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It’s been almost six months now since I accidentally stumbled upon MangoSpring Collaboration Suite. With our company we are working with Google Enterprise and by browsing through the Google Marketplace I found MangoSpring Collaboration Suite. Our company is specialized in online content and online projectmanagement. We have alot of people working on different locations for customers. With around 30 employees now we have quite alot of knowledge and experience wandering around in our company. I won’t explain the full case, but in short we wanted to connect the employees more, share knowledge and add teamspirit in our company. We already had tried Yammer some years ago, but it died quite quickly. Now we wanted to try MangoSpring, because it also embedded some interesting business tools to do our work, next to chit-chatting.

The product
MangoSpring is a “Complete Real-Time Business Communication & Collaboration Platform” according to their website. You can buy different parts of the suite or the whole suite alltogether:

  • MangoTalk: Microblogging, Instant Messaging, Group Discussion
  • MangoDocs: Document Management
  • MangoProjects: Setup Project environments
  • MangoTasks: Task Management
  • MangoEvents: Event Calendar
  • MangoIdeas: Idea generator

The suite is accessible directly through our Google Apps enterprise environment (browser based), but also by iPad, iPhone, Blackberry and Android. But where MangoSpring really shines is the excellent desktop application, that is freely available. It takes not only microblogging and instant messaging to the desktop, but also polls, tasks management and document management. A very smart move.

Introduction in the company
I started with inviting some of the people from the different departments to explore and experience MangoSpring as a communication tool. I have been actively asking for feedback at the test users and collected all their remarks, bugs and questions about the system. All the feedback was sent to the developers in the USA and we usually got an answer with in a few hours. This made us confident that we were working with a supplier that actually listens to the customer.

After a few months of trying out and increasing amounts of message we decided to try out the MangoTalk and MangoDocs products to keep everyone updated within the company. Our director now spreads newsupdates through a microblog in a group called “Presenter news”. This instantly updates everyone in the organisation and gives public discussion about news updates. Besides that we shared holiday registration in MangoSpring so everyone can see the current amount of days off left instead of mailing the HRM employees time and time again.

Microblogging

Projectmanagement
A great feature of MangoSpring is the projectgroups. You can share microblogs, documents, blogposts and tasks alltogether in a projectgroup. This group can either be open or only accessible for certain individuals, also outside your company. I’m currently working with non-tech savvy people from another company on a project and I am in touch with them all week long, even when I”m not at the office. This makes projectmanagement from different locations easier. We hardly mail anymore in the project, it all goes through Mango. Also Task Management is integrated in projects, making it easy to (re)assign tasks to fellow employees. A great way to keep up with deadlines.

Desktop in the cloud
With Mango you get a great desktop app with great features. Instant Messaging and microblogging is present in most enterprise tools (like Yammer, although Yammer doesn’t have IM yet), but MangoDocs delivers a really nice document management system on the desktop. You can add documents to groups or projects from the desktop and set up access and viewing rights within a click. This means you can upload, download and replace documents in the crowd. Also version history is now present, which means you can get back to previous versions of a certain document.

Administrator rights
What I really like about MangoSpring are the admin reporting tools. You can see the volume and amount of messages, project messages, IM use on a daily base and instantly see which users are the most active and which ones are lacking in use (and you should contact to why they’re not using the tool yet). You can customize the look and feel of the tool, add other administrators, manage users and groups and import and export data. It’s just a great package altogether and easy to use. You can also deploy the suite on your own system and integrate it with Active Directory.

Task Management within projects

Improvements
No tool is perfect ofcourse and Mango can definitely improve in some aspects. Their mobile apps are sometimes a bit flawing and absorp quite some battery energy for Android users. Also the usability aspects can improve a bit on the desktop app as well as the mobile apps. Luckily the crew responds quickly on feedback and it happened multiple times that our requests were added in the next release of MangoSpring. Quite frankly this is a very complete collaboration suite already, but there’s only one feature that would make it totally complete: a wiki-functionality. Also improved tagging, youtube integration and giving names to links (instead of full urls) would be usefull additions. Also improved usability and accessability for new users could be improved, like easier @-reply’s to other users.

Conclusion
I haven’t mentioned every aspect of MangoSpring Collaboration suite, it has so many possibilities. Things like: cross-search through updates, links, docs and profiles, the excellent profile management, banner options, “mark as read”, “unread messages” lists, hiding feeds, event management, Linkedin-profile importing, document activity tracking, are really neat… Just try it for yourself, you can get a free tour through their website.

