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HCL Connections’ ability to integrate with other platforms is starting to produce really interesting use cases showing different ways to solve organizations’ collaboration challenges utilizing all of their available technologies.

Collabsphere 2021 brought us a presentation on how Continental AG managed to integrate their tool with Office 365.  The presentation was held by Lara Kompa from Continental AG and Andreas Weinbrecht from Skaylink GmbH. 

Here is how the Enterprise Social Network at Continental looks like:

The solution Continental has been using for the last 10 years is based on HCL Connections, under the name of ConNext.

Since the tool landscape at Continental has changed and continued changing it adjusted the needs and goals, especially increasing the need to integrate these tools in order to ensure better communication between departments.

Integrating Continental’s ESN Solution with Microsoft O365

Expectations and Goals

  • A (more) seamless user journey across our ESN+O365 services will improve the overall user experience in the digital workplace
  • Increase in productivity and efficiency
  • Implement new collaboration use cases that span across platforms
  • Bring relevant information to the surface and break down info silos

Requirements

  • Excellent UX/UI is Key. No implementation of half-baked integrations
  • Provide clear user guidance on the new use cases and functionalities
  • Holistic view focusing on the benefits rather than tool-centric view: How do the different tools complement each other?
  • Mandatory Approvals from Supporting Functions: ESN+O365 Integrations are approved by Cyber Security, Data Protection, Worker’s Council
  • Clear concept of how we will measure the success of our integration efforts (defined Success Metrics+Adoption KPIs)

Here is an Overview of the Connections Features:

Overview of the Connections Features

Here is how the integration with Microsoft is shaped:

HCL Connections Microsoft  Integration
HCL Connections MS 365 Integration

HCL Connections + MS 365 Integrations viewed from UX/UI perspective:

  • Our own expectations
  • Feedback from Users
  • Use cases missing

Here are the expectations set for such an integration:

  • Release great potential by combining best-of-breed solutions
  • Integration has to work
  • Acceptable application response time
  • Efficiency of use
  • Consistency and standards
  • Intuitive
  • Guide the user what to do next in case the requested action is not possible (e.g. no access to a community)

There are a number of issues that need to be solved when taking on the challenge of integrating these tools.

Share HCL Connections content into MS Teams

  • MS Teams Integration
  • Start point: Connections
  • Share in: MS Teams
  • Conclusion: Need for customization
Share HCL Connections content into MS Teams

Here is a comparison between the out of the box solution vs the customized one:

Share HCL Connections content into MS Teams

For the particular situation when the user received a link in MS Teams to a wiki to which he has no access he will need to file a request. This has lead to a feature request: help the user with the next step. In case of a restricted community visible in the Community overview, offer the “Join this community” button. In case of restricted stand-alone modules offer a contact to the owner to get access to the module.

Share Connections content into MS Teams

  • MS Teams Integration
  • Start Point: MS Teams – Posts. When starting a new conversation within MS Teams, users can add a link to Connections. Click on the “C” icon and select an entry from “recent history” or select a file. Shared information will be presented as a link to Connections.
  • Share in: MS Teams
  • Conclusion: To be reviewed with a note that the UX should be improved. The user cannot add text to the information shared within a post in MS Teams. Neither before, during or after selecting the object in Connections.

One other thing that needs to be improved is that you cannot share files in Teams that are stored in Communities, another aspect that needs improvement on a UI level.

Next in the line of things that can be improved comes the fact that the users cannot delete a post that they created in MS Teams.

Add & Edit Connections content in MS Teams Channel

  • MS Teams Integration
  • Start Point: MS Teams – Add a tab. Share Connections content within Teams. Work in the ESN from within Teams.
  • Share In: MS Teams
  • Conclusion: Ready for implementation

The MS Team members have to be members of the linked (restricted) Connections Community. The content of a public community is visible for every internal Connections user.

Some UX improvements might be in order when it comes to access. Should the action be denied because of restrictions it is useful to help the user with the next step. In case the restricted community is visible in Community overview, offer the “Join this community” button. If it’s a restricted stand-alone module, offer a contact to the owner to get access to the module.

Initiate an MS Teams Chat

  • MS Teams Integration
  • Start Point: HCL Connections: Connections Profile, Connections Business card, Connections Important-To-Me bar. The user clicks on the button / icon and initiates an MS Teams 1:1 chat.
  • Continue in: MS Teams
  • Conclusion: Ready for implementation

Add SharePoint library within a Connections Community

  • Start Point: HCL Connections. Users can look for dedicated files / folders in the integrated SharePoint. When clicking on the folder / file it opens in SharePoint Online.
  • Share In: HCL Connections
  • Conclusion: Ready for implementation

One thing that was noticed during testing is that the UX is inconsistent when clicking on folders. Clicking on the folder in the left navigation bar (1)opens the files / folders in the main window. Clicking on the folder in the main window(2) opens SharePoint Online directly.

When it came to feature requests the one feature that was needed was to be able to search in HCL Connections and find the content in SharePoint.

These were some of the issues and solutions found when integrating HCL Connections with Office 365. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to send us an email.