How many of us still think of IBM as that group of old-school business types that just don’t know how to keep up with the pace of business? I mean, come on, they still talk about things like mainframes, how much can they really understand?
IBM invited me in for a briefing last week to learn more about their offerings in the social software space and I was pleased with both what I saw and what I heard. While IBM suffers from an inability to build buzz around their solutions they have a good solution and are making some solid sales.
One of the first questions I asked Jeff Schick, Vice President of the Social Software division, had to do with why they were not even mentioned by Gartner in the Social CRM space. Truth is, the Social CRM space is important but it is only a part of what they offer. I agree with Jeff. Social CRM is but a piece of what they offer, IBM is creating solutions for the entire Social Ecosystem and Social CRM is but a slice of that universe.
From a Research perspective IBM began working on social software solutions in middle of the decade. They were focused on Enterprise 2.0 solutions, learning a lot from how their thousands of IBM employees used the systems. This learning, which is an ongoing process, was first visible in 2007 when they released their first version of Lotus Connections. The solution baked in Facebook-like Walls, Twitter-like microblogging, as well as other social software norms that we expect to see today.
As noted, Connections has been around since 2007 and the concepts have been used internal to IBM for nearly a decade. This is not Version 1.0 software, which is why they have had success selling it to both their very large, and very small, customers. I mentioned microblogging and walls, here are a few other key capabilities worth noting:
- Wikis and blogs.
- Social bookmarks (think delicious.com)
- All content can be tagged. Not just articles but files and bookmarks as well.
- Their file sharing offerings remind me a of Microsoft SharePoint.
- Files can be public, privates, or shared with a set of users.
- Other users can share your files (unless you lock it down).
- I love that you can see sharing history to find how far out the file has gone, through which individuals people have seen the file, and who has what version of the file.
- If a user has an older version of the file they will even receive a notification of updates, ensuring users can stay on top of changes. Note that this applies to all users who have the file, not just the first set you invited to view it.
- Accounts are based on global profiles and you can set up permissions as needed for any deployment.
- Connections is used for both internal and external purposes.
- Connections has demonstrated that it can scale with internal deployments from 5 to 50,000 users and external deployments in the hundreds of thousands of users.
Connections has a REST-based APIs which is being used to integrate with several other products (including Cognos in the near future). These integrations are critical for building a marketplace for their customers.
Connections is not the final answer to all of your problems and there are plenty of capabilities I was disappointed not to see in the solution. However, it is a very good offering worth checking out along with Jive, Lithium, and others.
For those of you that are wondering, IBM is not currently a client, partner, or any other relationship with me or with The Lab.