Currently we have almost everyone signed up at MangoSpring and the messages and usage is rising on a weekly base. We are expanding activities through the suite and now also work together with a customer in a projectgroup.

Do you want your intranet or enterprise app reviewed? Contact me through Twitter.

If you ask a random employee at an organisation if he works in the cloud, most of them will respond: “only when I’m in an airplane”. In short: most employees don’t know the difference between a cloud service or a desktop service. And they should not have to know the difference. However, the big difference is that some vital cloud services are not accessible on the desktop, especially the intranet.  I think we will see a shift to a greater use of desktop apps that seamlessly sync with the cloud.

We all know the benefits of cloud computing in terms of accessibility of data. But let’s be honest, how many times did you get phoned by a colleague if you could send document X that was placed on a harddisk at a local network. Or how many times did you have to log-in at someones account, because he had to forget to send this draft document to his home adress. Clearly the step for many users to store their docs in the cloud is too far way. Great desktop apps can lower the barrier to participate in a cloud environment.

Digital workplace
As intranets will shift more towards a “digital workplace” (read this blog by Jane McConnel), the accessability of information will need to move beyond browsers. Ofcourse the most vital information should be available by mobile, but also a desktop app can dramatically increase the use of communicating and sharing information with your colleagues. No wonder that enterprise collaboration tools like Yammer and MangoSpring have invested in a desktop tool.

Users now for example can have a chat with colleagues, share and read documents and discuss topics through these tools. All from their desktop. Everything is happening in the cloud, but the user feels he is just working on his desktop.

MangoSpring desktop app in action

MangoSpring desktop app screenshot

Some benefits are:

  • trigger to engage in conversation is placed on desktop
  • lower barrier for uploading docs in a cloud
  • brings instant messaging and communicating to desktop

I’d like to hear from you: What’s your vision on enterprise desktop apps?

Euh, social softwareWith the rise of enterprise collaboration software and the wave of new innovations for enterprise communication and collaboration, there’s just one conclusion: intranet & enterprise 2.0 is friggin cool. And it can make a hugely positive difference within your organisation.

1. Every employee needs an accessible digital profile
A profile page is the key element to any succesfull (social) intranet. There are just too much benefits of digital profiles to list them all. Many times I see pages with tables featuring contact details for the staff’s department. People come and go, phone numbers change and within no time the page is outdated. Or people searching for someone to answer their question. With profiles and a good profile search, this can save employees masses of time. Groups can be identified and targeted with the right content.

2. Enable instant messaging
Instant messaging is a key element to succesfull short chats between one or more employees on different locations. Use IM if you want to diminish the huge amounts of e-mail conversations and chat in realtime with each other. Try to incorporate IM in your intranet to make the intranet a “total communication platform” without the hassle of people using different IM software.

3. Bring the cloud to the desktop
Many people think about websites when they think about cloud computing. And websites are far away, far from my desk and from my computer. By enabling IM, document sharing and collaboration and update feeds on through a desktop tool, you will serve employees “the cloud experience” without having to visit the intranet all the time.

4. Mobile access will become even more important
Mobile working will become even bigger with the continuous rise of smartphones. How many times did you needed a document, but you couldn’t acces it, because you were not “inside the network”. Then you have to call a colleague to ask if he/she could send it to you. Or you needed a colleague’s phone number, but those details were inside the intranet and you couldn’t access it from the outside. Get your intranet ready for mobile access! Smartphones and tablets are used by alot of your employees, so go service them when they need the data.

5. Educate, train, support and stimulate your users
People get SAP-training, communication training, manamagement training, but usually the intranet has a couple of helppages and that’s it. Digital skills and knowledge for employees is incredibly important. Not only for the complany, but also for the employees themselves. You are not teaching them a tool, but teaching them digital skills they will need in the future. Try to get a training program up and running in your company for your editors or content managers. Have regular sessions about new developments, ask for intranet input, make polls and questionnaires. Stay in close contact with your users.

Looking forward to an innovative 2011.

Lately I came across a very interesting link on Twitter referring me to the Interact Intranet website where I could download a free Intranet Report full of interesting info and a guide on how to deploy a succesfull intranet. A very interesting read and afterwars I was contacted by Interact Intranet if I wanted to have a live demo session of the product. The UK company gives livedemo opportunities through the web while talking you through the product.

