The user experience for employees in today’s digital workplace is very app-centric. An organization may use Outlook for their emails, Office 365 for sharing and collaborating on documents, Salesforce as a sales and customer relationship management tool, and ZenDesk for help desk tickets.
Currently this equates to one app for each service, causing users to log in to separate, disparate systems in order to perform their work. Their activities can span across these multiple apps. For example, a salesperson may have prospective customer information stored in Salesforce, along with documents he’s shared with them in SharePoint, and email communications to the customer in Outlook.
Having all this information in separate systems can make it difficult for the user to see the big picture and at the same time makes it hard to focus on what matters most. It can also cause information overload to the point where people have a hard time making decisions and they end up dropping the ball.
harmon.ie is out to solve this problem and has just launched their newest product, Collage, that bridges the gap and integrates these solutions together into a single cohesive user experience.
Collage helps people focus on what matters most by aggregating related topics from your current apps, documents, email, and social interactions. It also lets you take actions on topics “in context” – which means you can launch other apps from within the Collage sidebar in Outlook and it will take you to the exact spot in the app where you can take the appropriate action. When finished, you can close the app and Outlook and the Collage sidebar are still open in the background.
Currently Collage integrates with the following business applications:
- SharePoint Online (Office 365)
- Outlook (Office 365)
- IBM Connections
harmon.ie plans to add additional integrations and is looking for input from early access customers.
I got a chance to look at Collage prior to the release to test it out and give my feedback. After installing Collage, it appears as a button on the right side of the Outlook ribbon.
With an email message selected, clicking View in the ribbon will open up the Collage sidebar to the right of the message pane. You can click on Connect to Office 365 which will prompt you for your Office 365 credentials, or you can connect to other services by clicking Connect to all services.
Sign in to each service that you want to connect to by clicking Login and entering your credentials.
After you’re logged in to at least one service, click on the Updates tab at the top to see related topics about your email message from your other applications.
You can filter the updates by services if you wish.
For example, clicking Salesforce will display only updates from Salesforce.
You can also drill down by topics by clicking on a topic name.
Then you will see updates from only that topic.
You can then take actions in context by clicking on an item in the information stream.
You are taken to the appropriate record in the application where you can review and update information without having to search for it.
As machine learning systems don’t get everything right 100% of the time, Collage allows you to make tweaks to it and as a result it will become smarter over time. You can add topics manually, merge topics that are similar, and ignore topics and people. All of these actions will help the system improve itself.
Add an additional topic by clicking the Tag icon next to any update.
Type in the new topic that you wish to add and save it.
harmon.ie has delivered once again in the area of user productivity and usability. They’ve taken a process that was very cumbersome and app-centric and consolidated it into one streamlined user interface. And they’ve surfaced the resulting aggregation of business data in the application that users spend most of their time in – their email client.
Now instead of users manually searching several different systems to find topics, documents, and correspondence, it is all amassed in one place. And even better, they can open the application and go to the exact location “in context” to get more information with a single click.
I will be very excited to see which other applications they integrate with next. I understand that Microsoft Dynamics is in the works, and I think it would be nice to see Collage integrate with other cloud providers such as Dropbox or Google Docs, as many business users do in fact use these services.
Product review is sponsored by harmon.ie, but opinions are my own