Monday, October 15, 2012

Office 365 SharePoint Collaboration

Collaboration is a key factor in many successful things we do in life and at work.  For this blog, I will stick to work scenarios.  Companies create collaborative environments for their employees to work and be successful.  They build or rent office space for employees to work together.  They set up telecommunication equipment, computers, networks, etc. for employees to communicate with one another and work successfully.  Thanks to the internet, I can say we live in a very connected world.  I am a relatively new employee to iLink-Systems, as part of my first project I had to collaborate with a development team in India.  It messed up my sleep pattern a little, but it was an exhilarating experience to work with a team half-way across the world. We were sharing ideas and information about the project. We leveraged Microsoft Lync, Skype, Outlook and SharePoint. These tools blurred the distance between our physical locations.  If only we can do something about the time zone, well, we will discuss that in another blog.  We were developing iLink-System's first Office 365 SharePoint intranet product for North Coast Electric in Seattle.

I am going to muse a little about SharePoint Online and its ability to collaborate.  Collaboration is one of the core tenet's of SharePoint.  SharePoint Collaboration brings together people, processes, information and guess what, it has social networking too.  How does it do it? 

In an intranet, SharePoint Online once configured,

  • -          Can display updated employee and organization information using My Sites.  It is everyone's favorite to be aware of "Who is who" by using SharePoint Online People Search. Employees can upload their picture, update their profile information, and talk about their hobbies & interests.  They can also be aware of colleagues that share common interests.  Links to blogs can be shared with everyone.
  • -          Documents, documents, documents.  We have documents everywhere.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a manageable solution that allows us to store it in a central location and access it from anywhere? Document management is definitely made easy in SharePoint.  Documents can be created, stored and version controlled with ease.  There is no need to map to some obscure network drive to access a document. In fact, one does not need to be on the corporate network to have access to documents.  Having documents in a central SharePoint location eliminates the possibility of having outdated versions sitting all over the network.  Gone are the days of sending documents as bulky email attachments, just email the link. 
  • -          Even though we are in a connected world we might not have access to the internet at all times.  No problems, save your documents locally with a click of a button, make the edits, and synchronize when internet is available.
  • -          Sharing information becomes a no-brainer by setting Alerts.  Alerts can be sent to individuals or groups when new documents are created or when changes are made to existing documents. 
  • -          Multiple people can co-author a single document at the same time and see immediate results. 
  • -          Teams working on projects can have their private site to share, discuss and store information.  Team meetings can be held using Lync Online. PC-to-PC audio, video and screen sharing enables collaboration.  Meeting notes can be captured with One Note Web Application.  Tasks can be created, assigned and tracked in real-time.  When the meeting is done all the information is readily available for everyone right there.
  • -          Employees have opinions and valuable ideas.  SharePoint Online can capture them using discussion boards.
  • -          Company information from disparate systems can be made available within SharePoint
  • -          Workflows can be designed and integrated to improve efficiencies.  Processes such as approvals can be made seamless.  When an approval is required, the right people get notified to get the task done.
  • -          Social Networking functionality is integrated within SharePoint.  Employees can tag, comment, create notes and follow common interests.  Companies can integrate social networking sites such as, Facebook, Twitter etc. into their intranet.  Discussion boards are a great way to get feedback and get conversations going on different topics.
  • -          User access can be configured to be as granular as needed.

 As you can see much collaboration can be achieved using SharePoint.  To me, it is a tool that can be used to achieve maximum efficiency through proper implementation and good user adoption.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Windows RT vs. WinRT vs. Windows 8!!

One of the things that I was confused about in the last few hours, and I am confident that many more people are going to be confused about in next few months is the difference between "Windows RT" and WinRT. Here is the simple version:

Windows RT:
  1.  It's an OS.
  2.  It's a variation of the Windows 8 OS that Microsoft has specifically    designed for devices running ARM devices.
  3. (In case you are wondering) ARM is an architecture used by many processor companies to design their chips, including Qualcomm, nVidia, Texas Instruments and several others.
  4. What that means is that when you go to the Settings -> PC Info screen of a tablet device running an ARM processor, it will show you "Windows RT" and NOT "Windows 8". So, it's a full-fledged OS that is branded and sold separately by Microsoft to tablet OEMs (aka manufacturers) who are using ARM processors in their tablet devices. In fact, it used to be called as "Windows on ARM" earlier but was later on re-branded as Windows RT.

