Doing Business with IBM Connections – a new book from Michael Sampson

There are so many books about computers that it seems almost inconceivable that there is any topic that has not already been covered by any number of books. Last year I decided to write a book on Enterprise Search because there was no other book on the subject. The inevitable question is whether there is no book because no one is interested in the subject or that no one has had the bravery to try.  You have to be brave to be an author because very few books will ever generate the royalties to justify the time spent. Authors write books for many reasons, and in the case of Michael Sampson he felt strongly that the benefits of exploiting IBM Connections were being overlooked. My own recent experience with clients using Connections is that they are probably only using a fraction of the functionality of the application.

Doing Business with IBM Connections is a 400 page trade paperback book priced at $39 plus postage. It starts out on p17 with some background on IBM Connections but by p47 the author moved on to eleven chapters which each describe how Connections can be used in a wide range of scenarios. As Michael remarks at the beginning of the book, his intent is to start with the scenario and explore where the technology makes a difference and not  starting (like most books on SharePoint) with the technology and then searching for a way to use it. The first three chapters cover co-authoring documents, managing meetings, and holding discussions. Chapter 6 is somewhat different as it describes how to set up a Profile in Connections, a process essential to understanding the second set of scenarios.

The second set of scenarios cover distributing team and organisational updates, capturing ideas for innovation, running a project, sharing learning and best practice, making decisions and finding expertise. Chapter 13 outlines how an individual can ensure they do not think in terms of individual scenarios but gain from understanding how all the scenarios come together in a coherent framework. The book concludes with a chapter that sets out a further 67 scenarios and finally a generic action plan that an organisation can tailor to its specific requirements.

400 pages of text on IBM Connections could easily become overwhelming but Michael has used a concept from his book Seamless Teamwork in which a fictional company (in this case Albreto)  is used throughout the book to ground it in reality. Many of the screen shots come from an instance of Connections built around Albreto by Phase 2. In addition there are a number of detailed case studies. Michael also weaves in good practice about everything from running meetings to preparing documents.

This is a book about how to gain business advantage from Connections and not just a technical manual. In organisations that also use SharePoint it may well cause questions to be asked about whether the effort would be better spent on Connections than on SharePoint for many of the scenarios set out in this book. It could be argued that this book is one that IBM should have written but it would not have had the independence of thought that comes from an author who knows the product in great detail and so can see both the value and the implementation challenges.

The very broad scope, the authority and clarity of the writing and the way in which the book is structured and illustrated are all exemplary.  Probably the highest praise I can give this book is that it is very readable, and that is superb achievement for a book about a complex and powerful software application. This book is without doubt the definitive guide to getting the best from IBM Connections and is likely to retain that status for many years.

Martin White