Interact Intranet sample homepage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sample homepage of Interact Intranet solution

Demo
After setting up all the webconference stuff it was time for a one hour product demonstration and I must say that Interact has place some very nifty features in their intranet. Here’s a short summary of the most impressive stuff:

Holidays
Users have an amount of days to spend each year on days off. Through Interact employees can see the amount of days they have left. If they want to take some days off, they can digitally mark which dates they want off through the intranet. Automatically a signal will be sent to the manager. The manager has an overview through Interact of all the holiday request and can simply approve or disapprove requests according to the situation.

Configurable homepages
I liked the fact that Interact can make different homepages for different groups of people (depending on location or group or country). Also the homepages are totally configurable with different widgets.

News widget with “i have read this” tickbox
If you want to spread really important news through the company that requires reading, you can add a tickbox to the news to let users confirm they have read this. Shouldn’t be used often, but can be very interesting to put a little extra pressure on super important info.

Form builder
Excellent form builder that could really help workflows getting organised through the intranet. Easy to create and use forms are quite underestimated in many company’s (usually you have to e-mail a service centre and you always seem to forget some informatie. Or even worse: you have to download a Word-document, fill it in and e-mail it to the service centre)

Intelligent search
You can tag information and the system will suggest which tags fit best to certain information. Besides that it keeps track on which keywords and tags have been searched the most the past period of time. This gives very valuable insight in what kind of information is relevant and most searched by users.

Phased social implementation
Not every organisation is ready to embrace social elements into their intranet. Some are really quick, for others there’s a real cultural challenge. Nice thing about Interact Intranet is that you can introduce social elements gradually. Start maybey with an own profile for employees and gradually add social elements. This will increase adoption rate and gives users the time to slowly learn about the intranet.

No calendar/events
This is a feature I really missed though. I have to be a bit critical as well. I missed the ability to organise events and invite people/groups to join the event. A really interesting feature that could really save time in organising events and making guestlists.

Conclusion
Interact Intranet really looks like a great solution and combines traditional and social elements in a great way. If you are interested in getting a live demo go and visit them. Do you have an intranet product or CMS you wish to see reviewed on my blog? Please contact me through Twitter

Interact Intranet People Directory

Sample page of a people directory

IntranetWhat’s the definition of an intranet at the moment?

In the past 15 to 20 years for many organisations the intranet has become a synonym for a bunch of static webpages together. Usually alot of the content is a tad old, unmanaged and unstructured. More and more organisations are now making their intranet startpage ”the single point of entry” in their organisation. With the ongoing rise of tablet-pc’s and smartphones, intranets should be available too through these systems. We see a transition into the fact that flexible handling of data is getting exceptionally important for intranets.

Big pile

Besides that, more and more functionalities are added to the intranet, like event calendars, wiki’s, forums, status updates. An amazing amount of really groovy solutions are added to intranets, wether they are business apps or other killer apps that draw visitors to the intranet on a daily base. The biggest problem however is that many of these apps have been separated from the intranet for years and years. The “intranet” is carved into people’s minds as the synonym I mentioned earlier in the post: “a big pile of webpages”.

Entities

You can notice this in daily conversations. Often we hear: “we added a calender to our intranet” or “we added status-updates as a possibility to our intranet”. This still feels like these applications and the intranet are seperate entities. Like they had to be integrated into an intranet, instead of being part of an intranet.

Due to the stormy developments within the intranet industry, maybey the word “intranet” does not justify the possibilities of internal online communication and collaboration anymore. Are we shifting more thowards a “digital workplace”, “intraplatform” or “digital work environment”?

AarhusEarly november I visited the J Boye conference in Aarhus (Denmark) for the first time to talk about educating and stimulating users to use the intranet. The conference is one of the yearly gatherings organized by the J Boye group. A three day conference for webprofessionals that connected webprofessionals from all over the world to share their latest insights. Next to keynote speakers like Eric Karjaluoto (10 dollars to earn for him/her who can pronounce his last name flawlessly) and Bebo White.  The first day (Tuesday) was a day full of workshops, that I unfortunately couldn’t attend, because I was still in the plane. Next to the three conference days that thook place at Frud there were also great “social events” in the evening. These were excellent networking opportunities and were excellent to connect with fellow J Boye visitors.

