IBM Provides Tools for Social Businesses

After defining the need for enterprises to become social businesses, IBM also provides a set of tools and best practices to help companies evolve to social businesses.

ORLANDO, Fla.-Having outlined its vision of a social business and indicating what IBM is doing to become one, Big Blue also has introduced tools and best practices to help other enterprises follow suit.

At its Lotusphere 2011 conference here, IBM unveiled its framework for how the next generation of socially enabled applications will be developed, and introduced new software and programs to make that vision a reality. Ideally, IBM said the next generation of collaborative systems, or systems of systems, should be based on open standards. Open standards will help developers create applications faster and help IBM business partners find developers with the skills necessary to create social business applications. And at Lotusphere, IBM demonstrated how the next version of IBM's social business portfolio will benefit from its open standards-based architecture.

Realizing that software developers are key to any new initiative, as apps are needed to help flesh out an ecosystem, IBM has already moved to help software developers create their own social software. The company has introduced the IBM Social Business Toolkit, which is a standards-based set of APIs and tutorials for business partners and developers to help them to bring together a variety of social feeds, real-time communication services, workflows and critical business information in order to speed decision making and drive competitive differentiation, said Jeff Schick, vice president of social software at IBM, in an interview with eWEEK.

Along with the Domino XPages and Open NTF Toolkit (available on, software developers can save time by designing applications once that run on multiple devices, and supplement legacy mail and file sharing solutions from Microsoft and other vendors.

Moreover, Schick said IBM is reinventing the inbox with "Activity Steam"-a new feature that allows users to see content from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, SAP, Salesforce and other third-party services alongside their company's content. Whether it's a Coremetrics report from a sales analyst prompting a team meeting or other business systems on premises or in the cloud, a single sign-on allows a user to view and interact with the Activity Stream from one central location, IBM said in a press release. IBM is looking to integrate the Activity Stream into the next version of IBM's social collaboration portfolio accessible from all market-leading mobile devices, including tablets, Schick said.

IBM also announced new software and programs for organizations using Microsoft Exchange and Microsoft SharePoint yet still wishing to become a social business. The next version of IBM Connections is expected to include a connector to Microsoft Outlook and full integration of Microsoft SharePoint sites. The next version of Connections is also expected to allow for the full integration of Microsoft Exchange-based e-mail into a social platform enabling social mail.

In addition, the next version of Connections is expected to contain a "ShareBox" feature that allows for the integration of OpenSocial gadgets such as accessing a forum, posting content to an ERP system, posting content to an Activity, or sending a quick e-mail so that a social business can become more nimble and collaborate more broadly.

For example, the next version of IBM Connections and Lotus Domino are planned to be OpenSocial containers allowing the software to consume IBM gadgets or gadgets coming from third parties, such as Twitter or LinkedIn.

Meanwhile, to continue the dialogue around social business, IBM will host a Web-based Social Business Jam from Feb. 8-11, 2011, where thousands of leaders from around the world will pool their knowledge and experiences to examine the next generation of business. Social Business Jam participants will cooperatively explore the value of social technology in business, its challenges and the management system required to drive a social transformation resulting in a blueprint for organizations to help them become a social business. To register, visit