Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Peek a Boo with O365 and Bits

Collaboration means different things to different people. Business collaboration is about sharing of
information, ideas, details, actions, and presuming everyone does the same in return so you truly reach that 1+1=3 world.

I am spending sometime on a side project with a company that is leveraging O365. On the outside looking in, it seems to be just what one wants for work. Online shared space for files, email, IM, ESN(Enterprise Social Network), team/group space, Office tools, and much more all wrapped up in one price and available only in the Cloud.

The first thing I experienced, and keep in mind I am accustomed to being the admin usually, was my name was spelled incorrectly. In general, not the end of the world, however, in some cases, my logins were correct, but it appears not in AD. When I asked IT to correct it, they told me it would take most of a day to do this because they would now have to go change all the other systems that I have logins for and fix them as well. SSO is not available in O365? And to rename an ID takes hours? As an admin, I am bemused at the discussions.

Normal users probably just shrug it off as IT time and plans.

My login aside, the quirks of O365, as some of my friends call them, are more a skewed view based on other products and our own expectations.

It seems one can not change the colors on screen for Outlook (2010 edition they use here). The choice is limited to 3 colors, none of which are even remotely exciting, Blue, Silver, Black. Cowboys and Raiders colors? What about us Dolphin fans that want orange or green? Or just set to Windows Desktop theme colors? Evidently 2013 is no better about this.

I will post this next bit, as it is important, but want to point out it is not unique to Microsoft. The multiple profiles, pictures, details issue is a major PITA to employees. Why can't the entry in AD cover the basics of the person (name, photo, phone, location, email, etc..) and have that, via LDAP, or AD itself, pushed out to any other system connected to it for user accounts? Instead there is Outlook, SharePoint, Yammer, and whatever the O365 bit itself is called all not sharing ANY details, in the case here, not even my login and password for the domain. Yes, WTF indeed.

Off I went to create profiles, about me docs, upload photos, enter office details because this is posted on the Yammer home page:
When signing up to Yammer can you please add a recognisable photo of yourself, so people can easily identify you in the office. Also add your phone number(s) and where you are located, including which floor you are on.
As it turns out SharePoint is not connected to O365 here, so I understand that...as an IT person. As an employee it would make me wonder why, if I cared enough, which maybe no one does anymore. Thus why adoption of an ESN is not an easy task inside companies and why I try to help it best I can.

Before some friends jump on this, as some have, be careful, IBM in this case does not handle it any better. Sametime vs. Connections profiles/photos vs. Domino data/profile/photos. Same problem, no solution. I understand why, in both companies products this exists. Simply put, if they have no way to know what "solution" you are installing, they have no way to provide the details efficiently. My argument has always been it should reside in the Directory (AD, Domino, whatever) and let everything else pull it from there. Whatever, live with it, do not slam either for this shortcoming.

The login and password thing is more bewildering to me. My Windows Domain login and password do not match my Outlook or Yammer ones but does SharePoint. A hybrid model that works as designed I guess but SSO or SPNEGO or even Oauth, anything/something would be a better solution.

On the plus side, the Yammer mobile client looks good and works well albeit in a multi step process just to message someone. I wait for the "Skype will rule it all" day coming soon, but for now, tick the box, they did mobile. You need to flip back and forth to the option menu to read group messages or the "stream" and to message someone takes 4 steps but it is a simple UI and easy to respond to posts in the stream or groups.

Yammer desktop, in short, does not exist. This is a frustrating thing for someone like myself so used to just sending IMs easily for the last 17+ years from a list in my tray. While one gets notified when there is a message, if you want to send someone a message you have to login (or keep a browser window open) just to then get to your list and try to message the person. I say try because I have not found a way for the web client to sort people by online status or even by alphabetical order. The Skype transition/integration can not come fast enough in my opinion.

Yammer Desktop Notifier is mostly a waste of time since it does NOTHING. To be fair, it has 3 options, (Inbox, Notifications, My feed) that when clicked take you to a browser and the messages. And if something is waiting for you, it has color codes to let you know in the little icon in your tray. But lookup people? Send an IM? No and No. In a corporate desktop world, this is frustrating. In a mobile, non desktop world, this is fine presumably, I have not loaded it yet on my iPad so I have no direct knowledge at this time.

The discussion around dropping SharePoint in favor of Jira is a conversation which I have not gotten into previously but would seem to be a major question/issue for companies that are using SharePoint or any ESN as a project management workflow tool. I may write more on this in a future blog after some further research.

Overall I can't say anything has blown me away that I must have it, aside from Skype. Perhaps Microsoft and other companies providing Enterprise solutions now find themselves in an unusual situation, big ugly/heavy clients that we use 10% of the benefits have passed their sale dates. When you really have better apps on your phone than your office, we are no longer on the "when will we get updates" discussion, but on the "why can't we use this app" or just doing it anyway. This is not a new opinion, we have been discussing it for years, but as I saw first hand, when IT people and executives are no longer willing to adjust to employees needs, then we in IT have failed and it matters little which vendor you chose.