Category Archives: social business

IBM unveils the Social Business Toolkit: the dawn of the ‘everything inbox’

What if your company inbox could show you a lot more than just emails? What if you could see all the recent blog posts by those in your network. And the presentations they’ve recently posted? What if you could also see updates from that revenue tool you check every week to see whether you’re on-target to hit that all-important quarterly quota? Oh, and voicemails: can they be added to the stream too?

Such dreams (and more) can be realized with the launch at Lotusphere this week of the IBM Social Business Toolkit. This package includes a set of APIs that can be used by developers to feed updates into the Lotus Connections Activity Stream (effectively a corporate version of the Facebook Wall). The big news here is that whilst in the past this was restricted to activity that took place within the Lotus Connections environment (blogs, groups, tasks, etc.), the toolkit cracks open this functionality, allowing for updates from any application. With APIs based on all popular web development frameworks, exactly what gets pumped into the Activity Stream is limited only by a developer’s imagination. Integrate this stream into your email client and you have an inbox that goes way beyond showing just your latest emails.

What bloggers are saying about the Social Business Toolkit

Dan Burger, writing in the IT Jungle puts the toolkit in the context of IBM’s wider social business play. With Lotus Connections now becoming available on every major mobile platform, the Activity Stream becomes a central repository available anywhere:  

"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."

Meanwhile, Alex Williams on ReadWriteWeb sees the Social Business Toolkit is an implementation of a technology which is gaining widespread adoption in the consumer market, suggesting "Developing a tool kit is a smart, natural step and a necessary one for IBM."

Over ten days ago, the prescient James Governor alluded to this announcement when stating the need of IBM to produce solutions meaningful to developers as well as the line of business crowd:

"The winner in any tech wave is the best packager- so far no enterprise company has nailed and packaged the web development wave."

With the social business toolkit, are we seeing the first iteration of such a package?

IBM’s own Luis Benitez does a good job of summing up the Social Business Toolkit:

"The idea is to take all your existing apps (and even those from 3rd party vendors) and merge all the activity and information across those existing silos into a single, unified view (or stream)"

and goes so far as to show an early-stage mock-up:

Interested in learning more about creating an ‘everything inbox’ with the Social Business Toolkit? We have more information on developerWorks.

#LS11

Lotusphere 2011 opening session: mobile, social business has arrived

Lotusphere Opening General Session So IBM’s premier social business event, Lotusphere 2011, is now fully underway.

Who better to get things started than Hollywood legend Kevin Spacey: few have done a better job of capturing the zeitgeist. Whether it’s a portrait of middle-aged, middle-America ennui in American Beauty or producing the Aaron Sorkin-scripted dissection of the rise and rise of Facebook (‘The Social Network’), Kevin Spacey is a man with his proverbial finger on the pulse. (If you missed it, I can recommend his recent appearance on the Colbert Report). “Stay open and listen to other’s points of view” is one of his takeaways.

Key themes from this year’s opening:

Marketing page creation

The energetic Brian Cheng shows off some of the powerful new features of Lotus Connections 3 (LC3) for building an external web presence. Drag-and-drop functionality allows a marketer to build a web landing page on the fly – fully incorporating those social features demanded by the market today. You can even see how the experience will be for someone who is logged in to the community (eg. maybe they see their network connections and have the ability to comment on specific parts of the page) versus what a new visitor will see. Full integration with Coremetrics and SugarCRM means you have can see instantly just how well the page is performing.

Interesting development from Lotus Connections given its general perception as an intranet tool. Will we see a further crumbling of the iron curtain that separates the intranet from the external presence of an organization? 

The mobile experience

As mobile usage continues to soar, we demand more of our web applications to be accessible from our smart phones as we wait in line for our Chai Tea Latte. This morning we see multiple demonstrations of just how LC3 performs in the mobile space. Cheng shows how marketing pages created with the Customer Experience Suite can have a specific look for a specific device (in this case demonstrating how the site will appear on an iPad). We also see how presentations shared within LC3 can also be viewed via a Blackberry app. The Sametime messaging system will have mobile support, making it easier to get on the phone when your Sametime instant-messaging chat conversation goes south.

Video support

During the demo, the Lotus Connections team show new web-based video capabilities integrated with enterprise communications systems like Polycom. For instance, video conferencing a la Skype can be embedded directly into the page of a presentation, creating a more interactive experience. The team showcases web-based video so there is no need for the installation of any plugins. Not quite sure what technology underpins this but there is the announcement of a big commitment to HTML5 in the later press conference (yey!). 

Sub-communities

So you want to organize your communities by brand, function, department, etc. LC 3 now supports sub-communities so that you can group together related networks. All settings (including permissions) can be defined at the sub-community level. So, for instance, you can use one sub-community to surface part of a project for external stakeholders whilst keeping the internal workflows more private.

Integration of mail and social

Activity streams can be woven into the mail experience (regardless of mail server) so a user can see all conversation in a single interface. No doubt this will continue to grow and form the segue of modern corporate communications, especially amongst the younger workforce who relate to email the way I relate to fax technology.

So, a lot to look forward to in the next three days in Orlando as IBM’s vision of social business unfolds.

Be sure to check out the live stream recording and live blogging from ReadWriteWeb.

Photo courtesy of Jacques Pavlenyi.

#LS11

Lotusphere 2011 is coming to a social network near you

Collaboration, social networking, disruptive technologies, social media… the list goes on. Lotusphere is IBM’s premier event dealing with this emerging space where technology intersects with people intersects with business.

The event takes place from Jan 30 – Feb 3 in that last vestige of sunshine at this time of year: Orlando, Florida.

As you’d expect for a conference covering all things social, there are a number of ways to connect if you can’t make it down there this year.

Definitely check out the social media aggregator pulling together relevant content from blogs, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. If you are planning on generating one iota of content around the event, register and remember to use #LS11 or #LotusKnows  in your blog posts/tweets to bask in the social glow this aggregator provides.

For the big announcements, keep an eye on the Livestream channel which will be broadcasting highlights from across the conference.

For the extended community (albeit in Twitter, YouTube, Facebook…), the developerWorks team have done an excellent job of putting together a community page.

Let’s face it, Orlando’s a fitting place for a conference on social business: this has to be one of the ‘hottest’ areas of the tech industry right now.

#LS11

Lotusphere 2011: building collaborative business intelligence with Cognos 10

Over on the IBM Software Blog, Cognos Product Marketing Manager Brendan Farnand explains just why business intelligence solutions from Cognos have a place at the Lotusphere social business event:

"Everyone involved in a decision or a solution needs to know who else is involved, what transpired before they were asked to contribute and what other ideas are out there for that decision or solution."

Business intelligence shouldn’t happen in isolation. As I’ve pointed out before, many reports from sales figures to customer service levels have added value if key constituents can comment on the results and define follow-up actions. Pairing key functions from the Lotus suite with Cognos Business intelligence allows exactly that:

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As I won’t be at Lotusphere this year, I’m looking forward to following Brendan on Twitter

If you can’t make it to Lotusphere, check out this Tech Talk webinar where Brendan highlights Cognos’ built-in collaboration and social networking functionality.