One of the bugbears of collaboration software tools released in the ’90s was that they were walled off from one another. You might have a number of communication tools in an intranet portal, but they didn’t communicate with one another well. Each application was a silo unto itself.
Today in 2009, Web 2.0 tools, the blogs, microblogs, wikis, RSS feeds and other tools that encompass modern Internet collaboration, now constitute the fabric of corporate collaboration. Such tools are the raison d’etre of the Enterprise 2.0 show in Boston this week, where vendors such as Google, IBM and Microsoft will mix with startups such as MindTouch and Socialcast to flaunt their marketing chops and ply their wares.
IBM June 23 launched LotusLive Connections, porting its Lotus Connections social networking suite as a SAAS (software-as-a-service) offering. Launched in 2007 as an enterprise collaboration suite geared to capitalize on the popularity of social networks such as Facebook, Lotus Connections includes apps for employee profiles, blogging, bookmarks and community and activities.
These tools were designed to let company employees, partners, suppliers and customers exchange information and data more efficiently across firewalls. But while Facebook lived on the Web, or the “cloud,” Lotus Connections was a suite for businesses to download and host on their own servers.
With LotusLive Connections, a follow-up to the LotusLive Engage, the first SAAS social networking and collaboration app IBM introduced in April, IBM represents the latest break from that hosted software tradition.
Though he declined to provide licensing numbers, IBM Lotus General Manager Bob Picciano said the reception for Engage has been “outstanding,” spurring IBM to take Lotus Connections to the cloud to let individuals, departments and small businesses tap into the intellectual resources and capabilities that previously have only been accessible to large enterprises.
Out of the chute, LotusLive Connections will enable users to leverage the Connections Activities app, sharing files and chatting via instant messaging.
For example, Picciano said, a team can use Activities to create a group around a project, including vendors from outside their company. Together they can build a project plan using Activities and post and share associated files. Comments can be made and tasks tracked in the same service.
Google, Microsoft Are IBMs Cloud Competitors
Other Lotus Connections apps, such as profiles and blogs, will be ported to LotusLive Connections later this year. IBM said LotusLive Connections will be available on June 30, starting at $10 per user per month.
For lovers of the popular Twitter microblogging service, IBM executives will demonstrate a microblogging tool at the Enterprise 2.0 show this week. The tool will appear in Lotus Connections 2.5 later this year.
There’s no time like the present for IBM to take its Lotus applications into the cloud. Google has been offering Google Docs online word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software for the last few years and Microsoft took its SharePoint collaboration suite to the Web at the end of 2008. These vendors also face competition from feisty startups such as Zoho.
Indeed, enterprise wiki provider MindTouch this week revamped its marketing bent to let the public know that it has a more comprehensive portfolio of services for knowledge workers: the MindTouch Collaborative Intranet.
MindTouch CEO Aaron Fulkerson told eWEEK: “Where social tools are very focused on conversations and connecting people, MindTouch is much more about the content, results and objectives. You can think of MindTouch as a kind of content operating system, where we’re accelerating your ability to federate data in your existing systems.”
The Collaborative Intranet, whose backbone is the MindTouch 2009 open-source collaboration platform, will let corporate employees extract content from disparate programs, including ERP, CRM, file servers, e-mail, databases and Web services. Users can edit, comment on and share that data with colleagues.
Where an employee previously might have had to log into an ERP system, pull data out and share it with a colleague via e-mail, the employee can now grab the enterprise application data and discuss it with a colleague from the comfort of one MindTouch-created portal.
Fulkerson said the Collaborative Intranet was inspired by the hundreds of enterprise engagements, as well as conversations with Fortune 1000 vendors over the last two years to find out their pain points, namely, key data trapped in enterprise apps.