IBM's Lotus Connections software, which company officials said will be a key backbone of Big Blue's Project Vulcan, is getting several upgrades as it speeds towards a fourth version of its release, an IBM executive told eWEEK at Lotusphere 2010 Jan. 19.
Scheduled for delivery in the second half of 2010, Lotus Connections Next (essentially Connections 3.0, after 2.5) will borrow from leading consumer social network Facebook in that it will automatically recommend people and content for users.
Recommendations, along with the ratings, rankings and reputations capabilities in Connections will be a key component of IBM's social analytics offerings in the next version, said Jeff Schick, vice president of social software for IBM.
This will include not only links and tags to Connections' personal profiles, but visualization charts from IBM's Atlas technology, as well as business analytics capabilities from IBM's Cognos application. Schick explained:
"Connections will provide the backbone for collaboration for all data analytics, performance management and business intelligence from IBM, and you'll see the plugability into Connections such that if you had a large social network supporting your brand awareness or customer loyalty programs in an externally-facing fashion, you could use our data analytics technologies to garner any sort of insight and plug that in."
Eventually, these components will form a large part of IBM's Project Vulcan, a social collaboration super platform.
Social analytics -- essentially business intelligence software for social networks -- are the next big thing in enterprises that use social software. IBM challengers such as Jive Software, Socialcast, Mzinga, Attensity and others are all hawkings social analytics wares to help companies cut through the chatter to find more relevant contacts and content.
Social analytics may help facilitate social discovery and sharing among enterprises that use Connections, but IBM is also going to add measures to help corporations control the content share through Connections.
To wit, Connections Next will include greater moderation of user-generated content and new compliance and auditing capabilities, Schick said.
Moderation capabilities will help managers in commerce and other industries keep sensitive or offensive information from being posted.
"If you'd expect one to blog, you'd probably want some moderation capability in place so that as the employee blogged, their manager could look at that and decide whether that was acceptable," Schick said.
More broadly, the compliance and auditing capabilities could be a big boon for the platform because IBM will be able to use these capabilities as a selling point into more regulated industries, such as financial services and healthcare.
Finally, Connections Next will also offer deeper integration with WebSphere Portal and Microsoft SharePoint, as well as support for more mobile platforms and devices to better serve traveling employees.
The upgrades aren't what has Schick so excited. From 3Q 2008 to 3Q 2009, IBM's social collaboration software install base grew 34 percent.
With 10 million seats in some 7,000 businesses around the world, Connections is viewed as the having the fastest growth ever of any organic IBM software product.