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In the Wheelhouse: Connect, Kenexa, Connections, and Hey, Is That a Watson in Your Pocket?

Analysis of News Events
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This week, we'll cover the state of Lotusphere, the meteoric rise of IBM Connections, and not too far off in a distant pocket, IBM Watson 2.0.

Written by Steve Pitcher

Lotusphere Is Dead. Long Live IBM Connect!

After 19 years, Lotusphere as a full conference is no more. The place to be in January for all things Lotus, collaboration, social, and more is IBM Connect 2013 in Orlando, Florida, from January 2731, 2013.


Some are bemoaning "yet another IBM name change." Yes, IBM tends to rebrand things from time to time. I'm not going to tackle that one. Some people just need to get over it.


Why the name change? Well, the writing was on the wall in Orlando in January 2012, where Lotusphere and Connect were technically two different conferences going on at the same time. Lotusphere 2012 was the more "technical" of the two while Connect 2012 had more high-level content. Within both, there was less mention of the word Lotus and more talk of concepts: social (by far the most mentioned), community, collaboration, analytics, smarter computing, and cloud.


IBM Connect 2013 will showcase these concepts in which IBM is a market leader.


But Lotusphere isn't going away altogether. Lotusphere will be a program within IBM Connect, featuring hundreds of technical sessions, labs, panels, and round tables.


So when you go to book a conference pass, plane ticket, and hotel for Lotusphere, be aware that you'll be booking for IBM Connect instead.


I'll see you there!

IBM Set to Acquire Kenexa for $1.3 Billion

Say that with a Dr. Evil voice, and it doesn't sound like very much, huh?


All levity aside, this is strategic news for IBM. Kenexa develops popular human resources solutions for the enterprise and has close to 9,000 customers worldwide across a variety of industries. The Kenexa acquisition will bolster IBM's business analytics offerings, which as a whole is anticipated to earn $16 billion by 2015.


Why should you be interested in this? One of the major challenges companies are focusing on is developing their talent base. Kenexa offers many solutions, such as employee assessment, talent management, and HR transformation. IBM's growing social and analytics businesses will augment Kenexa's offerings in helping to deliver a "smarter workforce" by leveraging talent pools and will be positioning themselves to engage your HR executives with solutions. You need to be aware of the offerings when IBM comes knocking.


IBM is further entrenching itself as the force to reckon with in terms of cloud, Software as a Service (SaaS), and analytics. The company has spent $16 billion in the last five years on acquisitions. And with $20 billion to spend on acquisitions by 2015, IBM isn't done yet. Stay tuned.

IBM Announces the Pairing of Social Software and Analytics with New Version of IBM Connections

IBM announced on September 9 an enhanced IBM Connections along with analytical capabilities and integration with social media tools Facebook and Twitter. Connections enables a convergence of streamed content from social networks, business, and workflow processes. Also integrated are emails, blogs, wikis, calendar entries, and more.


Simply put, Connections offers activity streams from which users—from the shop floor to the executive—can manage many parts of their jobs (e.g., entering expense sheets, collaborating on documents, updating customer-facing social media sites, or approving workflow processes). Since the experience is embedded, users don't have to leave Connections to update information in external systems, thus saving time and improving efficiencies.


Social tools are becoming more prevalent in our day-to-day activities, and Connections provides the workforce with familiar-looking tools and a completely integrated experience. For instance, Connections can be used not only to build social communities for your employees, but also to integrate your business partners, customers, and vendors. Furthermore, with younger people moving into the workforce, this familiar interface decreases the time to train them.


Expanding on the concept of integration, Connections has built-in social analytics capabilities. IBM's announcement reads "organizations can 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. By gaining deeper 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."


Coming September 20 is Connections Mail, a social mail experience allowing integration from either Microsoft Exchange or IBM Lotus Domino servers.


In a related announcement, Primerica, the largest independent financial services marketing company in the U.S., has 90,000 employees engaging 2.3 million customers using a combination of IBM Customer Experience Suite, IBM Connections, and IBM Cognos Business Intelligence.


