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Today I had the chance to see Ted Stanton – IBM WW Leading Expert on Social Software/Lotus Connections in IBM Australia – St Leonards on 1/Dec/2010.

Ted Stanton is an IBM World Wide Collaboration Executive Consultant with extensive experience consulting to a wide range of customers on the benefits and adoption best practices for social collaboration software. During this meeting Ted talked about what other customers are doing to embrace and benefit from social collaboration software, and what new capabilities have been added to version 3.0 of Connections. Ted has a GreenHouse blog at http://greenhouse.lotus.com/blogs/tedstanton/

I have broadcasted this event live, and have the session recorded so people down in our ISW offices in Australia (and the whole world) could watch it. The video record is available at http://www.justin.tv/brunogrange/w/604214976/1 , however, I will only discuss the points I found important.

Before beginning, it is important to highlight that according to Gartner, by 2012 more than 30% of large organizations will have deployments of social software suites available to all their employees. IDC named IBM as the #1 social software platform company in the industry (by revenue) and version 3.0 of Connections has just been released.

During this meeting, Ted had not only demoed not only Lotus Connections 3.0, but also IBM Social Software Roadmap and future projects. After this brilliant presentation, I am confident that IBM (and all clients and business partners) will be able to get fantastic benefits from what Social Software has to offer.

Among the features, Connections has been revisited when it comes to relationships between entities. Queen Elizabeth II has recently created a Facebook page, and just after the first couple of hours, thousands of users have already declared just how much they like it. She is on Facebook, but she is not your friend! Lotus Connections knows that and has got a new feature added. Sometimes, you are not directly connected to someone (e.g. you’re not a friend of Sam Palmisano), but at least you want to know his updates. To solve this situation, now you’re able to “follow” people, which enables you to be connected with an entity updates. Another cool feature was the traditional “People you may know”, which, besides listing people close to you via other connections, also shows something like: you share A and B common friends, and C and D bookmarks. Now, when a friend request is made, some statement shows something like: you have A, B, and C as common friends.

Another outstanding feature is the ability to add a SharePoint plugin. I personally believe that this initiative goes forward getting a market share that was already lost, but may slowly recovered selling IBM’s social software. It is an amazing strategy, just like Lotus Symphony (focus: stop spending with MS Office and spend with something cool like Social Software) and the SaaS (which I don’t see the cloud that good for business partners).

As IBM is getting more and more pro to industry standards, Ted has highlighted that now we are able to use CMIS (Content Management Interoperability Services) features with Files. Ted has shown how he uses an Adobe AIR software for using Connections Files with features like check-in/check-out, which will be amazing with people using different tastes of CMS, applications, OSs and devices (as mentioned by Luis Benitez at http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/lcwiki.nsf/dx/Demo_Using_CMIS_Connectors_with_Lotus_Connections_Files ).

From the UI point of view, I liked how we can scroll widgets here and there, in the middle of a Web page. The in-line replies and actions also makes things much easier to users. Lotus Live has been renamed to Extranet, where people can collaborate outside their organizations. Lotus also made available the Customers feature, which allows people to connect their CRM applications and take advantage of it, so people can collaborate, for example, on a client information from Siebel. From the interface point of view, I was able to see fewer components similar to the well-known “Notes sections”, and features like tabs. I like URL based models, but the interface was so “Web 3.0” and AJAX fashioned that I don’t think it will be that easy to bookmark (maybe snapshot, if you know what I mean) some window states.
The Search had cloud controls to control how much tags you see. I could see a people search, with a type ahead, where for example, the term “Ale” in the box instantaneously displayed “business-cards” like results with pictures from the LDAP with names like Ale…x and Ale…ssandra. The picture could be enlarged with a mouse roll-over, which was a nice feature for the “tete-a-tete” lovers.

That was definitely a nice presentation, but the next one was breathtaking: Project Vulcan! Vulcan is to be the “Desktop of the Future” – a new concept of Inbox (that maybe is what Google originally planned for the unsuccessful “Buzz” project). It is some sort of Inbox where everything takes place, easily! The first thing we see in Vulcan is some sort of Wall (yeah, exactly like Facebook). There, people was just one-click of distance to start a chat, collaborate on a file, get Cognos alerts, share by chat, email, status, blog entry, bookmark, etc! Doing everyday stuff like expense approval, opportunities tracking, is quite easy in this aggregated Inbox. There is a left side pane with all the possible applications and a bottom bar with Calendar, Tasks, etc; all popping up only when needed (e.g. when you are already late for that so-wanted year-end review meeting with your manager).

Now, from the applications point of view, everything looks shiny! There was some sort of Cognos dashboard which allows people to see graphics with reports like Quota x Pipeline, and widgets like Delta comparison, Team Pulse, etc.

Lotus had finally found that Exporting and Importing contacts is totally cumbersome. Now everyone you connect is one place, from your Personal address book to LinkedIn and LotusLive – all together, no matter where they came from. And why do you have to open file attachments? All you have to do is select it from a list, and see an instantaneous view  widget of it in a sidebar – isn’t this helpful for common types like letters, documents, images, presentations, spread sheets, etc?

For Lotus Domino developers, the good news is: XPages is the shining future. Ted that demoed an XPages application, all built to be a Vulcan widget – long life to Domino, revisited. Ted highlighted that the Social Software focus will be HTML 5, Industry standards and mobile-friendly applications, so, once again, Xpages is the natural process.

If I could suggest some features to the future, I’d suggest that Social Software don’t rely that much on tags. I have asked Ted if they were planning to make the product smarter when it comes to “know what people want”. Some users still have problems with tags – no matter how much you reinforce this point, people hate tags! Maybe Lotus could take some investigation on what makes Google software so brilliant in terms of finding what you are looking for, and maybe, suggest content related to what you’re reading.

Thanks Ted Stanton, ISW and IBM for this fantastic opportunity of foreseeing the future of the software.

Watch the presentation video here:

Bruno Grange

A passionate by software and a business enthusiast. Check out more about me at http://www.brunogrange.com

So, what do you think ?