At Lotusphere in Orlando this week, IBM introduced several new products, as well as enhancements to products that were announced last year. Some of the things that caught my attention were related to social software (also called social media or enterprise social software). While I have a hard time seeing how some of the social software stuff will fit in an enterprise, there are definitely areas where I can see it being a communication and productivity boost (although I also believe that it can be a productivity drain).
One of the biggest new announcements related to social software is the Bluehouse project, which provides extranet capabilities delivered in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, aimed at companies with under 500 employees. Bluehouse lets workers share, meet, and collaborate, quickly and securely. Built on a collaborative multitenant architecture, Bluehouse lets users manage contacts, share files with people in their organization, initiate online meeting, and more. As a social contact sharing tool for business applications, Bluehouse provides social and real-time applications, letting people share and interact with contacts.
Some of the features and capabilities include File Sharing, which lets users access files easily and quickly without needing to email attachments to each other. Large files don’t have to be stored on individual PCs and can be shared and accessed as needed, without having to email them back and forth. Another feature, Live Charts, lets users take data and create charts in real time, and share the charts and data with individuals within or outside of the company. The service also integrates the “Activities” feature of Lotus Connections, which lets users collaborate and communicate around common tasks and projects in a separate environment. Group members of an Activity get notified when something happens with this activity, such as the posting of a new blog, new contact, new task, etc. This enables users to be better notified about what their team members and colleagues are doing. Web meeting functionality lets every person who is part of Bluehouse have their own meeting room that has a fixed URL and is always available (however, there are no voice capabilities yet, so users still need to use an audio conference bridge). Bluehouse also hosts a Sametime server so that each participant can download a Sametime client and use some of the features of Sametime.
Updates were \ made to the social software products introduced last year, including Quickr and Lotus Connections. Quickr organizes contacts and content library and brings content together in one place where team or project members can find what they need and keep everyone in the loop. Let’s say you’re involved in a new product launch – Quickr gives you a place to post files, such as presentations and press releases relating to the launch. Quickr lets people work in the tools they use everyday. Users can get access to all Quickr documents from Sametime and can chat about the document and share the document with team members. Members can check in documents and review them, adding comments for the author to see. A team blog lets people keep each other in the loop about what’s going on. There are a number of templates, includin a project management template where you keep track of all tasks associated with project and who’s associated with it. A team calendaring feature lets you send out meeting notices to people on the team, which synchs with the user’s Notes calendar. New capabilities added to Quickr 8 include integration to Notes 8, Symphony, and Outlook via an open connector framework. Later this year, it will include integration into FileNet P8 and IBM Content Manager.
Enhancements were also made to Lotus Connections, which was introduced at last year’s Lotusphere. Lotus Connections includes member Profiles, Blogs, Dogear (bookmarking), Communities, and Activities. Everything is integrated together so that when you click on someone’s name, you see a popup with their profile, the communities they’re in, blogs they’ve written, websites they’ve dogeared, Activities they are in, etc. Activities is a multiuser, persistent sharing space where you can present web pages and documents, have discussion threads, assign tasks, and more, providing an integrated collaborative experience. With Activities, you can see your activity dashboard, which pulls in information from various sources and presents your projects, tasks, events, and other items related to a particular activity. The Dogear capability lets users share bookmarks, making it easier to provide useful information to each other. With Blogs, users can recommend entries of blogs they think others may be interested in, see comments on the blogs, and rate the comments. The system can sort the blogs based on the number of recommendations, and notify other users that this may be something they want to read. Communities lets users participate in discussions on a range of topics and projects in real time. Other enhancements include integration to Yahoo! Answers, the ability to link to Facebook and with wikis such as Socialtext and Confluence. The next release of Lotus Connections will support many worldwide languages including Arabic and Russian, and language translation services will be added as well.
Some of the social software capabilities are being extended to IBM’s UC offerings. For example, IBM Lotus is also integrating Sametime with Connections and Quickr, so that a user’s profile card from Connections can be made available across the platform, letting users tap into someone’s shared files and be able to connect with them through Sametime. Community membership lists can be used in Quickr and Sametime, making it easier to contact and reach someone in the community.
Of course there were lots of other announcements, but …