Product analysis by Joel Oleson for SharePointJoel.com requested by Scinaptic
Users love their email. Despite the inefficiencies of mailing documents back and forth, the center of employee productivity is in one of two places, in email or in the browser. For those where Outlook is the center of the universe, the world of the user revolves around email. Given this, it makes sense to bring the document management system to email rather than drag the user into the browser (and vice versa). Ideally, rather than force users to move out of their comfort zones, provide baby steps of providing the interface where it can be easier for users to do the right thing. Scinaptic OnePlaceMail 6.4 is designed to integrate SharePoint 2013 into the familiar interface of Outlook 2010 or Outlook 2013.
SharePoint 2013 has a new cool feature that brings the efficiencies of email into SharePoint with the new Site Mailbox. This mailbox is much improved over the list-attached inboxes of the past. It makes it much easier to send messages to a team and collaborate with the team with anyone being able to respond. It requires both Exchange 2013 and SharePoint 2013 plus special integration between the two, but the efficiencies can quickly be worth the pain to set it up. Unfortunately, there are some limits in Site Mailboxes, and Scinaptic OnePlaceMail has been designed to overcome many of these limitations.
The real focus of OnePlaceMail 6.4 is to deliver broader adoption of solutions on the SharePoint platform. SharePoint is deployed in over 88% of Fortune 500 companies according to recent AIIM research, and unfortunately, broader adoption beyond basic file sharing and collaboration hold it back. Serious document management is in its capabilities, but users lack the training and simple habits to use it efficiently and effectively. As a result, many fail to unlock the real value in SharePoint. In this latest release focused on SharePoint 2013, the OnePlaceMail team has focused on getting real ROI out of SharePoint by focusing on adoption challenges, compliance, and records management capabilities right where the users "live."
Figure 1: Outlook with OnePlaceMail 6.4 Add-in: Displaying An Interactive SharePoint Interface
Challenges of SharePoint Customers
1. Broad Adoption – Often SharePoint adoption starts in the IT department, but to get broad adoption the users need training, and often, even that is not enough for those most resistant to change.
2. Compliance and Records Management – Email is still the most commonly used application for collaboration. It has many deficiencies. While it is fast to get a document to someone, it can be quite frustrating figuring out if you have the latest version in your inbox. The inbox is not efficient document management, as you can't tell what is what, and others don't have access to the same set of documents. Assuming you do need to get someone access, you are then sending it by creating yet another version that is unmanaged. This unmanaged chaos can lead to discontent and lost time. With Office 2013 and online, multi-user editing, the goal more than ever is to encourage users to use the latest tools and leverage the power of both Office 2013 and SharePoint 2013. Together you've got an amazing set of tools that provide the latest productivity features for rich document and records management. These can lead to compliance goals and provide the structure that is needed to track change, usage, auditing, and other requirements for records in a corporation. In email, chaos reigns. Tracking viewers is impossible, tracking change is impossible, and you don't have to settle for the mediocre. Don't get me wrong. Email has a place, and that's where OnePlaceMail provides a common experience across email and SharePoint. Ironically, the OnePlaceMail team is encouraging users to send links to documents within SharePoint, and users are transitioning to better information management and collaboration habits without leaving the familiar confines of Microsoft Outlook.
3. Working Together Over Distance/Time Zones – Today's workforce is all about speed and minimizing interruption. The unstructured and the structured are expected to happen in a very short time frame. Conversations need to quickly change to become documents and those documents may need to be declared records. When your users need to collaborate, they have tasks, calendars, and sets of documents. When you're working on a team that needs to collaborate, and a few simply say, "Email me the document. Don't send me a SharePoint link." What do you do? How do you keep consistency? Adoption is key, and keeping the team on the same page is vital.
Understanding the Solution
Normally, when you find you've got information in an email, the context is lost when you save that email if it gets saved. With OnePlaceMail you can capture information right from the mail as it is transferred to a SharePoint site.
Normally, when you transfer from a network drive to SharePoint, you lose all context, all the author information, created date, and additional metadata.
Right from Word, Excel and PowerPoint, the solution provided allows you to more easily save to places already designated in the hierarchy provided with the solution.
By using OnePlaceMail with SharePoint 2013, you get the audit trail and tracking that provides policy rules and enforcement that otherwise would be lost if only using email.
When transferring emails and email attachments, the email attributes can be captured and stored in SharePoint for a complete record of an email message. Simply use a content type that aligns with email attributes or create your own mappings.
SharePoint Columns are intuitively exposed right in Outlook, File Explorer, and Office when saving, allowing the user to tag content with rich metadata, including support for Terms and Taxonomy content.
Whether you're using the SharePoint interface or the Outlook interface, consistency is provided by allowing the users to browse effortlessly between them.
