Once upon a time, we used to have to do more with less, but that doesn't work here anymore.
Joining me this week to talk about social is IBM's Tim Rowe, Business Architect – Application Development and Systems Management for IBM i, to talk about social. Tim's team makes certain that IBM i has the features it needs to allow their customers and ISVs to write modern applications and to be able to properly manage them.
Steve Pitcher: Tim, I want to talk about IBM and social. First, let's talk about IBM's social business platform, IBM Connections. I know that Connections 5.5 has just been released. Some very cool stuff has been added, notably nested folders. As far as I'm concerned, it's the real ticket for Lotus Quickr customers to get onto Connections finally. I assume the IBM i version will be out soon, correct?
Tim Rowe: That's the plan. Just like it did the last time. We didn't come out at GA, but we came out around the same time the first service pack was released, I believe. That's our hope. I'm not stating any release dates.
SP: I would assume going forward it's going to be similar to Quickr releases. When Quickr would get a fix pack, we'd have to wait a few weeks until the IBM i code would be ready. Since Connections is such a beast compared to Quickr, I'll assume it just takes a little while longer to get it ready. Can you talk about what your involvement is with Connections at a high level?”
TR: My involvement is managing the team who takes care of Connections, Domino, Sametime, etc. on IBM i. They're much more appropriate to speak with if you want to get into the details of those products.
SP: Social is a difficult subject. We can talk from a strategy perspective.
TR: Yes, well, that's the thing. When we talk about social, we support IBM Connections. That's IBM's social business platform. That's supported on IBM i. For those who want to participate in that type of activity of hosting a social platform, then that's an option that they can take advantage of. What is social beyond that, and what does it look like? Well, social is interacting with businesses, data, and people—often through your mobile device. From an operating system perspective, this is where I have to step back to a lower level and say, 'What do I have to do at the operating system to make certain that we are enabled?' When people want to do these activities, then they have an option.
SP: Can you give me an example?
TR: Plumbing. It's that simple. Open-source technologies. What we've been doing [is] adding things like Node.js, Python, our XML Service, our DB2 Connector that we're using in the open-source space. We are providing the plumbing for people to take advantage of and use in their own applications to do this sort of activities. Whether it's modern UI, whether it's mobile, whether it's social, we ensure you can leverage the standard technologies that are used in that space. From a core operating system perspective, and that's what I own and what I need to be thinking about, that's some of the things that we've been doing and pushing very hard.
SP: From an IBM technical strategy perspective, it seems like there's very little for IBM i other than providing the plumbing to allow products like Connections to properly run or to allow companies to do and build other things in the social world.
TR: The strategy is that, and look I'm not going to provide Twitter on IBM i, but I want to make sure I'm enabling the plumbing to allow people to use social technologies if that's their requirement. The social business platform, Connections...we made certain that was available on IBM i as well. There are certainly people who are writing applications which have social components, and we want to ensure that we can support that.”
SP: Switching gears and nothing to do with tech, are you guys trying to follow a strategy to be out there in the world in a more social fashion? I mean Tim Rowe is now on Twitter. I'm kinda peeved that you didn't use the handle I suggested (@TimRoweNotOnTwitter).
TR: Yeah, well, I don't tweet as much as I really should, but there are certainly many others in my area. Scott Forstie, Jessie Gorzinski, Steve Will. Steve is all over the place in the social community. Being social [is] how we attempt to interact with our customers. [Giving] them the information they need is something that's on the list of things we try to do regularly now.
SP: Compared to 20 years ago...
TR: Twenty years ago, we had InfoCenter, and it was updated once every three years.
SP: People got whatever you sent them in the mail with their big pile of compact disks and whatnot. Compared to back then, there's tremendous value in social. People weren't necessarily as connected socially, but when they got their pile of CDs and manuals and everything else, they did read the manuals and loaded the InfoCenter. The thing that's evident is the amount of information being sent out into the world may not be as widely read, considering just how much is sent out there.
TR: Back in the day, there were people who got a manual and read through it. The pace of life then is different than it is now. I like to say, "Once upon a time, we used to have to do more with less, but that doesn't work here anymore." We need to do more. The pace of all businesses has changed. Having the luxury of being able to sit down and read a manual isn't an option. Being able to watch a Twitter stream and tap into key people in the industry is amazing. "Hey, we added a new version of IBM i." "Hey, we have a new version of Access Client Solutions." "Hey, we added a new thing to XML." They can watch that, and it's a trigger to go and get more information about it. Getting those little bits of information out there, I think overall our community is far more enlightened than what they used to be.
SP: We may see the results about that with Technology Refresh adoption or downloads of ACS.
TR: We've had a pile of feedback already from people who've seen tweets and articles about ACS, and a lot of them have downloaded it to check out the new support. That's pretty powerful.
SP: Social is very simple. If you compare it with security, I spoke with Jeff Uehling for about 45 minutes, and he listed off all sorts of things they were doing in IBM i security and in the overall industry. Social is really what you make out of it. It's a concept. With us, we've had Connections on IBM i since it was released, and I know of other customers as well. Adoption of anything like this takes time because it's a change in mindset. The same way it's a change in mindset to having your company start something as basic as a Twitter page. You can't turn into a social business overnight. Getting people to interact with each other and their customers...there is no immediate ROI indicator. It's very abstract. But can you afford to not be in the social space and not interacting with customers? No.