Tech Talk 2 by Ken Baker
Zeroing in on Information Relevance with Novell Teaming
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Novell Teaming also provides automatic document versioning and history so you—and new members to the team—can easily see what changes were made and why they were made. You can also easily revert to any earlier version if needed. Handling the dozens—or hundreds—of messages that enter a mailbox every day can take the place of other, more productive activities and distract users from accomplishing the task at hand. Long discussion threads, received piecemeal over days or weeks, can also be difficult to track or act upon.
The discussion folder in a team workspace can help address these issues. Discussion folders have a number of benefits, including reducing the amount of e-mail that floods your in-box. But one of the more important benefits is that discussion folders automatically create a permanent and growing link between topic discussions and their relevant team workspaces. Users have one place to go for all things relevant to this project. If new individuals join the team, they can jump into the workspace, immediately see the history of discussions, and quickly come up to speed. E-mail-based discussions make it much harder for new members to become productive because they didn’t participate in and don’t have access to past discussion threads.
Also related to the discussion thread issue is how users collaborate when creating and revising documents. Document versions commonly pass back and forth over e-mail, not only filling up e-mail stores, but making it extremely difficult for team members to keep track of the most current version of a document, revert to an earlier version, or understand why certain changes were made. Once again, if new individuals join the collaboration process, since they were out of the loop of previous e-mail exchanges, they’ll have no understanding of the revision history and potentially waste valuable time rehashing old issues that have already been covered in detail.
The document management capabilities in Novell Teaming resolves these issues. The document and its revisions can be tied to a specific and relevant folder in a team workspace. All of the document revisions are stored in one central place, the Novell Teaming data repository, rather than being stored multiple times in the individual mailboxes of everyone copied on each e-mail, as well as their individual personal folders. Team members can post comments or suggest revisions from within the workspace. When you want to refer back to a comment someone made about the document last week, you don’t have to scour through all your e-mail to find the right message. You simply look in the relevant folder, and all the posted comments are right there.
Relevance Made Easy
The current version of Novell Teaming does a lot to help surface relevant information. The upcoming release of the product includes an interface enhancement that makes it even easier for users to manage all the information relevant to their work. A new feature called the Relevance Dashboard was introduced at BrainShare 2008. The idea behind this new feature is to consolidate the most relevant things a user would need to enhance productivity into a single dashboard. Another way of putting it is that the relevance dashboard is where you can put those things that matter most to how you work and what you need to get done.
One of the most powerful aspects of the relevance dashboard is the ability to track people, folders and activities proactively. Even though Novell Teaming already has powerful search capabilities, having to manually search for the information you need can consume more time than you can afford. That’s when tracking makes sense. As you browse workspaces, folders or people of interest, you’ll be able to use the Track feature to stay up-to-date on the activities or postings related to that person or place. So, every time your resident expert on social marketing posts a paper or presentation on that subject, you can have that information automatically pushed to you.
For example, when you select the What’s New tab in your personal workspace, it will display a panel containing items that have recently been added to your Tracked Folders. (See Figure 1.) You can go to the Activities tab to see what your people of interest are currently working on. In the Tasks and Calendars tab you can instantly see the schedules of events in your different Tracked Calendars. If at any time these tracked items are no longer relevant to what you’re working on, you can remove them from your dashboard with a simple click.
In addition to items that you track, the relevance dashboard can give you instant access to other content or activities relevant to your work. The Viewed Entries tab shows you entries you recently visited, as well as items you recently posted. (See Figure 2.) Under Tasks and Calendars you can see the status of your assigned tasks. The What’s Hot panel shows items that have high popularity throughout the enterprise. The overall goal of the relevance dashboard is to make you and your people be more knowledgeable and better contributors.
Making Collaboration Seamless
In the current version of Novell Teaming you have an accessory panel that contains nearly a dozen preconfigured accessories that you can choose to activate within your workspaces. These accessories include calendars, blog summaries, wikis, guest books, buddy lists and more. In the upcoming release of Novell Teaming, users or developers can add accessories of their own by creating custom Teaming applications.
You can draw some parallels between the concept of Teaming applications and Facebook-style applications. Specifically, they're both small, easy-to-create, shareable applets focused on a specific purpose. But Teaming applications are enterprise-ready with built-in access controls that let you dictate if, how, and by whom they can be deployed. Teaming applications can be used as accessories or as part of a folder.
Teaming applications open the door to a multitude of applets customized to perform tasks relevant to individual and team productivity. For example, you could have a Teaming application that serves up a narrow set of data from an enterprise application right into your global, team or personal workspace. This allows you to focus on the task at hand without having to launch some monolithic application to dredge up the corporate data you need. In essence, Teaming applications bridge the gap between well-defined enterprise systems and what some call the more fluid, artful processes that users employ to accomplish a particular task. With Teaming applications, information relevance is taken to new heights, as users can bring the personalized information they need into a single place and focus more directly on the work to be done.
Developers and Novell Teaming customers will be able to leverage the ICEcore community for the development, proliferation and sharing of Teaming applications. Of course, Novell will also provide a Teaming SDK that describes how to create Teaming applications.
In addition to instruction on developing Teaming applications, the Teaming SDK will provide developer hooks into the Java Server Pages in Novell Teaming. This will enable you or your internal developers to create custom entry points into the solution by editing the actual Java Server Pages or modifying aspects of the AJAX controls used in the solution’s backend. This gives you the flexibility and power to highly customize the presentation and navigation of your workspaces. Maybe you want to constrain the navigation for some users, so the solution is even easier to use. Perhaps you want a custom interface that’s more appealing to your user base. The main point is that Novell Teaming provides one more way for you to support users in managing and minimizing the effects of information overload.
Shaping the Future
Enterprise-ready social software, social searches, relevance dashboards, Teaming applications and all the other customizable features in the current and next version of Novell Teaming go a long way toward helping users collaborate and focus on the tasks and information most relevant to their work. Novell is constantly exploring new ways to enable teams to work together more quickly and easily. One of these is in the area of ad hoc, or impromptu, collaboration.
Impromptu collaboration combines the instantaneous nature of personal productivity tools (such as e-mail and IM) with the group collaboration benefits inherent to teaming solutions. While personal productivity tools such as e-mail and IM support instant and spontaneous communication, the personal nature of these tools creates inherent barriers to team collaboration. Communications and attachments are stored in your personal folders where only you can see them.
On the other end of the spectrum, teaming solutions create an excellent online space for team members to collaborate, post and share team information. But even though Novell Teaming makes it easy to quickly set up team workspaces, it's still not quite worth the effort to create a workspace for a task or team that might only exist for a few hours or days.
Novell understands that organizations want to be able to engage in impromptu collaboration among these virtual teams that easily come and go. That’s what the future holds for collaboration and teaming solutions from Novell. The Unified Communications initiative is a significant step in this shaping of solutions, and Novell plans to go beyond that to deliver collaborative teaming tools that fuse established forms of collaboration, new collaborative tools and repetitive tasks into one seamless experience.
The bottom line is that Novell Teaming has made significant strides in helping your teams work together faster, more efficiently and more productively, but Novell is not stopping there. With so many different aspects of the collaboration, teaming and social networking worlds growing together, Novell is focused on continually making them all more manageable, easier, and more relevant to the way you and your users work.