Office 365 SharePoint online is right inside Microsoft Outlook; delivering convenient access to your SharePoint investment
Search SharePoint lists right within Microsoft Outlook
When writing emails, insert links or attachments direct from SharePoint content
Locating content in SharePoint is a dream with support for views and rendering all SharePoint columns
Figure 2: OnePlaceMail – Insert Link/ Attach from SharePoint
Highlights of New and Existing OnePlaceMail 6.4 Features
Save (drag and drop) attachments to SharePoint and Office 365
Complete SharePoint metadata with type ahead including data from BCS external content types
Insert links/documents from SharePoint into email messages
Access SharePoint/Office 365 direct from Outlook including opening msg files
Search SharePoint from Outlook
Send from File Explorer to SharePoint
Toggle between Exchange view and SharePoint view in Outlook
Consistent way to access documents
Send and save emails to SharePoint
Figure 3: OnePlaceMail – Toggle Between Exchange/Outlook Site Mailbox View and SharePoint
Why would you need a product like OnePlaceMail? Here are few questions to ask:
How can we make it easier for users to save documents into SharePoint?
How do we enforce our enterprise content types and ensure metadata capture?
How do we engage with our end users to make interacting and accessing content from SharePoint easy?
How do leverage the new SharePoint 2013 Site Mailboxes?
How do I Install OnePlaceMail?
For Outlook there is an add-in that installs on each client. This can be pushed as a client package, if desired, and includes the windows explorer integration to SharePoint. There is also an optional Office add-In for Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
For those who desire to leverage the power of email to SharePoint, there's a complementary sandbox solution that contains an example library, content and email columns. You don't need to install the sandbox solution, you can simply create the columns that map to the desired fields in email or map them to existing fields.
For those that want to extend what's there, there is a full SDK (Software Development Kit) for even more integration needs.
Figure 4: OnePlaceMail Locations – Add Location for Easy-To-Save-To Locations and Search Locations.
Many settings, such as the SharePoint connections, search locations and button labels can be configured and deployed centrally.
Reality Check and My Thoughts on OnePlaceMail
Email has been the go-to app for collaboration for the last two decades. It has driven the enterprise IT department and been the most critical app at most enterprises. Work stops when email stops at many organizations. Now that SharePoint has been setup as the more efficient way to collaborate and store records and documents, it's still difficult to get users to change. Why should they?
So, what are the downsides? Well, as with all Outlook add-ins, it adds to the buttons in Outlook. Given it's in the ribbon, and has its own tab, I think they've found a good way to keep it out of your way except when you need it.
Many will never discover all of work that's done in the app. There are a lot of features packed into it. I think there could be some debate on focus on simplicity vs. the fully featured product. Looking at the tree structure below (which feels a lot like a folder structure that users may be familiar with) makes it to me seem simple, while the content type still comes across a little strong. I think the lesson is, don't ask for fields that don't matter.
There's a lot of goodness packed into this little add-in. Amazing how much they've stuffed into it. I do see that companies that are looking for something to help bridge those users that are afraid of technology and afraid to use a new tool may find comfort in something that positions SharePoint as an extension of Outlook and, hence, an extension of a familiar place for business users.
Figure 5: Save to SharePoint – Familiar Tree Control with Folder-Looking Structure
So, What Are the Challenges?
It's a client. Installation, training, and deployment are something that IT will have to debate with the business folks who need this tool. It can definitely be considered part of any adoption strategy to help those business users who are looking for a step that brings SharePoint to a familiar tool like Outlook, Office and File Explorer. Want users to save their content into SharePoint? Need to encourage better classification of content? Want to provide fast access to SharePoint content from Outlook? Now there's a tool that makes it that much easier.
The OnePlaceMail team has made it easy for you with the .MSI file provided and centralized licensing for enterprise deployments. For smaller deployments, you can download the solution and be up and running in under 3 minutes.
OnePlaceMail lives up to its name of trying to unite collaboration. It brings the richness of document management into Outlook and helps encourage users to do the right thing. While I think there's still a bit of training for those that would be using the tool, it definitely makes it a lot easier for users to do the right thing. OnePlaceMail keeps it simple, retaining the familiar metaphor of drag drop to left navigation of Outlook and accessing SharePoint by simply clicking on folders in the left navigation.
Enterprises that are having adoption issues and trying to address compliance and records management issues will find that SharePoint drag-and-drop does lose out on a lot of the metadata that enterprise content management strategies will be attempting to enforce. OnePlaceMail provides an interface that will capture this content as it comes in from various places including file shares, network drives, office applications, and from email. With SkyDrive Pro and the SharePoint Site Mailbox many will look again at moving public folders and file shares into SharePoint, and OnePlaceMail can be part of that enterprise strategy to eliminate the inefficient sources for document storage.
I was very impressed with the OnePlaceMail Express Edition and everything it includes for FREE. What a great way to encourage business folks to try it out for themselves to see if it lives up to its name! Scinaptic and OnePlaceMail have a rich history of supporting SharePoint. Watch a video or download the 30 day enterprise edition trial or check out the free express edition.
Express - Free max 25 users; Enterprise - premium support plus.
This product analysis is designed to be an unbiased review by Joel Oleson for vendors and the community. How did I do?