Archive for May, 2012

5 dirty Sharepoint Online secrets revealed



When you go through vendor feature datasheets, you get a view of features at a very high level. It’s only once you dive deep and actually start using the software do you get a sense of how it works. The experience might sometimes yield unexpected surprises.…

So while you might have absorbed some of Sharepoint Online’s marketing hype, here are some things they failed to mention.

1) You can’t cut/copy and paste documents and folders (let alone drag and drop). Sharepoint, supposedly a sophisticated enterprise grade solution, has somehow overlooked this very elementary functionality. The way you move information in Sharepoint is by using the “send to” function, which requires you to actually type out the entire url of the destination. Convenience be dammed!



2) Designing pages using the Ribbon pane is a pain. The default editing option for designing a page in Sharepoint is the famous Microsoft “ribbon” pane. The default view is a basic WYSIWYG editor of the kind you see in blogs and wikis. You can add Sharepoint modules by going to a separate “insert” tab, which opens a new navigation with a myriad choices. Inserting modules just dumps the default views into the page. You can customize how they look, but that requires still deeper digging. In this era of usability, there is no way to simply drag and drop elements and add information. Simplicity be dammed!

3) Sharepoint Online’s structure means features within features within features. The above themes are repeated throughout Sharepoint Online. Sharepoint Online admittedly has depth of functionality, but finding features means diving through layers and layers where each feature has sub-features and more sub-features. Sharepoint Online, keeping with its enterprise legacy, almost shows an IT expert’s disdain for user friendliness.





4) Sharepoint Online is fragmented. Beyond feature accessibility, Sharepoint’s broad structure is laid out in the following manner:

A default team site section with its own navigation structure

A “my site” section a link to which is tucked away in the top right corner (not very obviously). This section has its own navigation structure with no obvious links back to the team site section.

A totally different account management console with a different url

Usability demands that everything a user needs should be easily and intuitively accessible from a single interface. And what this interface displays should be dependent on the users’ role. For example a site admin would have ready access to the account management section, the administration section, and the portal functionality itself, while a user would have access to only portal functionality, while a group admin would have something in between. In Sharepoint’s world users do all the hard work.

5) Social features in Sharepoint Online are primitive. Though Microsoft has emphasized that social features are an important part of Sharepoint’s roadmap, the current social features can be described as Neanderthal at best. In a world of slick social tools like Facebook, where we can easily communicate and get updates on people, information and groups right on our social wall; social features of Sharepoint Online feel like managing the software administration screens of yesteryear.  There is no concept of “following” specific documents or projects (you can get feeds on “tagged content”), no ability to comment on wall activities, and no concept of “groups” in the social context.

If all this daunts you, and you would rather prefer dragging and dropping for files and folders, drag and drop designing of intranet webpages, cutting edge social tools, a unified solution experience, and importantly, a solution which is pleasing to the eye – we invite you to try HyperOffice instead.

5 reasons you should replace Exchange public folders…and MS Exchange itself.

OK, this is an inspired article. But since the subject is so highly relevant to the cloud collaboration audience, I couldn’t help but do my own version.

If we see collaboration as evolution, collaborating with Exchange public folders would probably qualify as Neanderthal. But ironically, people continue to use it widely – probably because it is so immediately accessible, or they just don’t know better. Here are 5 reasons you can do (much) better:

1. Exchange Public Folders are not designed for document sharing and collaboration

This is in Microsoft’s own admission. Public Folders do not have the advanced features associated with document collaboration such as version control, audit trails, comments, notifications and so on. As your team grows larger, you need more than a network drive where everyone just dumps documents. Our HyperOffice is an online document management system which lets exactly track who made document changes, when they were made, make sure no-one’s changes are overwritten, have discussions around documents, and keep everyone related to the document in the loop.

2. Administration of Exchange Public Folders is a nightmare

In an era where everyone is used to simple administration screens to manage users and permissions, many of the functions in Exchange, including Exchange Public Folders, have to be performed through command prompts and special commands (reminiscent of the DOS era). For example to specify permissions per user you’ll have to use the Add-PublicFolderClientPermission cmdlet. For the non-geeky amongst us, this is extremely daunting. HyperOffice has a simple admin console which lets you manage users with a few clicks and fine tune permission per user, or even fine tune permissions for groups of users at the folder, subfolder right down to the file level.

3. The lifespan of Exchange Public Folders is uncertain

While talk of Exchange Public Folders being killed off has been around since 2006, we can be sure we are nearer than ever to that event. Microsoft itself is encouraging users to move to other Microsoft tools like SharePoint and Office 365 for sharing documents. While you want to jump from Microsoft frying pan into the Microsoft fire is another question, keeping all your eggs in the Exchange Public Folders basket is risky.

4. Collaboration is more than sharing folders

Even if Exchange Public Folders were a robust document management system, companies are increasingly asking the question – are our collaboration needs limited to sharing folders? Companies are increasingly looking beyond simple information sharing to complete collaboration solutions which include tools like task management, team workspaces, wikis, social networking and more. HyperOffice is a fully integrated suite of essential collaboration tools like document management, project management, email, contacts, calendars, social business, intranet and extranet workspaces and more.