  1.   it’s a runtime.
  2.  Conceptually, it's not very different from .net, java or any other        runtime in the sense that its main goal is to create a cross-platform application architecture on Windows 8 that supports multiple languages (C++, C#, JavaScript, etc.). 
Difference between "Windows RT" and "Windows 8":

     Now that we know that Windows RT is an OS, I am sure that some of you are wondering how it is different from Windows 8. Here it is!!
  1.  Not much different from user experience point of view as both    support Metro UI.
  2. Windows RT is not sold directly to consumers, and is meant only to be sold to device manufacturers (aka OEMs).
  3. The goal behind Windows RT is to give end users consistent    experience across tablets being offered by various manufacturers (including Microsoft's own device called as Surface).  
  4. Windows RT will come pre-packaged with MS Office, whereas Windows 8 users will have to buy (and install) Office separately.
  5. There are similar differences in terms of applications shipped out of the box in Windows RT and Winodws 8, as well as the kinds of applications you can develop/install/uninstall on them. Windows RT seems to be more locked-down version of the two.
  6.  You also cannot use Win32 and COM APIs on Windows RT, so you are pretty much restricted to using WinRT APIs. Although, over  next few days I am going to be closely working on a project that requires access to underlying System Information on a Windows RT "ARM" device. It seems that there may be a way to access a subset of Win 32 API on a Windows RT device. If it works, I will post my experience in a subsequent post. 
Please visit our Windows 8 application development page

Monday, August 13, 2012

List of iLink Software Development Frameworks

List of iLink Software Development Frameworks


       iLink frameworks are ready-to-deploy solutions that are built with an intent to solve standard problems        found in an industry vertical or in a horizontal practice.

  Value proposition

  • Frameworks are free to use - get 20% of your problems out of the way for free.
  • Frameworks offer reliable and quality solutions – built on Microsoft technologies and hence guarantee high scalability, flexibility and availability.
  • Ready-to-deploy solutions will help you save precious development cycles.
  • Be fully convinced before adopting a solution – you can experience and evaluate our frameworks live in action.
  •  Frameworks help you minimize risks associated with your initiative - industry best practices and design patterns incorporated in the framework development ensure robustness.
  • Robust frameworks will help you reduce the time to take your solutions to market.
  •  Re-usable frameworks allow fast and easy customizations to suit your business needs.
       Why is iLink different?

  •        We let you evaluate our expertise upfront through frameworks that demonstrate -
  •        Our domain expertise reflected through identification of business critical problems of a given industry 
  •        Our technology expertise reflected through our ability to apply cutting edge technologies to deliver     high quality solutions
  •       Our frameworks help you verify the feasibility of our proposed solutions before you decide to adapt them in your critical business applications
  •       "What you see is what you get" - frameworks are ready-to-use
  •        Frameworks are designed to be reusable – a team of experts can quickly customize our existing  frameworks to suit your business needs
  •      Our frameworks are already helping AT & T, Siemens, Honeywell and NCE solve their critical business problems.
            iLink’s frameworks are currently offered free of any licensing costs and provided as part of development  of solution to you.

            To get more information on these frameworks please visit here or contact (Ph: 404-536-2702).

Thursday, June 28, 2012

iLink Systems - Microsoft Public Sector Award Winner 2012 for Situational Awareness solutions

iLink Systems - Microsoft Public Sector Award Winner 2012 for Situational Awareness solutions

We have done it again this year! From nearly 3,000 partner entries submitted this year for the 2012 Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) Awards Program,  iLink was selected by Microsoft as the Public Sector, Public Safety & National Security Partner of the Year. This achievement represents our commitment to   delivering cutting edge products and services, built on Microsoft technologies that positively impact our customers’ business. We are excited about our accomplishment, and the opportunity it creates for us to continue to deliver innovative solutions with the best customer satisfaction scores.

The solution that enabled us to win this award this year is the Situational Awareness Framework we built for the World Food Program, part of the United Nations. This Situational Awareness solutions helps UN officers to track their crew, convoys and warehouses across the world and reports on the status of each one of these resources. The officers can view such information on a GIS interface on top of Microsoft Surface from a command and control room. This enables the field crew to deliver the essentials to people who are suffering due to natural calamities and in war. Through this, command and control officers can help the field crew by warning them of unsafe zones and directing them to safety. Our solution is currently deployed in Pakistan and the UN is planning to roll this out to other parts of the world as well. We have also built a prototype on Windows 8 that will be used by the field crew to communicate back to the command center with pictures and videos from the field.

The Situational awareness solutions has also been selected as a showcase for the most important Microsoft keynote by Kevin Turner, COO of Microsoft at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto in July this year. The solution will get a prime mention in front of an audience of 15000 at the WPC venue and several more thousands watching live across the world!

I am proud to be part of the team!!Thank you for all your help and support!

Monday, May 7, 2012

What makes iLink Systems different from other System Integrators ?

What makes iLink Systems different from other  System Integrators ?

