Fachartikel zum Thema Enterprise Social Network

Sunday 16 Mar 2014 Posted by Powerslave Admin

Unseren Kunden und Interessenten bieten wir ein kostenfrei ein besonderes Highlight: In Zusammenarbeit mit Herrn Prof. Dr. Steingen  hat Herr Mausz (Inhaber flying dog software) einen Fachartikel zum Thema Enterprise Social Network (ESN) für den Weka Verlag erstellt. Hier ein Auszug aus der Einleitung:

„Mit der oben gegebenen Definition von ESN wird betont, dass ihr Mehrwert vor allem auf der sozialen Ebene liegt und nicht rein technologisch zu sehen ist. Insofern hebt unser Beitrag auf beide Aspekte ab: Worin besteht der Nutzen von ESN und wie kann er optimal technologisch realisiert werden? Wir beginnen mit der Diskussion von Problemen klassischer Intranet-Lösungen und wenden uns dann genauer dem angestrebten Nutzen und den Zielen bei der Einführung eines ESN zu. Es folgt eine Kurzübersicht über die Komponenten eines ESN sowie ein Vergleich mit Facebook. Der technologisch orientierte Teil endet mit der Beschreibung von Besonderheiten von ESN in Firmen-Intranets. Abschließend werden - in Anlehnung an Studien - Faktoren benannt, die eine erfolgreiche Einführung von ESN im Unternehmen begünstigen.“

Dieser Text ist herstellerneutral geschrieben, über unsere wegweisende Technologie für ein Social Intranet können Sie sich hier informieren: http://www.flyingdog.de/SocialNetwork


Erstveröffentlichung: „Heinz Schulte: Informationstechnologie von A-Z, WEKA Media, ISBN-13: 978-3824591466“


2013 Google+ relaunch: 5 things Google screwed up!

Monday 10 Jun 2013 Posted by Nicolay Mausz

by Nicolay Mausz

Just over a year since the last major redesign to Google+, Senior Vice President Vic Gundotra revealed a completely new layout at I/O 2013.
Surprisingly it was available instantly at the same evening for all users. What a difference to Facebook's relaunch plans: Facebook announced its new design in March but most users are still not able to get hands on it (www.facebook.com/about/newsfeed). They are far behind their own roll out plans.

As a company who develops an Enterprise Social Network these projects are really interesting for us and so we had a deeper look at it again. Since Facebook is still missing its new features, this blog posts covers only the new Google+ version. There are some really nice ideas like the multi column activity stream and the cool tag features. But it turns out quite fast, that there are many issues which make using Google+ not a pleasure. I am not a web designer so I am seeing this from a programmers point of view.

So what is Google+ doing wrong?


1. Posts in the activity stream are not in correct order

It should be the first rule for a developer of such a software: do not mess up the order of the posts in the activity stream! It is just simple: from newest to oldest. It might be an option to put important posts on top but generally the whole stream should be on the timeline. But Google+ now shows posts more or less in random order. Very old posts from 2011 are mixed with posts from last week in 2013 for example. This confuses the user. Even the post on the top is often random.

Very old content from year 2011 is mixed randomly with current content of year 2013.

2. Random size of posts

Also the size of some posts is quite often random as well. After scrolling the stream a little bit down, very big posts, which are 5-6 times bigger than any others, might pop up. And these posts are not special ones with e.g. many "Likes"/+1, comments or just ads. And after reloading the page a diffrent post this might be the big one. A frustrating experience.
Why is this image so big? 

3. Too much space between the top of window and first post

What is most important in a Social Network? Of course the newest posts. People just want to know, if there is something new and what this news is about. So these news should be on top of the page. Facebook uses 130px in height for the header and publisher before the first post is displayed. The new Google+ has got 350 pixels before the fits post - 220  pixels more! It wastes too much space for:
  • a way too big search field
  • a filter menu
  • also a too big publisher
In the end only half of the first post in Google+ might be visible on a notebook screen. The new Google+ UI only looks good on a big monitor. In my opinion they should think about responsive web design. I guess that it is already meant as a responsive version, but for me it is not a good implementation. For example the multi column layout adapts nice to the window size but at the end it is too big for smaller screens. Also the publisher should be on top of all posts not inside the posts in the multi column version.

Wasting space: Too much clutter before the first post.

4. Confusing Publisher 

The new publisher is one of the most critical elements in the new design:
  • It is wasting too much space. E.g. there are not many good reasons to show these app icons like "Text" or "Picture" all the time. It should be opened just after clicking inside the publisher text.
  • Not all actions are leading to a publishing process: the "Hangout" button might not be a good idea here.
  • Some different actions are doing the same: by clicking on "Text" the user can upload photos. The same dialog opens after clicking on "Photos" directly.
  • Some dialogs are looking unfinished: click on "Video" opens a full screen and nearly [object Window] white window for instance.
  • The user is forced to select an event photo from a design library for events. Clicking on (X) on the photo does not remove that photo as one might expect. No, it is closing the form!
 This publisher should be redesigned from scratch in my opinion. The whole UI is irritating the user too much.

