Mobility, the Cloud, and Social Business Top Lotusphere Agenda
February 1, 2011 Dan Burger
Mixing social networking with business objectives has a great upside, but before get all giddy about this, let’s call it a potential upside. Even though it’s already taken on the more serious, buttoned-down name of social business, it’s not yet the game-changer that’s it’s predicted to be. At IBM’s Lotusphere conference, being held this week in Orlando, social business is the biggest star and Lotus software is your ticket to the moon.
Just yesterday IBM set loose the balloons and confetti on new software and services designed to integrate social media and business processes. The promised benefits can be found in providing organizations with new-found capabilities to expedite projects, improve customer relationships, relieve workflow bottlenecks, and develop better applications.
Although IBM is providing some nifty technology, it remains up to your human resources department to initiate the workforce behavior modification to see it through.
But this isn’t behavioral science. This is information technology. And here’s what IBM Lotus is celebrating.
It begins with increased integration with mobile devices, includes cloud computing, embraces an open standards framework for delivering social business applications, and involves global partnerships.
The mobile workforce has been deployed since well before the advent of trains, planes, and automobiles; however, communication technology has brought more information and less baggage to the traveling business developer and all parts of the workforce that can take advantage of virtual offices. Mobile workers are multiplying so fast, rabbits can’t even keep up. Collaboration on the fly is the battle cry.
The first order of social business is mobilizing email, file sharing, and instant messaging capabilities. For Lotus users, this means Notes, Connections, and Sametime. Those three applications are now accessible with the most desirable mobile devices, which includes the Apple iPad and iPhone, Google Android, RIM‘s Blackberry, and the Nokia devices.
Cloud-Based Office Productivity
After taking care of connectivity issues with all the popular mobile devices, IBM directed its attention to cloud computing delivery of its office productivity suite known as LotusLive Symphony. From the standpoint of increased workflow efficiency, cloud-based productivity allows real-time collaboration regardless of geographically dispersed individuals or teams. An example is coordinating the efforts of multiple authors working on a single document or presentation, while managing revisions in real time. The key aspect of this is the simultaneous capabilities of the workflow process.
IBM claims more than 50 million downloads of the on-premise, free-of-charge, office productivity suite Lotus Symphony. It makes no claim about how many of those downloads are actively being used. Among the recently introduced updates to Symphony are tighter integrations with the desktop allowing users to click to the cloud to get, save, share, and collaborate on documents.
A cloud-based office productivity suite puts IBM on the same playing field with Microsoft, Oracle, Google and others.
Lotus Symphony will continue to be promoted as the smart alternative for organizations willing to re-examine the cost of Microsoft Office licenses. IBM expects to find success in the dynamic Chinese market, and has distribution partnership deals in place with Red Flag Linux and GreatWall PC to help with that plan.
As announced yesterday at Lotusphere, LotusLive Symphony will become generally available in the second half of 2011. A technical preview release will become available next week. You’ll be able to find it at greenhouse.lotus.com.
Although Lotus Symphony has been a free download, LotusLive Symphony will have per-user fees.
Socially Enabled Applications
Creating socially enabled applications will take some new skills and new tools. Moving in that direction, IBM has introduced its Social Business Toolkit. This package includes a set of APIs and tutorials for business partners and developers. It’s not only for legacy Lotus mail and file-sharing systems, but also for legacy Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint systems, too.
A glimpse of what’s to come was provided in a brief description of the next generation of Connections and Domino will contain software to consume IBM gadgets or gadgets coming from third parties, such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Salesforce.com. A feature IBM is calling “Activity Steam” will allow users to see content from third-party services alongside their company’s content.
An example of this could be a report from a sales analyst prompting a team meeting, or other business systems on premise or in the cloud. It conveniently allows a user to view and interact with the Activity Stream from a central location. IBM has indicated it will integrate the Activity Stream into the next version of social collaboration products accessible from mobile devices.
Lotusphere was also the stage for IBM to demonstrate a new feature called “ShareBox,” which is designed for the integration of gadgets with the capability to access a forum and post content to an ERP system, among other tasks.
In addition to the Social Business Toolkit, IBM introduced new Domino XPages tools for designing mobile applications and the Open NTF Toolkit (available on www.openntf.org) for developers creating applications that run on multiple mobile platforms.
IBM’s Social Business
“In 2011, we took Social Business to the cloud–with LotusLive and Symphony in a cloud,” notes Sandy Carter, the new vice president of Social Business and Global Sales, Collaboration at IBM. “In addition, we introduced a Social Business Framework to help software developers bring together a variety of social feeds, real-time communication services, workflows, and critical business information in order to speed decision making, and drive competitive differentiation.”
Carter sees IBM as leading the social business transformation through its own practices. For instance in 2005, IBM was one of the first companies to publish Blogging Guidelines (Carter was one of those first bloggers.) And then in 2008 the company updated to Social Media Guidelines.
She says, IBM has leveraged crowdsourcing in its marketing campaign development, and successfully used social gaming in its education of clients and its customer retention strategies. She also points out that IBM’s CEO study reports businesses that embrace social software in driving toward a social business are 57 percent more likely to outperform their competition.