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6/27/2011
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Social Email Moves Connections To The Fore

Harmon.ie plugin displays connected SharePoint users' profiles and activity streams, as well as documents, as a sidebar to email.

Having already staked a claim to being the company that makes email social through integration with SharePoint, Harmon.ie is preparing a release that will make SharePoint itself more social.

Harmon.ie's main claim to fame has been its software for integrating SharePoint documents and portal content into Outlook and Lotus Notes, but the new release includes deeper integration with SharePoint user profiles and activity streams. Harmon.ie for SharePoint 3.0 is available as beta software for Outlook now, with general availability scheduled for late July. A version for Lotus Notes will follow later this year.

Harmon.ie for Outlook adds a sidebar tab with access to SharePoint content, and the new release adds a "People" tab that provides access to user profiles and status updates, as well as a way of browsing documents by the people associated with them.

Many Enterprise 2.0 enthusiasts consider SharePoint incomplete as a social software platform, even though SharePoint 2010 provides some of the basic elements like status updates and user profiles. Microsoft partners like NewsGator have made a business of building on top of SharePoint as an accepted enterprise content platform, while adding richer social features.

Harmon.ie's tack is to expand on SharePoint through its integration with Outlook and Notes. Harmon.ie has used survey data to argue against the time-wasting effects of switching between applications that its software can minimize by letting workers do more within their email client, rather than having to switch to a web browser or another application. Now it is making the case that social software also belongs within the web interface.

David Lavenda, vice president of marketing and product strategy, said the new people tab "lets you see who you're editing and co-authoring documents with." Harmon.ie is presenting SharePoint capabilities within its social sidebar but also adding to them, he said. For example, Harmon.ie provides its own technique to allow users to add star ratings to documents, but then stores the meta-data for those ratings in SharePoint, he said.

Harmon.ie also plans to release a mobile client later this year, and in that case, access will be through a separate app, given that there's no room for a sidebar element on a phone user interface. "We're not necessarily wedded to email--it's a matter of where people spend their time," Lavenda said.

Among PC users, however, Harmon.ie claims that users are much more likely to take advantage of SharePoint content if they can access it from within their email client.

Social features of the new release include: -- An activity stream providing both document and people status updates
-- The ability to open documents as well as view detailed user profiles from the activity stream
-- One-click phone, chat, videoconference, and/or email connectivity to colleagues from the activity stream, through integration with Microsoft Lync or Office Communications Server, Lotus Sametime and Cisco Unified Communications
-- Views of recent and suggested contacts
-- The ability to update a user's SharePoint status directly from email

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