Seamless Integration or Car Crash

Spot the difference between these two photographs.

Both show “integration” between a house and a car. One is seamless integration, and the other… well … it is just a car crash.

The term “seamless integration” is used frequently when describing products giving access to content systems like SharePoint within Outlook – products like Repstor for Outlook. Supposedly any integration that shows content within the Outlook product can automatically be labelled as seamless, but in reality it is easy to spot the difference – true seamless integration is that bit harder to achieve.

Why is this important?

Users are busy people. They don’t have time to wait, they don’t have time to work out unfamiliar interfaces, and they don’t have time to fill in lots of metadata. That is why a familiar, responsive interface that looks, behaves and feels like an environment they are used to, is ideal for most users. Users clearly describe what they don’t want when being made to access compliance, records management or other ECM solutions being rolled out across an organization – no new interfaces, no special training, no change management programmes, no surprises. Just a familiar consistent experience which doesn’t impact the normal way of working.

At Repstor, we provide this. Our focus is keeping Outlook looking like Outlook but giving access to content in systems like SharePoint. No surprises to the user, just a fast responsive interface and full offline access to content – the same they get for their email. Repstor provides true, seamless integration.

Here are a few hints to help you “spot the seams” of a product integrating a content system with Outlook….

Does the system provide the standard interface a user expects from Outlook – folder hierarchy, message list, and preview pane?
Can you organize your content in the message view, as you can emails within Outlook – order by from/to/subject and other fields, group items by date, categories or by conversation?
Does the system integrate with Outlook Search. No points for providing separate search functionality in a separate and unfamiliar Outlook pane!
Is it easy to copy and move content between Outlook and the content system. Can you use the standard move/copy and drag and drop functionality in Outlook both in and out of the system?
Does the preview pane display the content being accessed in the content system?
Does the system work on and offline – like your email – with items being synchronized in the background, users being notified of new items, and users never having to wait for the network?
Does the product work as fast as the standard Outlook environment? A well written add-in has no impact on Outlook performance.

If the answer to all these questions is yes – then your users will be happy and they are already using the Repstor for Outlook product.

If not, give us a call.