The irony continues to amaze me. SharePoint is practically everywhere, but one of its biggest challenges continues to be accessing SharePoint on the go. The experience takes a huge leap backwards whenever you leave your desktop and pull out your mobile device.
No longer. I recently visited the people at harmon.ie and was very impressed with their brand new mobile offering, hitting the streets for the first time. harmon.ie Mobile delivers a full-featured document collaboration and social experience on-the-go that's consistent with harmon.ie for SharePoint on the desktop.
It's definitely worth a look.
Figure 1: harmon.ie Mobile Startup Screen on the iPad
Understanding Challenges Today
In the world we live in, it's not uncommon to find yourself rushing out the door with one or more unfinished documents you need during your trip. You don't bring your heavy laptop but face urgent deadlines. What to do? Most people resort to asking people back in the office to "email the latest changes." And that's when the chaos begins. As soon as you receive the email, you're hit with all the classic version control issues that SharePoint is designed to solve. These issues really cause a lot of problems. The document is not checked out, other people may be making changes simultaneously and there is little to no collaboration between you and your team. So what happens? All sorts of errors and omissions creep into the documents you're traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to present. Then, when you're next online, you upload your version of the documents and BAM! The documents get overwritten and the version history gets blasted. That's the crux of the problem caused by a lack of reviews and lack of collaboration.
As well, projects are constantly changing while you're out of the office. If you're not available to weigh in on document changes, you may cause huge delays or miss deadlines, which is not good for business.
So how can you better equip people to collaborate while on the go? Imagine having all your team documents and colleagues in a unified view on your iPad or iPhone with read-write document access and the ability to share links, see contacts' presence and contact info and get real-time document and status updates. Now we're talking…
My Experience with harmon.ie Mobile
I recently installed harmon.ie on my iPad and pointed to http://www.sharepointjoel.com. Adding a site is really basic. After getting past that initial authentication, which I believe is always the biggest hurdle with any mobile app connecting to SharePoint, I was happy to see all my documents. I navigated into my folders and browsed around. By clicking on a document, I could see the version history and last modified info in clear view; check it out and open it either with a default viewer or document editor; check it back in on SharePoint and email the document or link to a colleague.
Figure 2: harmon.ie Mobile – Documents on the go
Trying to connect to my Intranet, I had a little trouble with our customized single sign on solution, so I started digging. I found that harmon.ie supports a broad range of authentication mechanisms in harmon.ie Mobile. For example: harmon.ie Mobile supports Windows Authentication, Form-Based Authentication, Custom Web login Forms, Client Certificates, legacy Microsoft ISA Server and Microsoft Forefront Authentication or UAG, including the regular basic over SSL with HTTPS and self-signed SSL certificates. I contacted harmon.ie support, and they're preparing a fix. In the meantime, I pointed to harmon.ie's sample site, available out-of-the-box, to check out all the collaboration and social features.
I quickly discovered that my favorite harmon.ie feature, rich document updates, is also available on the iPad. Awesome! This really this is the killer feature, I believe. I can get real time document updates, without having to call or email anyone. So there's no more pestering colleagues to let me know when they've updated a document, and having to wait and wait and wait for that email update. Instead, I can easily see what changes a person makes and when. It's important to note this is something that is not in-the-box in SharePoint. This is special sauce. Good stuff from harmon.ie. I really like the people focus.
Figure 3: harmon.ie Mobile's killer feature: real-time document and status updates
I also love having access to everyone on SharePoint, and when I want to contact them, say to ask a question, I simply click on the contact name and I'm staring at the rich profile details from their SharePoint profiles! Now that's a surprise. I have people search right on my device, and it's a simple step to click on a number to save that info in my contacts.
Figure 4: Access colleagues' profiles and save contact info in personal contacts
It's very comforting to know I've got all my team's contact info, including contacts outside my team working on the project. I can also search by skills, competencies, projects, and all the other goodies stored in the profile. These features give you that "connected enterprise feel" while on-the-go.
So what's the downside?
Tongue-in-cheek, harmon.ie claims they make SharePoint so accessible that they've created a public health risk, as mobile users everywhere begin "SharePointing" while walking. Check out the footage of the mass hysteria at www.DontSharePointWhileWalking.com. It's quite entertaining and an off-beat way to engage users about SharePoint on-the-go.
Figure 5: Pandemonium caused by SharePointing while walking
Seriously, though there's really very little downside to speak of. I think the biggest thing people will find a bit surprising is that harmon.ie is not a document sync tool. It is primarily for online use. You can obviously work with the documents you saved or emailed that are offline, but harmon.ie is not an offline sync client app. So there's no offline cache to worry about if a device is lost. Some businesses have spent a lot of time and effort investing in offline sync apps and document encryption, but with harmon.ie, you've got nothing stored, so the risk is minimized.
The other potential downside may be in the roadmap. There's currently a desktop version for Outlook and an iOS version. So if you're a Windows Phone user or Droid fan, sorry. harmon.ie says these are in the works, but it's worthwhile to let them know you care.
harmon.ie has gone after a key scenario that users are looking for… that unified user experience across the desktop and mobile. In their efforts to address the needs of users to get at their documents, versions, updates, and the people writing the documents, harmon.ie has done a great job at connecting people in an otherwise disconnected scenario. The out-of-the-box mobile experience on the iPad and iPhone is awful. There's no arguing that.
harmon.ie Mobile has differentiated itself by focusing on the people and quick access to documents with the ability to open it across many apps. That will make your users smile. The additional social capabilities that harmon.ie brings to the table are engaging, and the first attempt at nailing down the various authentication hurdles is a very noble one.
I recommend people try the free read-only version first to ensure that you can get at your sites before downloading the $19.99 version. As well, I know they'd love to hear from you. They are easy to contact on twitter at @teamharmonie or through their site http://harmon.ie.
This product review is an unbiased review and a paid service by Joel Oleson. How did I do?