IBM Sets Sights on Collaboration

By Dennis Callaghan  |  Posted 2004-08-23

A recent demonstration of new collaboration technologies under development at IBMs research labs won the company praise for its vision and deft handling of the Lotus Notes and Domino-to-Workplace migration issue.

Promising to change not only enterprise collaboration but also the way people work, IBM officials earlier this month previewed several technologies in development, some of which will start to appear in IBMs Lotus Workplace suite this year, officials said.

The technology closest to availability is a productivity component for Workplace called ActivityExplorer, which is expected to be a part of Version 3.0 of Workplace and due to ship next quarter.

ActivityExplorer combines e-mail, chat and shared work spaces in one interface. Users can share work, defined as collaborative objects. These objects include e-mail, files, folders and screens, and pervasive chat. Users simply drag and drop the objects they want to collaborate on to users on their contact list. The shared objects then form activity threads.

Each object has an access control, and new collaborative activities can be started from any type of content.

"We have a tremendous opportunity for a transforming change in how people work in office environments," said Mike Rhodin, vice president of development and technical support for IBMs Lotus Software division here. "We can unleash productivity gains that havent been dreamed of."

Michael Boatwright, vice president of IS at The Prudential Insurance Co. of Americas Prudential Financial group, in Roseland, N.J., attended the IBM demonstration but said his main messaging and collaboration concern is his companys Notes and Domino 6.5 implementation.

"Were working to understand how the technology will evolve so we can put together our future," said Boatwright. "I think the things [Rhodin] talked about are the right things, the right issues [IBM] should be focused on."

While Boatwright said what he heard at last weeks event was encouraging, he left no doubt as to where Prudential Financial stands. "Ive got 4,000 production applications on Domino; Im not going to rewrite them," he said.

Rhodin said the Workplace strategy continues to call for interoperability with Notes and Domino, not migration. "We wont ever walk away from that [Notes and Domino] base," he said. "It makes no sense whatsoever. We havent even announced a migration strategy because weve been focused on an interoperability strategy."

Henry Brestitzky, principal of IBM-Lotus business partner Binary Tree Inc., in New York, said most of his clients that have licensed Workplace have been Microsoft Corp. Exchange shops loath to make the Active Directory upgrade necessary to move up from Exchange 5.5. Notes and Domino customers are staying put, Brestitzky said.

But he also praised IBMs strategy, saying he was "pleasantly surprised" at IBMs continued support for Notes and Domino. "Two years ago, their message was not the same," he said.

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