IBM Bolsters Social Business Play With Analytics

By adding deep analytics to its social business software, IBM continues to demonstrate its ability to deliver key enhancements on top of existing solutions to make them more relevant to more users.

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.