IBM Pulling the Pieces Together

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2011-02-02 Print this article Print


Larry Augustin, CEO of SugarCRM, which has recently done a deal to integrate its Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution with IBM's LotusLive collaboration suite, spoke with eWEEK at Lotusphere and said, "IBM has done a great job of putting all the pieces together for social business - not just internal, but for reaching out to your customers and partners. If you want to interact with customers, you want to interact with the new mechanisms that people are using every day. The majority of Internet time spent by users has switched into social networking, like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. IBM is pulling these pieces together. It's simply recognizing the way people want to interact and providing tools to do it."

James Governor, principal analyst and founder of the RedMonk market research firm, told eWEEK of IBM's move: "They've realized there's actually a market out there for what they're calling social business. Three years ago there were a few outliers out there talking about Enterprise 2.0, and the fact is there is a market emerging."

Speaking at the Lotusphere event, Governor said IBM's new social software offerings are "nice, but this is transformative. Lotus has some cool technology, but it's the services component that makes this an IBM play. IBM has everything. They have enterprise Facebook and enterprise Delicious. IBM's focusing on integration of social services. And they're opening up RESTful interfaces across the portfolio, which will make it easy for developers to buy in and deliver applications."

IBM also unveiled a new framework  -- the Social Business Framework -- to support how the next generation of socially enabled applications will be developed, and introduced new software to make that vision a reality. For example, IBM is reinventing the inbox with "Activity Steam" -- a single location that allows users to view and interact with content from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, SAP and other third parties alongside their company's content. IBM is looking to integrate the Activity Stream into a future release of IBM's social collaboration portfolio accessible from all market leading mobile devices including tablets.

Meanwhile, the issue of buy in is not the easiest part for companies looking to implement social business scenarios. Buy-in from management, that is. IBM's own Iwata said he faced intense questioning and pushback from high-ranking C-level executives within IBM when he initially broached the subject of social business. But ultimately they saw the potential benefits, he said. Now not only Lotus, but IBM's Enterprise Content Management products, Cognos analytics software and Rational developer tools also feature social and collaborative elements, Rhodin said.

"If you want to be part of a Smarter Planet, I think you have to be part of a social business," said Alistair Rennie, general manager of IBM Collaboration Solutions. "Outliers are more engaged, more nimble. This community has already put in the time; they have the experience. It's about rethinking the outcomes in the context of social business."

Meanwhile, Rhodin said IBM is applying its vast reserve of analytics technologies to analyze what goes on in the social networks. "One of the key elements of this strategy is the application of analytics," he said. Also, standards will be important, he added. And IBM will be at the forefront in complying with and even helping to formulate new standards as needed in the social business space.

Moreover, one by-product of the move to social business is that it is another in a series of new computing paradigms that make data "sexy" or important again.

"We're looking at a massive explosion of data," Rhodin said. "A lot of this is about the integration of data. This social networking thing is based on the concept of discovery as opposed to search. Discovery is really the answer here. And these social networks are how we discover and find things that can really help the business."

Finally, Rhodin said, "We're going to be looking at 2011 as the year we saw the integration of social business concepts into business processes."

Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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