David Wade, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of Primerica says, "Working with IBM, we will be in a position to capitalize on our growing representative and client base, helping to ensure our representatives can deliver value to our clients no matter where they're located. Becoming a Social Business will enable us to respond to client needs immediately, find help and leverage expertise to solve problems, share knowledge, and ensure our clients have positive, personal interactions with our people and our company culture."


As stated in the press release, Primerica Online "provides insight into sales figures, commission data, production reports, compliance requirements, earnings statements, multimedia presentations, and motivational messages. With the integration of new IBM social business solutions, members will now be able to engage in online community building, expertise location and active information sharing."


It's no surprise that the accolades for IBM social software, especially Connections, keep coming. For the third year in a row, IBM Connections has been named the number 1 worldwide market share leader in enterprise social software. Only the mighty Facebook has reached one million users faster than IBM Connections. That's amazing growth with very little promotion outside of the social arena.


Connections can be deployed on premises or via IBM's SmartCloud for Social Business offering.


If you're interested in becoming a social business, you can watch a demo of IBM Connections 4 here. To take a test drive of what Connections and many other IBM products have to offer, you can sign up for an account at the Greenhouse, where Connections 4 beta has been live for a few weeks now.

iPhone 5 Is Finally Here. I'm ecstat...er, I'm content.

Apple lifted the veil on the long-awaited iPhone 5 on September 12, stating it will start shipping on September 21.


The iPhone 5 will have a new 4-inch "retina" display and 4G LTE network capability. While there are fine improvements, there is nothing truly groundbreaking in my opinion. The improvements are relatively small; the device is a little longer, a little wider, and 20 percent lighter. Nothing to complain about at all but nothing to really rave about either. In the business world, incremental innovation and steady market share is always good news to customers.


That being said, Apple will sell a ton of these things. Analysts are forecasting 10–12 million units will have a home by the end of September.


With uncertainty hanging over the future of RIM like a wet blanket, you just may find a few more BlackBerry-heavy customers migrating their users to the iPhone 5 this fall, especially those with IBM Lotus Domino servers. Lotus Domino and BlackBerry Enterprise Server have been a natural match for many years, but with IBM updating its no-charge Lotus Notes Traveler solution to include high availability functionality just recently, Apple's iPhone and Google's Android have the potential of infiltrating a nice portion of what RIM has left in terms of market share in those shops.

COMMON Europe Top Concerns Survey

COMMON Europe's 7th Top Concerns survey is live and awaiting your input. This survey collects and shares the top IBM i community priorities in order to set agendas for future meetings. It's only 15 questions, so please take five minutes and fill it out. Plus, you can win an iPod if you do so! That's worth five minutes. You can take the survey plus see the 2011 results at www.topconcerns.org.

Hey...Is That a Watson in Your Pocket?

IBM is working on a mobile version of IBM Watson, the IBM Power Systems server that competed (and won handily) on Jeopardy about 18 months ago. As part of IBM's analytics focus, "Watson 2.0" would amazingly be a far more groundbreaking achievement than the original.


While the original Watson was powered by 10 racks of IBM Power 750 servers and 16TB RAM, the processing power required to operate it is dropping because of technical innovation. Even though a smartphone with Watson would be severely underpowered today, IBM envisions a mobile Watson in the not-too-distant future.


The business impact of Watson in its present form will be outstanding once it masters a field like oncology, which IBM believes it will do by 2013. A few years after that, it's possible that oncologists could be walking around with a specialized version of Watson attached to their belt, able to answer questions like an incredibly intelligent Dr. Siri.


IBM is also working to make Watson 2.0 "sense aware," able to hear commands and to understand visual explanations to put images in context. 


The capabilities Watson will offer industry in the next few years will truly be something to watch for.


Steve Pitcher
Steve Pitcher works with iTech Solutions, an IBM Premier Business Partner. He is a specialist in IBM i and IBM Power Systems solutions since 2001. Feel free to contact him directly This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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