Professionally Speaking, Lotus Users Getting Better Connected
June 17, 2008 Dan Burger
Building on its strength of integrating Web-based business applications with Web 2.0 capabilities popular in social networking Web sites, IBM Lotus last week introduced a new version of its collaboration software called Connections 2.0. Among the new capabilities is an impressive user interface with greater functionality and a broader range of social services. IBM continues the open standards drum beat. This time REST and Atom are highlighted as important contrasts to similar proprietary offerings from Microsoft.
“We see a lot of customers who want to get value from applications they are already using whether it is Excel or their CRM or call center application,” says Chris Lamb, Lotus Connections marketing manager. “That’s where they want to tap the experts in their professional network. They don’t want to go over to another interface and do that query.”
The home page on Connections 2.0 streams feeds from various components of Lotus Connections and has the capability to provide users with a wider and more in-depth view of their work-related professional networks. Customizing the home page by adding links to external communities (Facebook-style profiling based on subject knowledge is one option) or business applications used within the organization enhances convenience and productivity.
Always big on enterprise collaboration, IBM Lotus is promoting a feature called “people tagging” in Connections 2.0. Tagging is a way to identify individuals based on a specific topic or area of expertise. The benefit is in simplifying the search for expertise using personal profiles.
Additional new features in Lotus Connections 2.0 include the capability to send or receive notifications about interesting social bookmarks, discussion forums, and integration with wiki providers. IBM business partners Atlassian and Socialtext are involved in the wiki integration work.
The integration with other Web-based applications, Lamb says, is relatively easy to do because of the open standards protocols Atom and REST allow services to be the key to the integration processes. Atom is a standard format for saving blog content in XML and a publishing protocol that provides a standard API for clients to read, create, or update. REST is a protocol for querying and obtaining information from Web sites.
As a complementary product for Connections 2.0, IBM has introduced Atlas, an analysis tool that helps users identify important connections and the relationships between various groups. It can be added to a user’s home page to show links to individuals and suggest communities or blogs that people like the user are participating in.
IBM’s Lamb notes that Connections is a way for companies to attract new talent in a competitive market for developers. It’s also a faster way to bring new employees into a company by having the more experienced developers share expertise using the collaboration techniques of Connections.
Connections is built on top of WebSphere and DB2. It was first introduced in June 2007. By the end of the year, it was successful beyond IBM’s expectations. “We had 200 or 300 hundred new customers in that first six months,” Lamb says. “We saw that momentum increase this year.”
IBM now refers to it as “the fastest growing new product for IBM software.” Lamb says that description was last held by WebSphere Portal about six years ago.
Lotus Connections version 2.0 is now available in English and will be expanded to 23 languages on July 11. The list price of Lotus Connections is $110 per user for a one-time perpetual license. Businesses can purchase the profiles or activities component of Lotus Connections at a list price of $55 per user for a perpetual license.