5. The cloud is where it’s at

In an era where companies, large and small alike, are looking to move their systems to the cloud because of undeniable benefits, a larger question to ask is – should you be looking to move away from Exchange altogether to the cloud even for email? Many experts have emphasized the clear cost savings of cloud email. So maybe it’s time to say goodbye to servers, Exchange server experts, ongoing maintenance, and Exchange Management Shell scripting. HyperOffice is a cloud based Exchange Alternative which lets your team just get on your web browser and access enterprise class business email features (including mobile and Outlook synchronization) fully integrated with document management capabilities, and even more collaboration tools like project management and team workspaces.

What does the FaceBook IPO mean for social business?

$104 Billion in valuation, 16 billion raised in its IPO, we can’t help but gape at this phenomena of our age with open mouths.

With more than 900 million actively engaged users, it’s the largest community the world has ever known. Google search is not quite dead yet, but Facebook is where we spend our internet time – we discover, share, and connect like never before. And we spend a lot of internet time..

Facebook has no plans of slowing down at 900 million. Zuckerberg is likely eyeing at the 7 Billion odd global population. The mobile phone is how it now plans to enter our lives. The endless resources the IPO gives Facebook access to are probably going towards this.

Any marketer worth his salt wants to be on Facebook. If you are not where your consumers are, you are gone, finished, rendered irrelevant, nada. Moreover, if Facebook is where your customers are, maybe that’s where you want to be to deliver them service? So undoubtedly, the social phenomena of Facebook means everything to businesses.

But that’s not what social business is. Sure, it is part of social business, but not all of it.

Social business is the broader philosophy of using the social design of social media technology to break down all artificial barriers – those which exists inside the organization, as well as those between the business and its environment – prospects, customers, partners, and the larger market. Social business is more than Facebook, or even Twitter, or even Pinterest. It is about using the learnings of social media to alter the very design of organizations.

Being engaged in popular social media services like Facebook and interacting with the market is part of it – best described as social media marketing. But an equally important part is adapting it and making it work with business applications so that employees can share and connect and tap hidden synergies – that is social collaboration (that is the part HyperOffice focuses on).  Facebook is just not geared for social collaboration.

So the Facebook IPO mean for social business? A reminder – a reminder to pull up your socks and make Facebook an important part of your marketing strategy. But an equally important reminder to start using business focused social tools and get some of that free flowing sharing working for your businesses.

What is collaboration software? Back to the basics


Overuse tends to suck a phrase of meaning, and the same may be said of “collaboration”. As an executive, you’ve probably been inundated with articles on “collaboration software” and its business possibilities. But it seems to mean different things at different times. Sometimes it means email, other times document sharing with Google Drive, and still other times managing projects with Basecamp. And when the social network Google + was launched, you were told enterprise collaboration was forever changed.

You probably experienced what may be described as information induced paralysis. OK, so “collaboration software” amazing. What next?

Time to take a step back and structure our thinking.

Collaboration software evidently has something to do with collaboration – or to work together. One might say that every business reduces to collaboration – humans working together to achieve a common objective. Collaboration software is therefore software which facilitates “working together”.

Although every business is unique, there are certain aspects of “working together” which are universal across business types – isn’t that the very basis of management studies? These universal activities, which you will immediately identify as happening in your own company are:

– Communication

– Sharing information

– Working together on information

– Coordination of efforts


Any software which serves any of the above needs can be validly called “collaboration software”. So, the authors were all accurate in their own place.

Collaboration software may be categorized in the following “types”.

Single-purpose collaboration software

These software target just one aspect of working together.

Email. Email is the grand-daddy of collaboration software and ironically, still the most commonly used. Its basic purpose is “communication” both internal and external. Its structure allows it to be used for other collaborative tasks as well, but as many would say, sub optimally.

Discussion boards. Discussion boards are geared for many to many communication – many people contribute their ideas. You may still use email for discussions, but at your own peril.

Document management.  “Documents” or structured units of information, are probably at the core of every business.  Most of our work days consist of creating, working together on, or sharing documents with others. “Document management” software enable companies to store, organize and access documents. Document collaboration features include version control and audit trails to manage multiple contributors, and permissions to manage access.

Project management. All business effort can be broken into a set of tasks, involving multiple people (inside and outside the organization) aggregated as “projects”. These tasks and projects have dependencies and sequence relationships. Project management software allow managers to assign tasks, set milestones, set dependencies and monitor progress and hence make sure everything is on track.

Intranets (and extranets). Intranets (or extranets when external parties are involved) are basically web pages. They may be seen as communication tools, where the management publishes policies, plans, or events for the employees’ benefit, or even uses as a device to motivate employees (through “message of the day”, “employee of the quarter” etc.).

Social tools. Social tools like networking, activity streams and wall messaging have often been called the new email. Their primary purpose is communication and sharing, but they are designed in a unique dynamic, people centric way, which feels like a big improvement over email.

Workflow tools. Although not commonly, workflow tools are sometimes seen as collaboration tools. A workflow is a business transaction as it evolves from inception to closure. Workflow software manage the information associated with a workflow as it evolves through different stages. Some examples are the CRM workflow and the support workflow.

