Reflections on Lotusphere
By concentrating on breaking specific business process communications bottlenecks, enterprises will begin to see transformative benefits from using unified communications.
Lotusphere 2010 last week included events and topics that impact IBM's plans and positioning for UC. Here are a few reflections.Immediately apparent, once my bedazzled eyes and ears recovered following the fabulous opening act's percussion and electric violins, was the "tag line" for the opening keynote. The words "Collaboration Agenda" appeared on each of the PowerPoint slides. "Collaboration" is the hot, new buzzword that seems poised to supplant "Unified Communications" in the marketing lexicon. Of course, IBM coined UC², meaning Unified Communications and Collaboration, at the dawn of the UC era. But focusing on just the latter element is a shift.
Other vendors are also emphasizing the "collaboration" angle--Avaya in recent announcements surrounding Nortel; and Cisco at their Analyst Conference in San Francisco last fall. When asked about this shift, John Chambers said, in effect, "Executives are more interested in talking about 'collaboration' than 'communications'."
It's certainly true that UC provides great tools to support collaboration, and that improved collaboration capabilities are a key success factor to enable increasingly distributed workforces and global supply chains to work effectively. However, collaboration is just one of the application opportunities under unified communications. All collaboration requires communications, but there are many important UC capabilities that don't involve collaboration--information to mobile personnel, portals to enable secure access to people and information, finding the best resource to meet a customer requirement, and many others.
That said, IBM had reason to emphasize a Collaboration Agenda. A major forward-looking announcement at the show was Project Vulcan, positioned as the future direction of Lotus and a number of other capabilities. Alistair Rennie, the new GM of Lotus, said that Vulcan would bring together existing and new collaboration capabilities, including Connections social software to identify expertise and business analytics from Cognos, and apply them to specific industry scenarios. Vulcan will include APIs, developer tools and services, and be available the second half of 2010 on LotusLive, with hints that capabilities will be available both in the cloud and on premise.
The goal, of course, is to enable better access and more effective use of the enterprise's human resources. Rennie paraphrased a leading business process consultant, "There's a much bigger opportunity to gain efficiencies from better internal collaboration than to squeeze another 1% out of existing processes."
That's the point of UC. Yet, one of the challenges we have seen in getting robust, game-changing UC applications deployed is developing industry-specific applications that embed communications and collaboration capabilities into typical processes and workflows. IBM, though Connections and other Innovation Labs initiatives, has been doing a lot of good work on ways to identify expertise within the organization. Merging identified expertise with presence information will enable enterprises to harness existing knowledge more effectively and engage it where needed to speed business activity. Moreover, IBM seems to be concentrating on key industry segments--banking, insurance, government, and healthcare--four industry segments that we know have strong potential for taking advantage of UC's tools.
There aren't a lot of details available yet about Vulcan. But I think this kind of approach will be important to show UC benefits--a combination of focusing on specific industries, making tools available to developers, and having a variety of deployment options available. By concentrating on breaking specific business process communications bottlenecks, enterprises will begin to see transformative benefits from using unified communications. And that will help take the market forward for all suppliers.
What do you think? Post your comments here, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.By concentrating on breaking specific business process communications bottlenecks, enterprises will begin to see transformative benefits from using unified communications.