Do users live in their browser or in their email? You definitely find both, and getting adoption takes either a lot of training and coaching and incentive or a big stick, or it requires finding where the users live and making it easier than it currently is to do the same task. Users do ultimately want to be productive. Well, most of them. In the world of rolling out a new tool, the challenges of adoption are that you've invested in a platform and it feels foreign. In many cases the users are already using Outlook 2003, 2007, or 2010. In these cases, it is common for users to already be sharing files through mail. The attitude of users is, "Why change? Outlook folders work great for me." "Why change? What is so great about SharePoint?"
Scinaptic OnePlaceMail addresses these questions by making it easy for users. Simply drag and drop from Outlook. The goal of the product is to instead of asking the user to go to SharePoint in a foreign web interface that may come across as clunky, Scinaptic OnePlaceMail brings the interface to the user in a familiar place. Users get to retain their user interface. It's a minimal change for the business user, requires less training, and it feels like a natural extension to their desktop.
Figure 1: Scinaptic OnePlaceMail: Save Message Directly to SharePoint from Outlook
Wouldn't it be great if you had a branded SharePoint environment and a button was in Outlook that referred to the document repository as it was branded? In OnePlaceMail you can identify all of the labels. As well, the most common actions of users are very accessible, so both saving a message and retrieving it can be very easy. Common activities are very accessible: Copy to SharePoint, Move to SharePoint, Insert from SharePoint, Open from SharePoint and Search SharePoint.
Figure 2: Scinaptic OnePlaceMail: Insert from SharePoint Into an Email Message
Understanding Challenges Today
I can hear the complaints today.
"SharePoint is too hard."
"I can't remember where I stored my documents."
"I can't keep track of all of these random documents."
"SharePoint is chaos."
"The interface is cluttered."
"It's too hard to know what to do next."
"The default views are too complicated to work with."
Scinaptic has listened to these needs and has attempted to take these head on. First, the interface is integrated right into Outlook and Explorer. They can simply drag and drop, use buttons in the Outlook ribbon or use the contextual right-click options. Next, the interface itself is simplified with a new all minimal view. Scinaptic provides a sample master page to show it can be a simpler interface by stripping out the top and left navigation and making the interface look more like outlook.
Figure 2: Scinaptic OnePlaceMail: All Minimal Master Page View… It looks Like Outlook but in the browser. The Master Page can be modified to meet your business requirements.
Let's understand the problem. Let's look at needs.
- Capture – The challenge is that users are working on their desktops and pulling up an unfamiliar web interface and telling the user they need to add metadata is a no starter. Instead the user simply wants to drag and drop a document that was likely sent through email and wants to store it where they know they can find it later.
- Classify – Email attributes are never captured and are actually lost when the message or attachment is saved into SharePoint. The message then gets quite complicated as the .msg is now a strange extension (.eml), and Outlook only partially knows how to work with it. You'll never have the same abilities you did when it was in Outlook. What users want is the ability to drag a message into safe keeping and capture the Sent Date, Received Date, SendTo, From, etc…, and then there's the content type or additional metadata that makes for a rich document repository that makes it easier to find documents.
- Access – Users want the interface to be simple, they want to be able to connect in Explorer or drag from Outlook. They don't want to jump through lots of hoops to connect. Now browse in Outlook, search SharePoint including FAST and third-party Search integration like BA Insight. Insert or open content from SharePoint right from Outlook.
My Experience with OnePlaceMail
When I first heard about OnePlaceMail, I thought… "Oh great. Yet another Outlook add-in for adding metadata." The reality was I had sold it short. I didn't realize they had the ability to render web parts, I didn't know they had the ribbon integration and didn't realize it was so well integrated. The folder structure for dragging and dropping is drop-dead simple.
From a governance and adoption perspective, the tools and technology can really help to augment a strategy for meeting your users where they are. It provides the familiar interface of working from Outlook and bridges the gap. IT can configure the client so that it knows what sites, lists or libraries to display in the navigation. The software doesn't even have to say OnePlaceMail or SharePoint. It can be branded as your collaboration or document solution. Now users won't have to care about the thousands of places. They can have their half dozen folders, sites, libraries and lists.
