IBM announces IBM Connections 4.5, and BlackBerry gets into the ring to reclaim enterprise mobile market share.
Connections 4.5 and a Brief IBM Connect 2013 Recap
Last week I left for Orlando, far away from the -33C temperatures of Eastern Canada, to attend the premier social collaboration conference of 2013: IBM Connect. While "social" and "cloud" were the dominant themes of Lotusphere 2012, "exceptional experience" is the prevalent theme of 2013. IBM is driving fully integrated solutions designed to provide an exceptional experience to your company's customers, partners, users, and everyone in between.
I'll be focusing on this and all the IBM collaboration announcements in a deep dive feature later this month, including many of the features in IBM Notes and Domino 9 Social Edition (which will ship in March 2013, by the way), but right now I want to pass on some quick snippets to you.
IBM announced that Connections 4.5 will ship in March. According to the press release, Connections 4.5 "will include embedded document management capabilities so that members of a network can access, analyze and act on wide ranges of data types in the context of their work to improve decision-making and business results. IBM Connections' Content Manager feature will allow teams and communities to harness an organization's collective intelligence to solve business problems, increase productivity, and drive profit."
I'll veer off the rails a bit and say that the small paragraph above is essentially the death certificate for Lotus Quickr. Conversations during the "Ask the Product Manager" sessions certainly had a number of questions about Quickr's future. While Quickr will be supported for the next few years, IBM will be offering migration tools for customers to move their Quickr libraries into Connections. Also, all Quickr customers under maintenance will receive entitlement to IBM Connections Content Manager.
Make no mistake about it: IBM Connections is the suggested upgrade path if you're on Lotus Quickr today. That point was made swiftly and clearly. And if you compare the conference agendas from this year's conference and last year's, you will find barely a mention this year of Quickr, which seems to have a very deep customer install base. There you have it, fellow customers. That's the answer we've all been waiting for. Bury your dead. We're Connections bound.
And if you compare Quickr and Connections Content Manager, which includes the library-like check in/out features and the hierarchical file/folder structure, it's essentially Quickr functionality inside Connections. Even the file upload dialog looks strikingly like the Quickr Connectors dialog. Connections is by far IBM's flagship product, and it's time to move on.
Since we're talking Connections integration, for you Microsoft Outlook customers, IBM Connections enables access to social data such as files, profiles, and communities from directly within Outlook. You need not be a Notes customer to integrate Connections with your mail.
At Connect 2013, IBM also announced the IBM Employee Experience Suite, which will "help HR leaders attract, empower and motivate talent to address skill and resource gaps while enabling their workforce to deliver better results for their clients. For example, employees can use social networking, e-meeting and instant messaging capabilities to access applications and interactive rich media such as videos, resulting in improved collaboration and greater teaming across globally distributed teams."
The Employee Experience Suite integrates with Kenexa's Applicant Tracking System. Just a few weeks ago, IBM formally closed the 1.3 billion dollar deal to acquire Kenexa. This acquisition and integration is part of IBM's Smarter Workforce initiative and in my opinion will drive Connections sales in a big, big way. There was a great demo showing the ability to recruit, onboard, train, and socially integrate new employees into the workforce. What caught my attention was the example of hiring someone and then allowing him access to a corporate social portal in order to familiarize himself with the organization's corporate culture, report-to chains, documentation...all before walking in the door and sitting down at a desk. This significantly increases the chances of this new-hire hitting the ground running.
"The combination of Kenexa and IBM shows great promise to change how HR attracts, retains, and trains talent," said Ross Grossman, vice president, human resources, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. "In biotechnology, competition for top talent is fierce. We're excited about the potential to better attract talented people who fit our company culture and can really impact our business performance."
I joked off offhandedly during the opening general session that I should have brought my Human Resources director and CFO along to Connect. Looking back at the entire conference, they probably would have benefited greatly from the non-technical track. IBM is coming to the table with solutions at a very high level to show executives how they can make businesses more effective.
Research In Motion Now BlackBerry; Delivers the Goods
OK, I like to smack BlackBerry (formerly Research in Motion) about the neck and ears a bit. They've had some not-so-great moments in the last couple of years, and to be fair they've been a bit of an easy target. When I heard that they'd have some representation at IBM Connect as a sponsor and would be showcasing their new smartphone, I have to admit I was very hopeful that they'd come to the fight armed to the teeth and ready to do battle. Everyone likes a good comeback story.
You know what? I was impressed with the BlackBerry Z10. It's a nice-looking unit. The BlackBerry Q10 will be released soon afterward.
The developer buy-in is also promising, with 70,000 applications available for BB10 today.
The ability to work in two distinct modes, personal and professional, is admittedly pretty cool. It allows admins to lock down the business side of the device while letting the personal side have some fun. The switch between two modes is virtually seamless. It's simplicity in design.
The BlackBerry Hub is also a very neat concept, as it's an integrated area for mail, BlackBerry Messenger, and social applications such as Twitter and Facebook. The ability to view and respond to an email and a tweet within the same app is a nice feature.
The Peek feature is also very decent. Imagine watching a YouTube video and you receive an email. Peek allows you to view the new message without having to close or pause YouTube. It's simple multitasking. It's not a game changer by any means, but it's there because it needs to be there in order to compete.
What makes me very happy is that I don't need a dedicated BlackBerry Enterprise Server to manage BB10. I can use IBM Notes Traveler for that. With IBM Notes Traveler running natively on IBM i, I can eliminate my BES virtual machines and manage all of our mobile devices from a Domino server on IBM i.
This may be the device for the business user. Take that statement with a truckload of salt on an icy Canadian road.
This is a make or break year for BlackBerry. The comeback story is only the first round of what could be a very long fight, but at least the folks at BlackBerry have their gloves on and it looks like they're ready to throw a few punches.