5. Other issues.
  • Scrolling down and then up again makes top menu bar much bigger and overlaps the expected content at top.
  • The new chat design has too much clutter - the one in other google apps looks better.
  • The communities are great but seem to be unfinished: There is no photo album view and documents are missing (Google Docs ?). Uprights photos in stream are using too much space sometimes.
  • Access to the communities should be more direct.

Conclusion

Google+ looks like a early beta after this relaunch. On the one hand Google was much faster then Facebook improving their product. But on the other hand it would have been better, to invest more time in basic features like the publisher or the activity stream, than in new photo editing features. For the user these basic features are much more important than additional fancy tools.

What does it mean for the Social Intranet?
In a Social Intranet the requirements to the user interfaces are more or less the same as for these open Social Networks. For me the most interesting question when lookin at Google+ was: does a multi column activity stream makes sense? My answer is: yes - it is a useful feature but it should be done the right way. 

An intelligent electronic form solution that is easy to create, and easy to manage!

Monday 29 Apr 2013 Posted by Nicolay Mausz

As one of our biggest challenges in our workflow software was to provide a good form designer. In our opinion this is a very important part in a good BPM software. 
So during the last 10 years we started again and again to solve this problem but it was a bumpy road to success. So during these years we invested a lot in research in that area and we developed four different form designer each of them as a new development from ground up. But we encounter different problems there: some solutions were too simple or others were too slow - we learned a lot about this topic.
We are proud now that finally we solved all issues and provide the first form builder in history our company which is awesome and easy to use in enterprise environment:

  • Focus on ease of use: Create and deploy rich, dynamic  forms
  • Fully integrated in our Enterprise Workflow Engine and can be easily embedded in your coporate portal
  • Our form builder provides an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that make it very easy to create the forms using nothing but your web browser
  • Group and arrange form elements in a variety of ways – collapsible sections, multiple columns and panels.
  • Provide dynamic behavior via business rules – conditional sections that display when required, or computed values.
  • Digital signatures ensure data integrity.
  • Automatic, sophisticated input validation via AJAX
  • Generate PDF  snapshots when submitting form which can be send via email in process
  • Export forms and controls as templates 
  • Usage of modern web techniques like jQuery also provides an API interface

Have a look about this great tool in action:


Ad-Hoc Tasks a super intuitive and easy task management!

Tuesday 9 Apr 2013 Posted by Nicolay Mausz

We have many experience in task based software like Resouce Management, helpdesk, project planning. And we encounter different kind of tasks for different content and working context. So this can be a well organized and structured process with clearly assigned roles for example. 
In our Enterprise Social Network we wanted to integrate a task management as well but we also wanted to do it the right way which fits to the way people are working there and interact to each other. Also it should be easy to use.
Our first idea to manage  task lists and to add tasks through the publisher went to the wrong direction. So giving a project manager another tool to organize the project in different steps, tasks and milestones might be useful sometimes but in reality doesn't fit to the nature of a social network because in these project groups there might be many changes on the way to the goals. So in social networks tasks are coming on-the-fly as a result from new content or from discussion about that content. Therefore we invented  tasks which are connected to the content now and not the other way around. We have chosen a new and very intuitive way to assign and manage task and these are as easy to handle as comments now!
Imagine to add a task in the same fast and intuive way as a new comment in a social network like Facebook - we call this Ad-Hoc Tasks! These will be shown on top of a dicussion and look similar like the comments. These can have a duration, start and end date and also can be assigned to different user. The groups also have a group task list and each user has got its own task list. But these lists always comes from the Ad-Hoc tasks made similiar like a comment. A Gannt chart for all tasks will be provided.

Have a look about the great new feature in action:




Design considerations for Enterprise Social Networks and modern intranets

Thursday 18 Oct 2012 Posted by Nicolay Mausz

One of the key aspects of a software product is the look&feel of the user interface.At the moment nearly the whole software industry is affected by huge changes in this area. This is due to new devices like tablets or smartphones on the one hand and also a result of the bigger screens on desktop computers on the other hand. A good example is the new operating system Windows 8 which tries to solve everything in one product. Also Apple integrates more and more mobile features from iOS to OS X. In web based products like the ones from our company this is also driven by the new HTML 5 technologies. So we have to face a lot of new challenges:

  • Bigger screens on companies intranet: some years ago everything had to be optimized for only 800 pixels width for example which is way too small now.
  • Smartphones are the full opposite of that: small screen with touch interfaces. 
  • Tablets which are something in between of desktops and smartphones.
  • New HTML 5 technologies combined with the limitations of the Internet Explorer. This is the most popular browser in companies and often outdated versions are used.

