Archive for the ‘ Automatic Content Management ’ Category

Bruce Firestone Interview’s Openera CEO Peter Lalonde

5 Awesome Email Features from Google

Email is both my best friend, and often, my worst enemy. It’s my primary means of communicating with my team, customers, prospects, and partners. It’s also my nemesis when I’ve got a ton of things I’m furiously working my way through on any given day.

I have to praise Google for their efforts in making email better; Little things like prompting me when I’ve said I’ve attached a file, but have actually forgotten to attach it (I swear, they added this feature just for me), or, praising me for reading all the important messages in my inbox (yes, I do say “Woohoo!” when that happens).

Gmail also has a cool area in Mail Settings called Labs – Mail Labs is a testing ground for experimental features that aren’t quite ready yet for primetime (it’s important to know that if you do Enable a particular feature from Labs, they might change, break, or completely disappear at any time.) If you haven’t checked Mail Labs out yet, I highly suggest it – you can find simple features that help manage email easier, or make the Gmail experience better.

5 features I’ve enabled and tested, and why I think they’re awesome:

Now, none of these are exactly “New” features, but, unless you enable them you may not have known they even existed. Below I’ve highlighted 5 features from the Labs that I think are awesome, along with details and links to more info on how to enable and use them.

1. Background Send:

I have to thank Twitter (more specifically, @henningh)  for referring me to this feature when I complained about hating to wait while an email with attachments is sending. This feature allows you to move on to more important things (like sending or moving on to another email) while your email is being sent – like its name, it sends your email in the background.

2. Canned Responses

I had to try this feature out after reading its description: “Email for the truly lazy”. I think it’s also “Email for the truly busy” as well. With the Canned Responses feature, you can create and save messages using a button in the compose form. So, if there are certain responses / messaging that you use frequently in email, instead of typing it all out each time, you can use one of your saved responses. Unlike an Auto-reply, you decide when to use it, and which response to use as appropriate.

3. Google Docs Gadget

I love having things in a unified view – the less clicking around and opening things, the better. The Google Docs gadget adds a box in the left column of your Gmail that displays your Google Docs – Not only can you see recent docs, starred docs, and search for docs in this gadget, you can even create new docs… without leaving Gmail.

4. Google Calendar Gadget

Like the Google Docs Gadget, this feature adds a box to your left column that displays your Google Calendar. You can view any of your Google Calendars and  see their past and upcoming events as well as quickly create new events right from your Gmail. Being able to see my schedule without leaving the page, while I’m drafting an email proposing meeting times is extremely handy.

(You can go here for more info on the Docs and Calendar sidebar gadgets)

5. Inserting Images

One thing about Gmail that used to irk me was not being able to insert an image directly into the message body. Sometimes, I need a recipient to see an image right in the body of an email, and not just as an attachment. This feature lets you do just that. When enabled, you get an image insert icon in your compose options (between Insert Emoticon and Link) that let’s you insert an image right into the message body. Once the image is inserted, you can resize or remove it as needed.

Nothing for Email Attachments?

Surprisingly (or maybe not) Google has yet to do anything to help manage email attachments. I’ve spoken to Googlers who have suggested various ways of building filters, but really, all they do is group my emails that have attachments together. I can’t see what the attachments are, without opening each message individually, and quite frankly, who wants to search through email attachments to find anything?

Above I listed out some really great features that Google is working on. Here’s one that we’re working on.

SmartCloud

SmartCloud automatically tags and saves your important email attachments into your cloud services without you having to do anything. Attachments come into and go out from your email, and SmartCloud tags and saves them into your Box, DropBox, Google Docs, etc… Sounds great right? If you want to know more you can check out our site: getsmartcloud.com

So there you have it – 5 awesome email features from Google, and 1 really awesome one from Openera. I hope these are as helpful to you as they have been to me.

What are your favourite Gmail features, and what do you hope they come up with next?

How Aaron Levie and Box will crush SharePoint

Meet Aaron Levie. He’s 25 years old and running one of the un-coolest, cool companies in the valley. He is CEO of Box, the cloud content management company, and he is not shy about wanting to take out SharePoint. After meeting Aaron in San Francisco at Boxworks, the company’s first user conference, I encourage you to watch this company. If you know anything about Enterprise software, you know it’s in the midst of a big disruption. Companies like Salesforce.com have lead the way for Box and other disruptive enterprise software. (Full disclosure, Openera is a Box partner. SmartCloud automatically saves email attachments to many cloud services, including Box and Salesforce.com.)

