IBM Bolsters Social Business Play With Analytics

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-01-16

IBM Bolsters Social Business Play With Analytics

ORLANDO, Fla.-Leave it to IBM to leverage its internal expertise to enhance and improve its solutions to tap into a key business opportunity: social business.

As is typical of Big Blue, IBM went back to its vast drawing board and has come back with a broad array of technologies and services to help its customers become social businesses, to further integrate social media and social networking into their everyday working environments, and to leverage analytics to sift through all the data coming from that social world. Just as IBM continues to reach within to find its leaders and deliver key innovations, the company has done the same for new technology to take its social business strategy to the next level.

"What we have is Facebook for the enterprise, based on IBM," Jeff Schick, vice president of social software at IBM, told eWEEK in an interview.

At Lotusphere 2012 here, IBM unveiled new software and services that deliver new networking capabilities to the ever increasing social-savvy workforce. With the new offerings, IBM customers can apply analytics to their social business initiatives, allowing them to gain actionable insight on social networking sentiment anytime, anywhere and put it to work in real time.

IBM looked inside for new analytics capabilities to apply to its social business software. However, much of that "internal" expertise was attained through acquisitions. Over the last five years, IBM spent more than $14 billion on analytics acquisitions to beef up the company's portfolio of solutions and services. And Steve Mills, IBM's senior vice president of Software and Systems, said he expects IBM to pull $16 billion in revenue from analytics by 2015.

IBM announced it is delivering new software and cloud services that bring the power of analytics to the social business:

  • New social analytics software that integrates wikis, blogs, activity streams, email, calendaring and more, and flags relevant data for action. The new IBM Connections is expected to also allow for instant collaboration with one simple click and the ability to build social communities both inside and outside the organization to increase customer loyalty and speed business results.
  • The new IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, which is expected to deliver a cloud-based productivity suite allowing users to co-edit documents in real time, while providing one-click access to social networking, online meetings, enterprise-class email, calendaring and instant messaging.
  • New software that integrates social networking capabilities with enterprise content management to better connect people with information so they can make informed decisions and act quickly.
  • New messaging and collaboration software that brings the power of embedded experiences to the Web and mobile devices, providing a single point of entry for all business processes.

Schick said it all starts with improvements coming in IBM Connections, the company's social platform that came out of IBM's own internal experiences and started it all. In November 2010, IBM introduced IBM Lotus Connections 3.0, a social networking platform with advanced analytics capabilities that helps people gain faster insight and access to relevant information for improved productivity. That version of the software helped users more easily connect, create global communities, and find information and resources.

"Social business helps organizations transform the way they work by connecting people and accelerating decision-making," said Alistair Rennie, general manager of Social Business at IBM, in a statement following the 2010 release. "IBM is at the forefront of enabling social business, and driving a new generation of organizational productivity, with a secure and compliant social collaboration platform."

Yet, on Jan. 16 at Lotusphere 2012, IBM is announcing new cloud services and the next generation of its social networking platform, IBM Connections, which Schick refers to as "Connections Next." The new software incorporates sophisticated analytics capabilities, real-time data monitoring and faster collaborative networks both inside and outside the organization through IBM's secure SmartCloud services.

The next release of IBM Connections is expected to include the ability to access enterprise email, calendars and business tasks from inside the Connections platform, further unifying the collaboration experience from a single home page, IBM said. The new Connections landing page plans to feature a single location that allows users to view and interact with content from any third-party solution through a social interface, right alongside their company's content, including email and calendars, IBM said.

The embedded experience of the news feed, also known as an activity stream, allows employees from any department inside an organization to explore structured and unstructured data such as Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, weather data, videos, log files and SAP applications, as well as electronically sign documents and quickly act on the data as part of their everyday work experience, IBM said.

In addition, the new Connections home page is expected to include the ability to access email and calendar data from IBM Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange, providing users with a consistent collaboration experience. IBM expects the new version of Connections to be available on-premises, in the IBM SmartCloud and on the most popular mobile devices.

Adding Analytics to Social Colloboration


Moreover, now organizations can integrate and analyze massive amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors and more easily align these insights to business processes to make faster, more accurate business decisions, IBM said. By gaining deeper insights in customer and market trends and employees' sentiment, businesses can uncover critical patterns to not only react swiftly to market shifts, but predict the effect of future actions.

"We're taking this a step further," Schick said. "It's not just for social collaboration. We're adding analytics so that we can gather critical metrics on just what is going on. We can see things like, what are the most vibrant communities out there and what are the apps people are leveraging most? We're leveraging analytics for all kinds of information."

"IBM's enterprise engagement model is very hard to replicate," said James Governor, co-founder of RedMonk, an industry research firm. "It's not clear that companies like Facebook would, or should, try to replicate that model. Essentially Facebook is just a tool, and IBM will position it as such. One of the concerns of enterprises and high-scale marketing departments is that Facebook will own the customer data-which is why IBM's analytics pitch is likely to be effective. It's more than analytics-it's really about data governance. Analytics plus data governance is certainly a differentiated approach to the market."