There are many things, but I think one of the aspects that differentiate us is how we prepare the field, so to speak, to help our customers with upcoming projects.  We call these preparations frameworks.

What makes iLink System’s frameworks unique is the fact that we create pre-built modules that can help you deliver critical information, services, and software tools to the right users. Our nearly complete solutions reduce time to market, support best practices, and improve ROI.

Let me put this in plain terms - frameworks help us to complete your projects faster, reduce delivery costs, and in general create a better product for you. That is because we are 30% to 40% done on day 1 because we have pre-built the most likely scenarios based on best practices and industry-standard designs. For example:

With an iLink Self-service BI Framework, everyone in an organization can gather information from ERM, CRM, ERP, POS, inventory management, HR and payroll systems. Then using familiar software tools, they can create and view reports, share information and documents, and analyze results.

The iLink Systems Legal Case Management Framework can help you automate work flow; integrate Microsoft Outlook (email, calendar, contacts, and tasks) and Word; and administer document collaboration in small and mid-size law firms, corporate legal departments and government agencies. Use familiar software tools to create and view reports, share information and documents, set up tasks, and analyze results.

The OpsTrac  Service and Operations Management Software Framework enables companies to manage trouble tickets, organize work, map/dispatch service workers to the closest location and provide performance data that can be measured properly. OpsTrac helps avoid duplicating work, reduces inventory requirements, and increases service satisfaction with email and phone notifications to service workers as needed.

Another key aspect is that we value our customers and work hard to become a trusted advisor through webinars, events, and other kinds of information-sharing activities. In fact, Microsoft is so impressed they have joined with us to promote our frameworks around the country.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Mobile Healthcare Solutions

It is interesting to observe how the healthcare technology space is evolving -Mobility in healthcare known as ‘mHealth’ is the latest trend. “Anytime anywhere” connectivity through mobile healthcare application is being used to transform patient care, drive doctor and administrative staff productivity, and redefine the workplace.  Interestingly, in 2011 the FDA proposed guidelines for how it translates existing medical device regulations into the world of apps, Smartphone’s, and tablets.

Not only healthcare facilities are deploying consumer devices like the iPhone, iPad, or Android devices, they are also allowing healthcare workers can to bring and use personal mobile devices at work. The biggest challenges for mobile Healthcareapplications  include security concerns, HIPAA compliance, and user experience. To resolve these challenges it is important that healthcare apps meet proper Health and Medical certification. Happtique, a subsidiary of the for-profit arm of the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA Ventures), is the first organization to take the initiative of constructing a certification process that Happtique will use to decide which consumer health apps and professional medical apps it will promote.

Payors are also planning to offer mobile services and develop mobile apps in order to improve customer engagement. Last year Aetna acquired Healthagen, maker of the iTriage app, to enhance consumer engagement through mobile apps. Other payors will soon offer similar consumer-facing utility apps along with wellness apps and wellness games.

Following are some of the trends in mHealth apps [according to Brian Edwards, mHealth feature editor at iMedicalApps ]

1. Apps that track patient activity. The apps provide ability to track patient data on a phone are very useful for patients especially with chronic conditions like diabetes.

2. Binary network apps. Binary network apps track peripheral devices, will possibly be the biggest trend in 2012, said Edwards. Some examples of such apps are 1) wearable censors that fit into the diagnostic process in an ambulatory setting. These Binary network apps enables caregivers to “see triggers” as the app sends an alarm depending on a predetermined threshold for the patient.

3. Health-focused games. The healthcare based game apps are really powerful in educating people to improve or manage their health in an entertaining manner.

4. Apps that empower patients. These apps help consumers make health-related decisions by pulling information from government and non-profits and organize it so users can search for facilities, read reviews and check what services are available all based on your location.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Developing Rich Internet Applications the Right Way

A guide to ensuring quality and consistency when developing rich Internet applications.

Most of the projects I work on involve developing a new interface on a website or application that appears cutting-edge to users. It's no surprise, as user demands for rich, state-of-the-art interfaces have skyrocketed and users of consumer and enterprise applications no longer want "what works" but rather want what "is possible".
Enterprise frameworks like Microsoft SharePoint have adapted as well, adding architecture to support savvy, animated UI’s, invisible database calls through Ajax, and the ability to deliver any application to meet any user need. Thus businesses need to evaluate their current offering to users because, as the old saying goes, if Microsoft is enabling it, users are asking for it.
Once businesses make the decision to develop a Rich InternetApplication (RIA) - the industry term used to define savvy, animated applications that engage users--, the challenge becomes determining what exactly they need to focus on, what technologies should be used in the execution, and how do they understand if they have created a successful version of their product to satisfy user demands. For this blog, I wanted to outline a fundamental approach businesses should use in tackling these challenges and enabling their product development program a path for success.