Why Box? Why Now? SharePoint represents everything that Box is not. Complicated, restrictive, expensive to manage, difficult to upgrade and mostly despised by users. Calling SharePoint customers “users” is not accurate because SharePoint has an adoption problem. Customers don’t actually use SharePoint. It’s imposed upon them. It’s available to search for mostly stale content…  if the content has actually been put in SharePoint, you will find something. If not, you are out of luck amigo. (This is the problem Openera helps Box with – make sure your company’s most important, relevant content is actually IN box, not in your inbox. That’s a mouthful.) 

How pervasive is the problem that Box is addressing? It presented itself at Dreamforce, Salesforce.com’s annual user conference, which one might expect. Content Management is still a big problem within the Salesforce ecosystem.  Salesforce’s own content management is one of Salesforce.com’s least adopted offerings. Box can and will play a big part in this world. Unlike the most well-known cloud content management service, Dropbox, Box has a higher level of security, more administrative controls, a developing partner ecosystem and enterprise features that adress both IT and user needs. Dropbox implementations are often rogue and not sanctioned by IT.

Box understands enterprise customers.  I didn’t expect the issue of cloud content management to be addressed by the mobile industry while attending GigaOm’s Mobilize conference the day before Boxworks, but it was. One of the speakers asked the audience to “raise your hand if you use Dropbox at work.” Almost all hands in the auditorium went up. When asked “How many of your IT departments know about it?” I saw two or three hands go up. That was good news for Box. Why? Because Box understands the Enterprise. They aren’t trying to circumvent IT, they are making IT super heroes.

Box understands the importance of a strong partner ecosystem. There were glimmers of brilliance in the delivery of announcements at Boxworks. Aaron and his team announced several key new features that are important to make Box an attractive alternative to SharePoint. BoxSync, Security, and Social Features. But it was the litany of partner announcements that showed us where Box is going. Each partner paraded on stage brought a critical element to the box solution.

The big integration announcement was with Salesforce.com‘s Chatter, but Jive and Yammer were there to show off their collaboration platforms and how they seamlessly integrate with Box as well.  Okta rocked the audience to spontaneous applause simply talking about their solution to a huge problem for companies and users of cloud services – single sign on! But it may have been the announcements with Motorola and HP that could make the biggest impact on Box adoption in the enterprise. Box will be pre-installed on all HP Business PC’s and all Motorola tablets. Next year at Boxworks, we at Openera hope to elicit spontaneous applause from the audience when we announce how we have solved the problem of getting your companies most valuable content out of your inbox and into Box… without changing user behaviour.

Microsoft, Oracle, SAP… they aren’t going anywhere, but the clock is ticking.

Among the speakers at Boxworks, it was Geoffrey Moore and Mark Andreessen that perhaps added the most poignent arguments for Box’s bright future. Both, in their own way, articulated how the dominant players in the market, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and others aren’t going anywhere, but their time of dominance is over.

The rise of the nimble, strategic and forward thinking IT department is upon us. Companies like Box will accelerate growth because IT must be more responsive to business needs. Users demand the same user experience they have with facebook, LinkedIn, Google and other cloud tools they have become to rely on. The incumbent players simply cannot compete and move fast enough given the complexity and deep roots within organizations.  Again, this is good news for Box and maybe the reason Aaron is so vocal about taking on SharePoint.

“How many of your companies are running SharePoint 2007?….. pause… now, how many of you are running an outdated version of Box? Trick question. You get my point.” -Aaron Levie, CEO Box at Boxworks 2011, San Francisco

Do you think Box can win in a head-to-head battle against Microsoft? Even though Openera and SmartCloud are agnostic and work with all cloud services, we are rooting for Aaron and his team to deliver a great user experience to the enterprise. It’s about time.

Searching the web is easy, finding your own stuff is hard.

Google makes it easy to find stuff online. Where do you go to find your own stuff? Likely you have to search your laptop, any usb drives you may, or may not have connected at the exact time you are looking for the stuff, you also might need to search your on-line storage (cloud storage like Dropbox, box.net, mozy, idrive or google docs…among many, many others.) But wait! Did you forget to check your smart phone? What about your tablet?

With an ever increasing number of devices and services to store and access content, how can you keep track of all your own stuff? This is one of the primary problems we want to solve with SmartCloud. All your stuff, where you want and need it. Quickly search across all your cloud services for relevant content. Automatically manage your content by stripping all your messages and saving the files to where they need to go. Automatically tag all your content based on the information contained in the exchange. Make sure you have access to all your content on your mobile device. Make the mobile experience simple and useful.