Facebook compared to Google+ as an example

First I want to show the current approach of Facebook compared to Google+ as an example that every little design aspect has to be taken in consideration. The user interface  makes the difference which approach is more accepted by the end user. 

A Facebook post with two comments:


The Google+ version:


The Google+ version takes much more space (around 45%) in height. So the user has to scroll more. Also the icons are looking lost somewhere between the post entry and the comments. So the whole activity stream is much more difficult to read in Google+. There are many examples of bad design decisions likes this in Google+.

Here is how it looks in our product:



The New MySpace - the next big thing?

In my opinion the New MySpace will be the only Facebook and vKontakte competitor with potential for a huge success. The user interface is based on a fresh new HTML 5 design and looks like "2012" and not like "2008" as in Facebook now. It brings a "wow" effect because of a completely new approach - everything is different. But it is also very minimalistic, clean and the content stays in focus so it will be fun too use it. I am not sure how many aspects of the New MySpace can be used for Enterprise Social Networks and companies intranets. The New MySpace interface is more for creative people from music business what is usually not important in companies. Additionally the full screen design of the New MySpace seems to be optimized for tablets and not desktop computers like in this great search dialog:


flying dog: a modern intranet 

In our research we come to the following conclusions about what a modern intranet should look like:
  1. The activity stream should be on the first page after the users login into the companies intranet and not hidden in a (sub-)menu.
  2. The design has to be as minimalistic as possible so the content is more in focus. Many other (Enterprise) Social Networks make many things wrong here.
  3. Investing in development and in design of every detail of user interface makes the whole experience better.
  4. The smartphone version cannot be made by just using another CSS. The whole user interface has to be rewritten. Nearly nothing can be used from the desktop version.
  5. Every content has to be connected with the owners photo. So the user icon is not shown in the activity stream only but also in e.g. DMS or calendar to have more communication starting points.
  6. Full view of photos have to be adjusted to browser window size and a full screen view has to be offered if possible.
  7. Not everything has to be a new invention. Most people like to find something they already know from other software products. So it looks more familiar for them. 

As an example this our DMS design as a tradeoff between classic view and a modern minimalistic social view:



We removed unnecessary borders and drop shadows to make it more clearer. The folder view on left is another change we made before. It comes with a classic yellow tree because many clients want a "Explorer" like feeling in the document management. 

For the full photo view we developed our own solution after we came to the conclusion that all existing „LightBox“ tools are not good enough for our needs. So our photo view adjusts to browser window size, supports comments and also offers a real full screen view:


This is about what our smartphone version looks like:



Conclusion

Company intranet applications are always compared in features and look&feel to popular internet services from big players. So often we hear from clients statements like „this has to be like in that Google app“ or „this should look like in Facebook“. Despite that influences from popular internet services or desktop operating systems we have to find our own approach and ideas. So we already offer at flying dog software products and experience for state-of-the art intranets  - not only for Social Networks also for Business Processes, Content Management and mobile applications.

Enterprise Social Network - three main differences

Sunday 23 Oct 2011 Posted by Nicolay Mausz

The main differences between an Enterprise Social Network and an internet service like Facebook, Google+ or Xing

by Nicolay Mausz

In a company environment users are expecting modern web technologies which are similar to well-known web applications. So Enterprise Social Networks which are quite new are getting more and more popular in corporate intranets. In my opinion it will become as important there as Content Management, Wiki or other web based applications. The most interesting feature of a modern Enterprise Social Network is a user interface similar to Facebook which also had been copied by many other competitors. The main components are a publisher at top for sharing new information, a news feed with comment feature, the popular Like button, friend list and more. This user experience has been copied nearly 1:1 in vKontakte, Google+ or Xing networks and also in Enterprise Social Network applications  (www.informationweek.com ).
This leads to the question: what makes the difference in company use? In which aspects should it be different and which features should be the same?
We have got wide experience in this field. First from intranet collaboration projects, then from doing deep research on the user experience of well-known social networks like Facebook and last but not least we have real life experience with our own Enterprise Social Network product in work environments. We came to the conclusion that it would be a big mistake to use just a Facebook clone in intranet because the content is different and the relationships between the users are different as well.