Focus on what matters to users

The most common mistake in developing a Rich Internet Application is forgetting who the user is and what they are trying to accomplish when using your application. This seems like the reverse of what you would expect, but it’s true. Businesses commonly get carried away in bells and whistles and forget that users, whether consumers or in the enterprise, use your product to get something done.
Thus, when I engage with a client, I always have them create a list of the top five tasks a user is likely expecting to accomplish when using their product. Then, I can map many Rich Internet Application elements against those desires. Imagine the following example:
A consumer is ordering a Cable TV package online. The user wants to be able to choose the components of their Cable selection, add it to their cart, and see the price reflected in real time without having to click through several pages.
User Need: "A consumer is ordering a Cable TV package online"
RIA Solution: Deliver an exciting design that shows Cable Company A is setting the bar over their competitors in allowing consumers to do what they want, when they want.
User Need: "The user wants to be able to choose the components of their Cable selection"
RIA Solution: Develop an animated carousel of Cable Packages they can easily scroll through on the web or “flip” through on their phone, which visually maps components to price.
User Need: "They want to add it to their cart, and see the price reflected in real time without having to click through several pages."
RIA Solution: Allow the user "drag and drop" packages right into the shopping cart and update their total without forcing them to leave to a checkout page.
Thus, you can quickly map what your user wants to what the RIA interface would be. As you can see from the example, we have identified a) a design direction for the visual team, b) the “flip” carousel popularized in iTunes and the iPhone, and c) drag and drop shopping functionality with Ajax (behind the scenes database requests) for a seamless shopping experience. This allows my client to understand the scope of what they are trying to accomplish while outlining the core user needs.

Choose a flexible technology

Another common mistake businesses make is choosing a technology that focuses on accomplishing a single task, over a series of tasks. Often times, third party developers will build a custom component for a project and resell the components online to make extra money.
Clients will come along and see that component does exactly what they are looking for, at a lower cost that building it, and ready now. While I do not intend to imply that this is never a good solution - if a feature is truly a commodity then buy over build will be a good option - the real challenge understands how this component will fit into the lifecycle of your application.
Thus, when clients begin to make technology decisions for implementation, I have them evaluate the technology they are looking to implement against the three following variables. First, is this technology scalable? If you have to change one little thing, will it break?
If so, how much will it cost to fix? Second, does this technology live in harmony with the other components of your application? Many times, this requires a much deeper understanding of the technologies themselves and how, when combined, application performance will be affected and if the intended technologies will freeze-up under heavy stress on the application.
Lastly, does the intended technology require a new “skillset” in your organization to support? For example, Adobe Flash has its own scripting language called ActionScript that many Microsoft developers would not know. Thus, there will be a cost in the maintenance of the technology which you might not be fully aware of.

Technologies commonly used in the development of Rich Internet Applications include:

Microsoft Silverlight:

Silverlight is a powerful development platform for creating engaging, interactive silverlight applications for many screens across the Web, desktop, and mobile devices.

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF)

Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) provides developers with a unified programming model for building rich Windows smart client user experiences that incorporate UI, media, and documents.


HTML5 provides developers with an exciting opportunity to bring rich, animated experiences to users right through the browser, without any downloads or third party players. As part of the advancement of browsers like Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome, new developments in animation capabilities allow developers to create experiences like never before. Moreover, with HTML5  you can build unified experiences for any HTML5 mobile application for mobile devices and port them seamlessly because the experience is through the browser and not dependent on the device itself.

jQuery is a JavaScript-based framework which has allowed developers to deliver animation and user-centric experiences with little footprint on the programming aspect of a website.
Adobe Flash & Adobe Air
Flash is designed to reduce the cost and number of variables involved with delivering good user experience in product development
 Why Flash in Product Development?
·         Increased focus on User Experience
·         Deliver rich interactive applications for the Web that incorporates video, animation, interactivity
·         Stunning and visually appealing UI
·         Richer and more compelling Web experiences

Build in mechanisms to measure success

The last piece I focus on with clients when developing a Rich Internet Application is understanding how to measure success. Clients will far too often rely on feedback "out of the blue" then simply building in measurement mechanisms ahead of time. When you define your User Needs/RIA Solutions matrix in the beginning, it’s also important to outline what you are hoping the reaction for users will be when engaging with your new, cutting-edge UI components.
For example, a goal might be "fewer clicks when ordering the Cable package." Thus, in order to measure success you first have to know your current situation - how many clicks does it currently take a user to order the Cable package. Second, you have to have the ability to track the user’s progress in ordering and ensure that the 'drag and drop ordering functionality" reduces the amount of clicking (effort) the user must go through to complete the order.