Highlights
I saw alot of very interesting presentations during the days I attend. Some of the highlights were:

  • Neil Morgan from WWF explaining how they used Google Apps to connect all their different intranets around the globe. It was great to see how you can use free apps to take a step into online collaboration. All mail, calendars, document sharing/creating and wiki/project info is all based into Google Apps. Fascinating.
  • Jane McConnell kicked off the intranet track with her presentation about the latest Global Intranet Trends 2011 report. It was very interesting to see how organisations worldwide use their intranets and what trends are visible. In short there are 5 megatrends visible in the report: Read about them here.
  • Another highlight was the nice and down-to-earth presentation from Eric Branckaert from the World Food Programme (WFP). The people from WFP often work in very harsh surroundings without any internet connection at all or sometimes not even a computer. So how can they access the information? A great solution was provided with an intranet that was accessible through a USB stick and would update automatically when there was a connection possible. I loved this, because it wasn’t about the latest & greatest tool, innovation, social or all those trends. It was an actual solution to a problem and it was genius in all of it’s simplicity.
  • Just before I had to present, Jerzy Kuba Karpel, who is responsible  for the deployment of the Mars intranet (and it’s participation strategy) held a great talk about how they educated their employees. I loved the video that explained employees how to use e-mail (and how not to use it). Nice one!
  • Also the Web Idol contest was great fun and provided some CMS vendors to showcase their products. They had a couple of minutes to show how they could place a pressrelease on a website using their CMS, under the eyes of the audience and a strict jury. Gentics won with their nifty Aloha Editor, which you can try out online for a little bit.

There were many more and nice inspiring sessions from guys like Frank Wolff (online collaboration T-Systems), Martin Risgaard Rasmussen (intranet Arla Foods) and Ernst Decsey (intranet UNHCR). Unfortunately I missed the presentation in the “projectmanagement” track by Gerrit Berkouwer about Rijksoverheid.nl, luckily you can see the slides online.

If you were a conference attendee and would like to see the slides of my presentation “How the FIFA worldcup can promote your intranet” about educating and activating users to go to an intranet, you can get them at the J Boye site.

Conclusion
The J. Boye conference is a very nice and intimate event where you can exchange ideas with some smart people. The social events are really nice and well-organized and might catapult you into Aarhus nightlife afterwards with a good bunch of people (ending in a pizza meeting in the middle of the night). I hoped the intranet track would have attracted a bigger audience (how can we get the subject “intranet” a little bit more attractive for audiences?), but the amount of ideas and inspiration I got during the sessions was definetely worth it and made the trip worthwhile for sure! A big thanks to J Boye and his team that delivered a flawless event. Dates for 2011 are currently pinned, so be sure to attend if you got the chance.

Two weeks ago I had to fly to Aarhus, Denmark for the excellent J Boye conference. This being a business trip ,I had to fly a little bit low budget with Cimber Sterling. I announced through my @klmfan Twitter that I would be on Schiphol airport on Tuesday morning 2nd of November. Suddenly I got a reply from a new KLM account named @KLMsurprise to ask me if we could meet up somewhere on Schiphol that morning. Uuh, sure why not? I was pretty curious what would be happening. I never heard from this account, nor did I know the people behind the account.

Surprise!
When I arrived that morning at Schiphol airport to catch my flight to Copenhagen, i first had to check in at Cimber Sterling, who just started as a new airline on Schiphol. This turned out to be the most chaotic, uncontrolled, no-boarding-pass-printing check-in ever. My mood was below zero, but after all the check-in and passport checks I had around 45 minutes before my plane would depart. I tweeted @KLMsurprise that I was ready for a meetup, unaware of the intentions. We set a place and a time through Twitter and when I arrived there I saw two guys with a big piece of paper with my name on it. This was pretty cool. In some way, people standing with a paper with your name on it makes you feel very important (popstar-like). Or maybey that’s just me. These guys handed me a present: a great aviation watch (limited edition) of KLM’s 90th anniversary and hope that I would remember them next time I would fly. Suddenly I was in a very good mood again. They took a pic, said goodbye and there I was, with a brandnew watch and a smile on my face.

KLM Watch

Story
This is ofcourse a genius form of marketing. When I arrived at the conference I have told this story over twenty times to different people and also when I returned I talked about this alot. Not only I was surprised by KLM. Alot of other customers have been surprised by KLM, just check out their Facebook page with every story about surprised passengers. They have been actively scanning social media platforms to try and set up meetings with passengers. When a meeting was set, they tried to grab pieces of info from that person and surprise them during the meeting with a present that fits them.

Brilliant
The hype about this @KLMsurprise has been pretty big and there’s quite some buzz around the social media channel. It’s ofcourse a brilliant form of marketing and being a “victim” myself I loved it alot. The only thing the guys forgot to tell me was that they would post a picture of me receiving the present on Facebook. I found myself back on their Facebook page, but wasn’t aware the picture would be on there. I don’t find this a problem, but I can imagine some people might be “surprised” in the wrong way when are not informed right.

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