Our goal is to give you control over your own content, when and where you want it.

People are the problem!

Why do fresh & shiny new systems fail? People. People suck! They don’t do what you want them to. They don’t follow instructions or read manuals. They can’t follow simple processes because they say they are “too busy ” well, get over it. Seriously. Please get over it. It’s time to admit you have a problem and that problem is people.

So, what are you going to do about it? For starters, why not try to accept that people aren’t going to change. Maybe the problem is you! How would you change the system to accommodate the way people actually work?

Why can’t your stuff just go where it’s suposed to go?

Have you ever found it difficult to find a document someone sent you a while ago? Maybe it was important, you cant remember where you filed it. You can search your computer, your usb drives, your online storage provider, even your mobile phone. Tags make it easier and there are always some plug-ins that promise to make it easier. None of them work very well.

Why can’t your stuff just go where it should be? I use Box.net as my content management system for Openera. My wife and I use Dropbox for my personal stuff. Why can’t the files my co-workers send me go where I store my work stuff and my personal files go where my personal stuff goes?

That is the question I have asked myself lately in the hopes of answering another vexing problem facing just about all content management systems: user adoption. The number 1 reason new IT initiatives fail is lack of user adoption. This is true of just about any new application but amplified for any system that relies on user input (content in the form of data, documents, videos, photos…etc.) like content management (CMS) and customer relationship management systems. (CRM) The systems are only valuable if users contribute, if they don’t the system falls prey to diminishing returns.  The less people contribute, the less people trust the relevance of the content.

To take this question to the next level I began thinking about the reasons these systems fail when adoption fails. It comes down to the way people work. Google is a success because people trust that they can quickly and easily search and find relevant content online. Outside of the SEO world, people don’t really think about putting content “into Google.” Results end up “in Google” by the nature of what people do online, without having to do anything different. Just by writing a blog entry, updating facebook, tweeting a review of a great restaurant, posting pictures to Flickr or videos to YouTube, value is added to Google searches. The same is not true of traditional ECM (Open Text, Documentum, Vignette…) or CRM solutions. ( Salesforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle OnDemand, Siebel) Users are asked to change their behaviour. They have to check-in a document, save files to specific locations, or bcc: catch-all email inboxes.

I’ve been a part of the structured and unstructured content management world since 1991. Back then we called it document management, some records management, email management, even knowledge management. The number one challenge was always the same.

User adoption. We always asked users to change the way they worked. We had a killer solution for document management at Interleaf, Open Text, Documentum, Hummingbird and others. But, we asked users to do something different. Don’t email files back and forth. Don’t save documents to shared drives. Check your documents into a document management system and send someone a link to the document. That way we can track who accesses the documents and can provide an audit trail. (Don’t we all love being audited?) It sounded like a great idea, from a technology standpoint it made perfect sense. Less content travelling across the networks led to the better use of bandwidth and resources. Sending links to files instead of the files themselves meant that we could collaborate on the same version of a file. There were so many benefits, why didn’t people just change the way they worked so they could realize all these benefits? I wish I was kidding when I recall my co-workers talking about how stupid people are that email files back and forth and not using our brilliant solution. Well, people aren’t stupid, the technology was great, but it didn’t address user behaviour in the design of the solution.

In short, the preceding challenge is what what I want to focus on as we embark on the development of our solution to this problem. A problem that shouldn’t exist. A problem that should have been solved a decade ago. If computers are so darn smart, why don’t they put my stuff where it’s supposed to go?

5 ways the cloud can be better for SMB companies

Gartner, Forrester and just about every other reputable analyst, technologist or CIO tend to agree. The Cloud is good for SMB companies.

The openera philosophy is simple. Believe in the open exchange of ideas and work with good people who are willing to work hard. Focus on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses with good partners. Succeed together.

Here are 5 ways The Cloud can help SMB Companies immediately:

  1. Manage Content (Documents, records, forms, media…)
  2. customer, partners contact management (CRM)
  3. Office essentials (Email, Calendar, Tasks…)
  4. Project Management (development, marketing, human resources…)
  5. Communication (VoiP, web presentations, im, chat & social.) 

We run our company on a combination of Google Apps (email, calendar, tasks & collaborative documents) Salesforce.com (CRM & Marketing Automation) Dropbox & Box.net for content management & back-up and Skype + DimDim for VoiP, Screen Sharing, and web presentations. For a few thousand dollars a year, we can run our entire organization better than well funded multi-national companies could 10 years ago. As a small business owner, that makes me smile.