade added and improved features. It also disabled a feature. Yes, the one I described in so much detail here. The ability to publicize to other SmartCloud Organization one's Profile.

I was dismayed at first because I thought the disabling of this feature meant that I would no longer be able to work with members of other Connections Cloud organizations using the powerful features of Connections Social Cloud or of Sametime Chat. But then I noticed that I was still a member of some non-Rockteam communities and I realized that there must still be a way to enable all that. So I did some digging. And what I discovered is that now you can enable all those things without first publicizing your profile.

All you have to do is this: Invite other Connections Cloud users to join your network; or accept their invitations to join their network. The only trick is that, when you do invite another Connections Cloud user to join your network, you have to use that person's Connections Cloud email address. Having done that (invited/accepted), the two of you can now work, er, collaborate with each other using all of the following Connections Cloud features:
  • Each can see the other's full profile. 
  • Each can see what other network contacts both have in common.
  • Each can see what communities both belong to, and can invite the other to join communities.
  • Each can add the other to his/her Sametime contact list, see the other's presence icon in the contact list, and chat the other up when the other also shows as present.
  • Each can share files with the other and see a list of files the other has shared with him/her or made visible to his/her organization.
  • Each can participate in activities with the other.
  • Each can invite the other to meetings.
  • Each can sever the network relationship at any time.
It's true that some of these benefits are available between Connections Cloud users and non-users, who you invite not to join your network, but rather to be guests in specific communities. But others, such as Sametime chatting, are only available within one's own organization or between networked SmartCloud users. As a Connections Cloud user who receives services from and provides services to other Connections Cloud users, I like this feature a lot.