For example, said IBM, marketing professionals can now gain real-time access to data that highlights patterns and consumer sentiment related to marketing trends and services, allowing them to adjust campaigns on the fly. With one simple click, professionals can react to this insight by automatically creating a social network on the fly, bringing together experts across geographical and market intelligence.

The growing popularity of social networking is impacting the enterprise as the next-generation workforce expects more socially enabled applications at their fingertips, IBM said. According to Forrester Research, spending on social business software is expected to grow at a rate of 61 percent through 2016, when the market for these products will reach $6.4 billion, compared with $600 million in 2010. At the same time, organizations are embracing social capabilities to transform virtually every part of their business operations, but they lack the tools to gain insight into the enormous stream of information and use it in a meaningful way, IBM said.

Meanwhile, in support of IBM's Jan. 16 news, the company also announced new clients using its social software and cloud collaboration services, including Kraft, Electrolux, MIT Lincoln Labs, Caterpillar, 3M, BlueCross Blue Shield of Florida, Dutch Tax Office, Premier Healthcare, Prudential Financial, Schneider Electric, Avery Dennison, Newly Weds Foods and Canada's Schulich School of Business,

"There is boundless opportunity for social business to transform how we connect people and processes, and increase the speed and flexibility of business," IBM's Rennie said in a statement. "A successful social business can break down barriers to collaboration and put social networking in the context of everyday work, from the device or delivery vehicle of your choice, to improve productivity and speed decision-making."

IBM SmartCloud for Social Business


According to AMI Partners, small and medium-size businesses in the United States will spend more than $49 billion on cloud services in 2015, nearly double the size of the market today. To address this growing opportunity, IBM today is announcing IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, a secure suite for collaborating in the cloud. IBM is aligning its LotusLive services under the SmartCloud brand, where it joins other IBM offerings in commerce, analytics and industry-specific solutions like Smarter Cities, IBM said.

SmartCloud for Social Business gives users one-click access to social networking, online meetings, enterprise-class email, calendaring and instant messaging, allowing clients to collaborate inside and outside the organization while pairing business transformation with the economic benefits of flexible cloud delivery models.

A new capability in SmartCloud for Social Business is a cloud-based office productivity suite, IBM Docs. Now in beta and planned for availability in 2012, IBM Docs is a social document platform that allows organizations, both inside and outside the firewall, to simultaneously collaborate on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents in the cloud to improve productivity, the company said. IBM Docs authors will be able to store and share documents in IBM SmartCloud Engage, co-edit documents in real time, or assign users sections of the document so they can work privately, easing the management of multiple revisions from multiple authors in team-based documents.

To advance the adoption of IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, IBM also introduced its Social Business Toolkit for LotusLive. This enables customers and business partners to integrate custom applications that interface with LotusLive services, IBM said. Developers can use IBM's OpenSocial APIs to get access to Profiles Contacts, Meetings, Files and Communities data. Companies can add their own custom actions to the LotusLive Web experience. Organizations also can now easily deliver these applications into a single end-user experience leveraging standards-based extension points, authentication and encryption APIs.

To help its customers integrate social networking capabilities into their existing business processes, IBM announced IBM Connections Enterprise Content Edition, an integrated social content management system that combines the scalability of social networking with enterprise content management and the compliance controls required by regulated industries. Designed to manage the entire life cycle of office documents, Web and social content, IBM Connections Enterprise Content Edition increases the ability to share knowledge, gain expertise and create high-value content quickly through advanced content, document management and workflow use cases.

And in response to the burgeoning mobile workforce, expected to reach more than 1.19 billion people by 2013, IBM's new social software supports the most popular mobile devices, including tablets, the company said.

"What you'll see at Lotusphere is analytics, analytics, analytics and mobile, mobile, mobile," Schick told eWEEK. "You'll find that you can do all this social business on mobile, and we're supporting iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone."

Indeed, IBM announced the beta release of IBM Lotus Notes and Domino, Social Edition, a social-enabled messaging and collaboration platform built on open standards that provides users with the ability to act on any workflow process directly within the email inbox. Whether accessing email from a browser or desktop, or sharing videos and files, users no longer have to travel to a third-party site.

IBM intends to support Microsoft Windows Phone in a future release of IBM Lotus Notes Traveler, which enables people to use IBM mail, calendar and contacts on mobile devices. IBM expects to support Nokia Lumia, HTC and other Windows Phone devices in the future, the company said.

IBM is also introducing a new, lower-cost program for BlackBerry users to access email in the cloud. Built on the world-class expertise of IBM Mobile Enterprise Services and the sophisticated security of the BlackBerry Enterprise Server, IBM's offering ensures that cloud email environments deliver the same level of security and reliability as existing on-premises email environments, including built-in end-user and administrative controls for mobile device management. 

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