Product Review: Increase Adoption and Simplify User Experience with harmon.ie for SharePoint

Written by Joel Oleson. Posted in Business Solutions

review4 (Rating: 4 out of 5)

One of the most important words in any user adoption strategy with SharePoint is streamline, a.k.a., integrating SharePoint processes into your existing workplace culture.  I’ve been using harmon.ie for SharePoint for the last few weeks and wanted to share my thoughts and impressions.  By the way, harmon.ie is pronounced ‘harmony.’ (For those of us that get thrown off by the .ie top-level domain, it’s far from Ireland - the corporate offices are in California.).

Common Adoption SharePoint Problems

Here are a few common adoption problems that came to mind as I used this tool, and I encourage its use to help solve.  Using harmon.ie, these problems can be addressed in a matter of minutes.

  1. The Inbox Pit. Users constantly send emails with content and attachments to share their information.  Data therefore continues to sit in users’ inboxes.  In many companies, the inbox is a bottomless pit – a point of no return.  We have a 90-day retention policy, so unless a file is saved somewhere or put into a PST, which may be slightly better for the user, the data is lost.  But even saving messages in bulk to an offline store makes us wonder where we might be putting the company at risk.
  2. SharePoint Tracking. Tracking information in SharePoint is a challenge.  How many times have you visited one of your team sites, quickly looked through the home page, and thought… nothing has changed? Still looking for an easy way to discover what’s new, an activity stream with social and document updates, and a place to go to find people? How buried are the sites I’m a member of?  If you’re like most administrators, you know firsthand that these are the problems your users demand a solution to, and even if you have developer resources, you don’t know where to start.
  3. Make File Sharing Simple. At work, we have to fight users who insist on file sharing solutions that are just plain simple to use. If we’re ever going to convince users that they should start using SharePoint, the experience needs to feel integrated into their existing productivity patterns.  For example, there are people who live in Outlook.  These are the people who are creating endless attachments and using file shares or Dropbox-like solutions.  Are we ever going to get them into the browser to upload their files?  Not likely.   Instead, we need to bring SharePoint to them in an aggregated, contextual way.

Enter harmon.ie.

Introducing My Experience with harmon.ie for SharePoint

The first thing I noticed after installing harmon.ie’s Outlook add-in for SharePoint  is the harmon.ie interface pops up when pressing send on an email with an attachment and asks, “Do you want to save to SharePoint?”  You can easily click ‘Yes’, or ‘No’, and with a few options decide to send the attachment or upload the document to SharePoint and send a link, instead.  When uploading, you can add a new version to an existing SharePoint document, if it exists, and decide whether to save the message itself to SharePoint as well.

harmon.ie attachment event:
harmonie1

Since I had configured the document library in my team site, harmon.ie provided that library for saving the document. 

What I wasn’t expecting was the ability to pull up the sidebar in Outlook and simply drop documents in as links or attachments.  That was the real time saver.  It’s otherwise a jarring experience to have to go out to SharePoint, click on a document to capture the very long URL, and then try to add a link in the document or save it locally to the desktop and then save it to the email (all depending on the user’s access to the data in SharePoint, of course.)

You can also add all your sites as favorites for easy access, which is a real time saver.

While I do see real value in this exchange, there is also value in the everyday business productivity of the sidebar providing contextual information about users. harmon.ie provides quick SharePoint profile search, and even contextual social information based on who sent or is cc’d on the message.

The social activity feed in SharePoint has never been more interesting than in the harmon.ie email sidebar, with full pictures and a social context.  Real world, I recently extended an offer to a project manager and was very anxious to integrate him quickly with our team.  How great it was to provision his SharePoint access and enable him to click to become colleagues with my team members.  In this way, I was then able to add him to the team distribution lists and add his access to the team site.

One thing I noticed after playing with harmon.ie off and on for a few days is there is a lot packed into this little tool.  As an example, there are various people, document and activity views; love the ratings on the suggested colleagues, too.

harmonie2

What is the Downside?

As with any product review, you’re probably wondering why we wouldn’t just throw this on every client machine.  Well, first off, while it is an effective way to deal with attachments and curve people’s tendencies to email attachments back and forth, it can make the Outlook experience that much more cluttered.  I blame Outlook for not having a more flexible right pane.  The side panel, when expanded, takes up some decent real-estate and while minimized, is still large for my taste.  (Note:  I found out later that it is simple enough to have the panel closed and still have the interception happen while sending attachments, and thus remind me the importance of saving my documents on my site and sending a link for decent email etiquette.)  Outlook is already a memory hog, and a frequent culprit of consuming much of the available memory on a client machine. 

Beyond that, I personally prefer some views - of new and updated documents and what I want to see when I look at a person - and wish I could make the buttons focus on those two or three views and get rid of the other options.  
In my experience, I find there are browser people, and people who live in their Outlook email.  If you’re an Outlook person, you will either love the panel or be annoyed by it.  If you’re a browser person, you’ll be impressed by the data it gathers, and then ignore its use until it pops up.

Real Customer Value… Why Customers are Adopting harmon.ie for SharePoint

During the evaluation of harmon.ie for SharePoint, I’ve found a few key reasons why customers are diving in with this solution to boost SharePoint adoption.

  1. Many have been using email for much of their collaboration.  Moving those emails, attachments, projects and so on into SharePoint needs not be a jarring experience which could slow adoption.  Using harmon.ie, customers are finding SharePoint easy to use, and the added value they get in the subject, to and from, the email metadata is extremely important for context.   Threaded views make it a much, much easier transition and create an integrated experience.
  2. The unified communications experience that revolves around the message, the site and people is also key.  Whether they are using Sametime, Communicator or Lync, a unified messaging experience right in the Outlook client makes it easy to search for people and reach out immediately.  It really brings the user and the files together.
  3. I know finding and remembering sites happens on sticky notes, browser favorites, and a variety of other ways, but keeping track of documents can be tough.  harmon.ie provides a cohesive way to configure and deploy SharePoint access out-of-the-box so users can easily manage their content across group and team sites.  Centralized deployment and configuration makes the process simple for users and populates their client with connections to profiles, my sites, team sites, and the projects they are involved in.

Bottom Line

harmon.ie is a very clever Outlook add-in.  It has found a niche at the heart of information sharing, in the killer app and center of the universe, corporate email.  It also brings a cohesive social experience to SharePoint environments, making it easy to find people.  This add-in also alerts you when you’re about to send a large attachment for feedback to several people at once.  Should you really send that large attachment, or would it be better to actually upload it to your team site and send a link, instead?  harmon.ie puts the power in your hands after giving you that little tap on the screen.

I recommend harmon.ie for those companies looking to integrate centralized document creation and management into the corporate culture and for those looking to simplify the social element of keeping better track of people and documents in SharePoint.  You’re likely going to want to start off with a small group to see how harmon.ie blends into your culture and build best practices.  This is not the app to simply embed in your corporate desktop rollout without configuration, but hey, that’s the unique value it provides… harmon.ie gives you a mechanism for centralized deployment for users working with multiple sites.  You’ll get a ton more out of the tool with a little bit of training, and this may very well be the tool that drives adoption and seamlessly transitions people into sharing assets that otherwise would be buried and lost in email.

Learn More…

Learn more about harmon.ie by visiting vendor website at www.harmon.ie.

 
Joel Oleson
Author: Joel OlesonWebsite: http://www.sharepointjoel.com
Joel was the first dedicated SharePoint Administrator ever. He's been working with SharePoint nearly 11 years and worked at Microsoft in both IT and the product teams including architecting the first roll-out of Microsoft's own global intranet.