IM. Instant messaging is geared towards communication which needs to be instantaneous.

Collaboration suites

Collaboration suites are a collection of multiple individual collaboration tools, with various points of integration. The philosophy is – no one tool is adequate for collaboration. All companies need different collaboration tools depending on the situation. So why not have them in a single solution?

Moreover, collaboration suites emphasize that different collaboration tools actually need to share information. For example projects usually have associated specifications documents, calendar events are often associated with project deadlines and so on. Having these tools in separate solutions creates non interacting silos, or what is also called “collaboration sprawl”. It is therefore efficient to have multiple collaboration tools in a single solution that freely exchange information. Our http://www.hyperoffice.com/collaboration-suite/HyperOffice collaboration suite is an example of collaboration suites.

Unified communications and collaboration

The concept of “collaboration software” might be stretched still further and involve audio communications as well. “Unified communication and collaboration” solutions add voice communications tools like audio and web conferencing, voicemail, and telephony on top of a suite of collaboration tools.

However, due to the sophistication and expense of these solutions, they are implemented mostly in large enterprises.

Traditional collaboration software vs. cloud collaboration software

Collaboration software may further be distinguished in terms of the method of deployment. Some collaboration software are deployed on company servers, and geared towards collaboration within the company. These may be called “on premise” collaboration software. Sharepoint is an example.

“Cloud” collaboration software is deployed over the internet and may be accessed through a web browser on any internet connected device. It is independent of the technological environment of the user. Cloud collaboration software is therefore suitable for distributed networks of remote teams, customers and partners.

The cloud is now increasingly seen as the natural deployment environment for collaboration software. Firstly, it suits modern teams which are increasingly distributed and mobile. Secondly, it is part of the general movement driven by cloud software, where business and IT is sought to be aligned by making software end user focused. Finally, the subscription based cost structure (software as a service) is ideal for small and medium sized businesses who want to avoid the heavy capital investment of on premise collaboration software.

Google Plus for Business? 5 Reasons Why Google Plus is Not Social Collaboration

I can barely control my indignation when I read articles about Google Plus as a tool for “social collaboration”. These articles sometimes come from writers I respect. I guess we have a difference of opinion on this. Here are my reasons why I think Google Plus is not a tool for social collaboration (even remotely).

1. You can’t paste horns on a dog and call it a bull

The last I remember, social collaboration was supposed to be about learning from the design concepts of social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, and adapting them to a business environment to spur productivity and collaboration. The key phrase here is “learn from design concepts and adapt them”. Google Plus is an out and out consumer tool in fierce competition with Facebook. Can anyone show me even a single change made to Google Plus in Google Apps to make it adaptable to business? Surely there is some difference in consumer and business needs.

2. Social collaboration is not about sharing cool videos and favorite recipes

Social collaboration in the enterprise is not about networking and sharing stuff for the heck of it. In fact it means nothing if it is not connected with company information and processes. Social collaboration should not be an end in itself but subordinate to getting the job done.

In fact, when connected with enterprise data – documents, tasks, schedules, and discussions – social tools become an incredible way to consume information, break organizational barriers and bring together people in a conversational yet productive environment.

Google Plus has no connectivity with other parts of the business. Even in Google Apps, it has no connectivity with other applications like Google docs, mail, calendars or tasks.  It might spur some light weight conversations and connections, but does not bring much business value.

3. Social collaboration is about combining open sharing with structure and policy control

The beauty of social collaboration is that it leverages the open, conversational design of social media, but combines it with the structure and policy control mechanisms required in business. So even while people share information freely, everyone has access to exactly the information they have rights to.

Admittedly, Google Plus has an interesting concept of intuitively structuring people into “circles”. But policy control needs in businesses go beyond that, and social collaboration needs to reflect that. Each group needs to have further ability to distinguish between group members, and fine tune access levels right down to every piece of data.

4. You cannot be everything to everyone

Google obviously isn’t going to have two versions of Google Plus, one for business and one for consumers. Its product direction is evidently going to be driven by the dynamics of the fiercely competitive social networking market dominated by Facebook. In fact, its very future might depend on controlling the consumer social network market.

Does a business really want to ride its boat on this stormy consumer market?

5. Social media marketing is not social collaboration.

People sometimes confuse the concept of using popular social media platforms like Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter to promote their business, with the concept of using social media design principles internally to spur productivity and collaboration. The former is better described as “social media marketing” and the latter is “social collaboration”.

It makes all the sense in the world to do social media marketing, and use all the attention and activity in these networks to market ones products. Even we have a company page on Google Plus to market ourselves in this community.

This, however, is a totally different baby from social collaboration, where networking, activity streams, “following” and other social tools are seamlessly worked into the collaboration tools we use to accomplish work on a day to day basis to improve productivity. That is not Google Plus’ forte.

At HyperOffice, we have been working on new social capabilities, which deeply integrate with our widely known communication and collaboration suite. Our attempt has been to bring businesses the benefits of new social technologies, but at all times keep it linked it to business data and processes, and contribute to job completion, rather than distract from it.

Let us know if you want to be informed when we launch our social collaboration features.