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Product Review: Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity Collage – Bringing a New Outlook into Your Business

In the age of increasing digital overload, business users find themselves constantly being distracted with too much information coming from multiple systems. An organization may use many different systems and cloud-based apps to store related information, such as Outlook for emails, Office 365 for document collaboration, Salesforce as a CRM tool, and ZenDesk for help desk tickets, for example.

Oftentimes knowledge workers’ daily activities span across these multiple systems, and this means that they must log in to each system separately in order to find the related information. Also their work flow becomes very app-centric, instead of allowing them to focus on topics that are related to each other from these disparate systems. Collage

You may know that’s Collage product, which was released late last year as a separate add-in for Outlook 2016 and appeared as a separate sidebar in the email client, addressed these problems. Collage delivers the first topic computing experience by presenting enterprise events from cloud services, organized by topics, directly in the Outlook client. The Collage technology combines artificial intelligence with patent-pending innovations to uncover and associate topics across many apps. This allows workers to focus on customers, projects, and products, rather than on toggling between apps to put together the big picture.

Email serves as the contextual anchor for topics. When users view an email message, all related updates appear in the sidebar. Updates can be documents, app notifications, social discussions, or other emails. So, for the first time, users will see the information relevant to topics, rather than on searching for that information across multiple apps.

In their latest release today, has combined their award winning Collage technology directly within the product. This allows users to work with documents, people, and topics all from within the same sidebar window without jumping back and forth between two different sidebars.

You can see some of the other features of Collage on the last product review I wrote.

I had the opportunity to look at the new Collage prior to the release to test it out and give my feedback.

If you don’t see a Collage tab in the sidebar after installing for Outlook, you’ll need to enable it first. Click the triangle, then Options. Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

From the People tab, check the box next to Enable Collage and press OK. Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

You should now see the Collage tab in the sidebar. Clicking on Connect to Office 365 will prompt you for your Office 365 credentials. Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

After signing in to Office 365, sign in to each additional service that you’d like to connect to by clicking Login and entering your credentials. Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

After you’ve logged into your services, click on the Updates tab at the top to see related topics about your email message from your other applications. You can see that the email message creates the context for the topics you see in Collage. In this example, you don’t have to go searching for the contract that is referred to in the email message – it’s automatically right there in your sidebar.

Product Review: Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

You can filter the updates by services if you wish. Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

For example, clicking Outlook will display only related email messages, as you can see indicated by the icons next to each entry. Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

You can also drill down by topics by clicking on a topic name. Clicking OWA for example, will filter the results, only showing items flagged with that topic. Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

As I was playing around with the product as a whole, I discovered a couple other cool new features, so I thought I’d share them here.

The first is a new tree view panel that allows for quick navigation between SharePoint locations. Go to the Sites tab and click the tree view icon on the upper right of the sidebar. You can now expand and collapse items by clicking on the triangle icons. This is much quicker than drilling down just to see the content of a site, library, or folder. Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

Another cool feature is that you can assign icons to uploaded Outlook items, to easily distinguish whether it’s a meeting, task, post, or email. It takes some configuration to set up, but once finished this is what you’ll see: Collage – Increasing Worker Focus and Productivity

My Thoughts’s newest release combines the features of Collage directly into their for Outlook product. Users get all the benefits of Collage, but now they no longer have to toggle back and forth between Collage and the sidebar to work with documents and people. By being all integrated into one product, it makes for a seamless user experience which in turn will increase worker productivity.

I think the bigger news though, is not that this is a new version of Collage or that it integrates with Outlook, but rather that this allows people to work with topics instead of jumping back and forth between different applications. They can now focus on topics rather than apps or systems.

I think this an extremely powerful tool, and I’m impressed with how nicely it all integrates together. I think knowledge workers could get the majority of their day-to-day activities done without having to leave their email client. Their SharePoint documents, related emails, topics, Yammer conversations, coworker newsfeeds, and access to their business apps are all right there in the Outlook sidebar.

As mentioned in the last review I wrote, I’m very excited to see which other applications and features that plans to add next. I think the ability to integrate with OneDrive, Dropbox or Google Docs would be very beneficial, as lots of knowledge workers use these services.

To learn more about the new features of Collage, visit the website.

Product review is sponsored by, but opinions are my own

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About Me

Wendy Neal

Wendy Neal

I am a .NET SharePoint Developer for DMI. I've worked with SharePoint since 2007. I love to share my passion for SharePoint and Office 365 by speaking at various industry and user group events, as well as writing articles for various publications and this blog.   Read More

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