IBM has launched 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. The range of products and service enhancements were announced at the company's joint Lotusphere 2012 / IBM Connect conference in Orlando Jan. 15-18.
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 CIO Insight sister publication eWEEK in an interview.
At Lotusphere 2012, 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.
IBM also announced new clients using its social software and cloud collaboration services, including Kraft, Electrolux, MIT Lincoln Labs, Caterpillar, 3M, BlueCross Blue Shield of Florida, Dutch Tax Office, Premier Healthcare, Prudential Financial, Schneider Electric, Avery Dennison, Newly Weds Foods and Canada's Schulich School of Business.
Among IBM's Lotusphere announcements are 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 fast 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.
The addition of analytics into the software is designed to enable enterprises to integrate and analyze massive amounts of data generated from people, devices and sensors and more easily align these insights to business processes to make faster, more accurate business decisions, IBM said. By gaining deep insights in customer and market trends and employees' sentiment, businesses can uncover critical patterns to not only react swiftly to market shifts, but predict the effect of future actions.
"We're taking this a step further," Schick said. "It's not just for social collaboration. We're adding analytics so that we can gather critical metrics on just what is going on. We can see things like, what are the most vibrant communities out there and what are the apps people are leveraging most? We're leveraging analytics for all kinds of information."
"IBM's enterprise engagement model is very hard to replicate," said James Governor, co-founder of RedMonk, an industry research firm. "It's not clear that companies like Facebook would, or should, try to replicate that model. Essentially Facebook is just a tool, and IBM will position it as such. One of the concerns of enterprises and high-scale marketing departments is that Facebook will own the customer data which is why IBM's analytics pitch is likely to be effective. It's more than analytics it's really about data governance. Analytics plus data governance is certainly a differentiated approach to the market."
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