We installed IBM Verse On-Premises (VOP) the day it was released.  See my previous post about the installation (simple).  This post will cover my impressions after having used it for two weeks as my main access point to my company email.

Basic Usage:

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the VOP 1.0 release.  Reading and composing emails are easy and straightforward. When new mail arrives, the browser tab adds a red dot to the Verse icon to let me know there's something new. Messages render as expected and give me the option to show images if desired - just like Notes or iNotes do. The options to work with a message are available in the icon bar and are a mix of text button (Reply, Reply All, Forward) or images (Mark Needs Action, Mark read/unread, delete, move to folder, print or schedule a meeting).  There's also an indicator of which folder(s) the message is found in. This is very nice.   The Mark Read/Unread button was a topic of conversation in that it wasn't immediately apparent from the icon what it's for - and was missed entirely by someone else.  The hover text does point it out, but I'm chalking up missing it due to me not paying attention.



I can see where the Important People ribbon at the top can be very useful to drill down on the messages from those people I'm the most active with.

Working with multiple messages collects them in a list in the "content" panel on the right. From there I can work on them and choose the Read/Unread, delete, or move all to folder options. Easy to work with.

Clicking on a name in the Folder views or message will show a business card for the user. If they are in my Connections environment, the Connections biz card data is displayed, otherwise it's just the person's email address.

Browser alerts in Chrome, Firefox and Safari are OK - I seem to have some issues with the alerts popping up from time to time. I'm trying to narrow it to a browser issue or something with the app itself.

The down side is the Connections Files integration. I have it working in iNotes, but Verse uses a different set of API calls from what iNotes uses. Still working on this one.

Search:

The search works very well from my experience. You can select your Important People and clicking their icon will show all messages from them no matter which folder they are in. That's the nice bit of displaying the folder location in the message. It gives you an additional context to work with.  

You can additionally refine the result set to a timeline and folders to drill down further.
Image:IBM Verse On-Premises - some thoughts after using for two weeks

If you need to search on a sender that isn't in your Important People collection, you can type their name/address in the search bar and te results are returned the same way.

Kudos to the team that managed to build this as an OSGi plugin and not requiring and entire SOLR install. HT to Stephan for his post on the backstory of VOP - just in case someone missed it when it was originally published. That and his other posts around this are interesting reads.

"GTD" Features:

One of the important features in VOP is the "GTD" actions it adds - Marking messages as Needing Action or Waiting For.  i've been waiting for this since I first noticed it in the Verse Mobile app last year.  It allows you to track my own work on whether I have something owed someone or someone owes me something.  This is not a way to "assign" work to others like you can in a To Do.  Iniitally that's what I was expecting, but I didn't read the documentation until after trying that with a colleague.  When you mark an email as Waiting For, it only adds it to a view in your mail.  There's nothing that would add the message to the recipient's Needs Action view.  Perhaps that is coming in a future release - I think it would be nice to have.

Image:IBM Verse On-Premises - some thoughts after using for two weeks 

Aside from that misunderstanding - it works as advertised.  I can mark an email I've received as needs action with a reminder for today, tomorrow, anytime or choose a date. You can also add comments/notes. For Sent message, I can mark them as Waiting For with the same options.  Once marked, the messages show up in the appropriate view and the icon in the display changes.

Calendar:

At the bottom of the page is the Calendar Bar. It provides a timeline of the day that shows me what and when I've got on my calendar for the day. It's very nice.  I can click on an item and it will give me the name and time of the meeting.  I can click on the link and get the meeting details. The details are displayed in a Verse designed page. I can also click a button to create a new meetings in a Verse designed form. Those are all nice and work for me.  I can also pull up a separate calendar page by clicking on the Calendar button that shows Day/Week/Month views.

However, if I click the Calendar option in the navigation bar at the top, it opens up the iNotes calendar.  Since IBM appear to have designed a Verse Calendar view, I'm not sure why that isn't what I'm directed to.  Hopefully this gets fixed soon as it doesn't give a consistent user experience. The People link is the same, it opens iNotes, though I haven't found a Verse version of Contacts yet.  

Connections integration:

The integration with Verse and Connections is, at first, simple to enable based on the documentation. The biz card and user photos are a nice integration point and work as designed. As I mentioned, the Files integration is not working completely. It appears to be with the OPTIONS method and not getting the response it should.  I'm working on that and will post more once I figure that out.

Things I'd Like to See:

I think I've seen others mention some of these, but here's my list:

  • Complete the Calendar (and Contacts) move to Verse UI
  • Add workflow to the Needs Action/Waiting For
  • Documentation on custominzing UI. Would be nice to be able to have Connections customizations in the Verse UI
  • Ability to add more links to the "Apps" drop-down (part of customization)
  • Development API. I know there's something for the Verse cloud, but on-premises would be great
  • Calendar overlay/aggregation (e.g. Google calendar and other iCal feeds) - would be great to have that data show in the calendar bar!
  • Watson integration as an option

Overall, I'm impressed with the 1.0 release and look forward to watching Verse grow and improve.

As I'm drafting this article, I saw Alan Lepofsky's interview with Ed Brill and it looks like some of my requests are in the pipeline.

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