Figure 3: Scinaptic OnePlaceMail: Directly Save Attachment to SharePoint or Move a Message to SharePoint
Where I find the real strength for OnePlaceMail is shops where users aren't familiar with web interfaces for working with documents and files. This fills the generation gap and a lot of the training needs. It still is a good idea, but by simply adding a few extra buttons where they live to help them do the right thing, it can make it a lot easier.
Next, if you've already got that level of maturity, maybe it's the data you're trying to capture. I always think of how law firms must be dealing with large volumes of mail from lots of clients. When users are saving to SharePoint, they can have the documents be autoconfigured and leverage choice fields for customer data. Keywords get full type ahead for ease of use, and with connection to the term store, users data can easily be validated. I often get frustrated when the choice doesn't give me the ability to add new. The new 6.2 version includes smart fill-in, with the ability to capture all of the correct email fields by default in a new email content type that can be deployed to your SharePoint environment as a feature.
Figure 4: Scinaptic OnePlaceMail: Save to SharePoint and Populate Metadata
It also works both ways. If I'm adding an attachment, the OnePlaceMail makes it easy to browse to my SharePoint folders and drag on a document and while sending it I can decide if I want to send a link or the full document attached. When I want to see where they document is, in the rich view, including the ability to see version history, and a compare where it looks and compares the versions or where you can combine the versions. I can see it in context and with a SharePoint view. Being able to search for documents takes a lot of the guessing out of it as well.
I had to ask. "So, you mentioned Outlook and Explorer. How does it work with Explorer." Well, it simply adds a right-click option to save files to SharePoint or again whatever the Intranet or Docs are labeled in your corporation. Not only that you can search and filter right from the interface, including refiners and custom results web parts, such as people.
Figure 5: OnePlaceMail: Search and Column-Based Filtering
So what's the downside?
Well, this is always a tough one. Installing desktop software to address a SharePoint deficiency isn't a fun proposition. Increasing adoption is a major goal of all SharePoint customers. They want to reach the user, that's where this is. It's about meeting the users where they are.
The software is per seat. You're thinking about the user in this case. OnePlaceMail is used to negotiation and has a sliding scale, based with volume licensing for larger customers. There is no licensing requirement for dev or test. There are a couple of different versions… the express and enterprise. The Express is free and is a great way to start.
One other thing that makes me cringe is the need to start getting involved with the email and desktop teams, and now I'm deploying software dependencies with updates to Outlook. Well, this isn't always the case, as in many companies this is the same team. As well, this again is where the users live, and that's often where you need to go as an IT guy is enhance it where they live. There is a maturity model where they can learn SharePoint from a better perspective in looking at what is important, but through a simple interface.
The product is installed as an MSI. It's installation, then then there's configuration. The organization can configure it for the users with an XML-based configuration file to address the interface needs as well as the search locations and folders and sites where users should be saving their files. It is a simple install. You can easily go from download to installed in three minutes.
If you're trying to reach your users and make their lives easier, you may have found your match. Scinaptic OnePlaceMail fills a lot of gaps when it comes to meeting users where they are, trying to simplify their lives, and simply just get them using it.
There are enhancements to Outlook, Explorer view, and File Explorer, but I didn't mention that Word, Excel, PowerPoint all get enhancements for opening and saving to SharePoint as well.
If you are trying to please your users, it's time to download a trial of Express. As well, I do encourage you to set up a demo. It demos very well and the value shines through very clearly. Hey, you can be running it in three minutes after download, so it's easy to run it for yourself.
For easy reference I recommend downloading the Express edition and reading the Release 6.2 highlights for bringing SharePoint to end users in Microsoft Outlook.
This product review is a paid service by Joel Oleson of SharePointJoel.com voted by the community as Top SharePoint blog and viewed monthly in over 100 countries worldwide. How did I do? Would you like your product or tool reviewed by a Top SharePoint influencer?