IBM: Notes Gets Social
It may not be the hottest product at a show now devoted to Social--but it's where a lot of the attendees still devote much of their energy.
Here at the IBM Connect 2013 event--formerly Lotusphere--the term "Social" is everywhere, but the word "Notes" has been less prevalent. Given that IBM shucked the Lotus brand late last year and changed the name of this event accordingly, it's not too surprising that the flagship Lotus product hasn't been the talk of the keynote room.
The top IBM execs touted the wonders of Watson and the magic of integrating Big Data, analytics, content management and social. And these things are all impressive, and there's no doubt that IBM is uniquely positioned to integrate them into something sophisticated and powerful for enterprises trying to harness their human capital and knowledge base.
But Notes and Domino happen to be the thing that lots of people at this show care about, more so than all the newfangled social stuff, at least in the near term. I had a chance to chat with Scott Souder, program director, IBM Social Business, who has product responsibilities for Notes, and our conversation made it clear that there's still strong interest in this platform among its user base.
There was Notes news, too, as IBM announced its first major version upgrade of the product in 5 years, Notes 9, also known as Notes and Domino Social Edition. This is a deep integration in which streams from IBM Connections, the company's Facebook-like enterprise social networking platform, can flow directly into messages that come into the user's Notes mailbox. That means users who live in Notes can collaborate with colleagues that share documents and work processes via Connections, without actually opening the Connections site--everything can be accomplished out of the user's Notes mailbox.
And that's a big deal because Notes is still the interface that most IBM/Lotus collaboration users are most likely to use. Scott Souder pointed out that when IBM/Lotus guru Ed Brill presented his session on the details of the Lotus 9 release at this week's event in Orlando, it drew a crowd of 1,500 enthusiastic Notes stakeholders. (You can see the slides from the session here.
"The excitement around it is just astounding right now," Scott said.
Why so excited? I asked him.
"We seem to have struck a chord with the social stuff--the integration," he said. In addition to adding the Connections/social component, the new release also freshens up and streamlines some basic functions in Notes, like making it easier to change your password without digging through multiple layers of menus, he added.
The hooks for the Connections integration into Notes are based on the OpenSocial 2.0 standard, and include the ability to "Like" things, a la Facebook, as well as actually invoking an action such as an approval in a business process, without having to leave the email client.
But practicality wasn't just the province of the Notes folks here. Even though much of the talk from the main stage was aspirational or bleeding-edge, IBM is also putting out the clear message that, within the marketplace of Social Business, their key differentitation from the world of younger companies and startups like Jive or Newsgator, is that IBM is the leader (per Gartner) in the metric that really matters: Revenues from products sold.
Mike Rhodin, senior VP, software solutions at IBM, characterized it as, "market share, which is measured in revenue--real business." He added that social by itself is just a tool, but integrating it tightly with analytics, big data, and content management, as IBM is doing, is critical, and "we are the only ones talking about that."