Let's have a look at the differences:

1. Friends and Circles

In all Social Networks in internet the user can invite people to join with a friend add. All content of a user is only shared with a group of people - the so-called friends. This visibility can be limited to a sub group of friends which is called circles in Google+. In another scenario all content will be shown to everyone like in Twitter and people can make a subscription to a content feed of one user which is called follower.
Does this concept of friends make sense in intranet? The clear answer is just no because It will be not accepted in that context by people.  
But what else makes sense? Just have a look a the situation in nearly every company - there are:
more or a less a hierarchy
organizational units like development, sales, managing board etc.
project groups
So this social relationship graph is not mainly  based on friends in company - a big difference.
The technical solution here is a good integration of the company LDAP (Lightweight Directory Access Protocol) server, to offer some group features as well. Also the end user should have the possibility to publish content to people in his context (a project group for example) and also to filter all content in news feed like „show all information from my boss, from my colleagues etc“. But a follower concept by showing all information makes sense in company as well.

2. Search

A full text search in news feed is one feature which is currently not implemented in some bigger social network like Facebook, Xing or vKontakte. Google added a good full text feature in Google+ after beta launch and Twitter supports is as well. To be honest I am not missing that too much in my daily Facebook life. I think it is because the content is not important enough to look for it later in let's say weeks or months - most status updates are short and comments as well. But it is also strange that Google+ or Facebook doesn't support a free tagging feature - not only for people.  
The situation in company is different: nearly all content is important and so a full text search is one of the most important features as well. I would say an Enterprise Social Network lacking of full text search is like DMS (Document Management System) or a discussion board (forum) without a search engine. Let's have a look at an example: One person  from marketing department is asking a technical question like "Which mass mail service would you recommend for our product newsletter?". Then a discussion could start with people recommending different  software products or services in internet and their features . So let's say after 6 months another person in company is looking for a newsletter service as well and is happy to find that older thread by "newsletter". Also it might be important to offer tagging on that content so in that example tags like "marketing, newsletter" could be added. A tagging feature on comments might be useful as well because in this example the answers might be much more interesting than the question. Also tagging of people from LDAP with email notification is useful for getting users into discussions which might be interesting for them. So a good search in the company people directory has to be integrated as well for finding colleagues (thenextweb.com).

3. Application integration

The integration and compatibility to the existing infrastructure is always important in company software. Some products like a bulletin board are mostly separated installations and not connecting existing databases. This is different in a corporate social network because it offers a more open user interface. Also Facebook has got a good integration in some online databases. The best example is their own image management. So a user can choose in publisher at top not only to make a status update - a photo can be added as well. Also in photo albums comments can be made and this will be shown in news feed as well. These components are interesting for implementation of an interface to a different application or database: the publisher, the comments, the news feed and notifications.
Some examples:
  • In publisher user can select to make an appointment in calendar - a different form will be shown. Also user might start a company workflow like a ordering process. A ticket system  will be filled with a bug. Or information to a client will be added in a CRM. So the publisher might offer   a common user interface for many of the companies application making them more attractive for the employees.
  • All these example above could generate an entry in news feed and can be commented there. Also by doing some changes like adding new content in a CRM or calendar or uploading a picture in media database, writing an article in a CMS or Wiki will be published as an entry in news feed and can be discussed there as well.
  • The comment feature might be added to another application like SAP, a CRM, ticket system and so user can make comments on existing content outside the social network. But these discussion will be shown in news feed as well!
  • The notification feature of social network can help to reduce email traffic. In many companies users are bored about full email inboxes and have to make filters on content. So for example status updates in a running company process are not that important for sending it as email.

The past and the future

In many older articles or products an Enterprise Social Network has been seen as just a classical intranet collaboration tool with separate applications like Wiki, discussion board, employee profiles, microblogging etc. Nowadays Facebook/Google+ clones are getting more popular but are forgetting some corporate features described above. Also some solutions are only available as SAAS (software as a service) which is only useful for very small organizations without the need to integrate a company LDAP or other applications.
In my opinion in the future many big software installations in intranet like a CRM or a DMS might have their own news feed similar to Facebook  just to offer a cool new user interface. This wouldn't lead to an user friendly situation because of several different social networks in company standing side by side and competing to each other. So in future the biggest challenge might be be to have some common accepted interfaces/standard from one big social network to the more specific applications or several social networks which are able to share information to each other.

Relaunch flyingdog.biz

Thursday 5 May 2011 Posted by Powerslave Admin

I am happy to introduce our new website. There is not only much more information available, it is also simply more fun. We have placed great emphasis on ease of use. On the home page all products are introduced. With the menu button in the upper right you can get to all content directly:

  • Powerslave ECMS, workflow and social network including white papers and films
  • Our company with information on all sites, blog, contact information etc.
  • Customer overview with three interesting case studies to download
  • "Solutions" with some examples of our project expertise


The design of the site and the product images is from the company Greenfield (greenfield.pl) located in Sopot.

In the coming weeks and months, more content will be added to our website. Do not forget to subscribe to our RSS blog feed. In addition to general flying dog news we plan to publish articles related to other software development topics here. Some news will still be published on our Facebook page first: facebook.com/flyingdogsoftware