Well, we had Shatner and the Social Enterprise for starters and now we have Vulcans. Where is this all heading to?
Project Vulcan was announced by IBM at LotusSphere 2010 as the IBM vision on the Future of Collaboration, and not yet the near future, but Vulcan kicks off a preliminary roadmap towards 2020.
The project is not about new IBM products but about making IBM products integrate more seamlessly and expanding their functionality. Key elements in the future development will be social analysis and business analysis. This seems to be a hot topic in Corporate Social Networking as many companies find it hard to put meaningfull metrics to Social Networking: Can it really improve my business?
Instead of using mockups IBM was working with real code during the demos and showed us a client interface much like the one we are used to from the Lotus Notes client and a webbased client. For end users there should not be a difference between desktop and webclients anymore and the client should integrate products like Lotus Quickr, Lotus Connections, Lotus Sametime and Microsoft Office Sharepoint into one seamless user experience.
You can tell IBM has been looking very closely at social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIN in continuing their Lotus Connections development of the homepage, which should become a central hub that lets users see and edit information from business applications in a relative context.
Since early april IBM has been running a managed beta for their next big release of Lotus Connections. Version 2.5 is officially set to come this friday, the 28th and we've been fidgetting around with this beta version since the beginning. Time to have a quick look at what's new.
The biggest changes compared to LC 2.0.1 are the addition of two new services: Files and Wiki's, but there are lots of minor changes as well. I won't go into too much detail on the specs, there are probably dozens of sites who will do so, I'd rather share a glimpse of what we've done with it in our project called TeamPark.
In the image below you'll see the main services for Connections: Profiles, Communities, Blogs, Files, Wiki's Bookmarks and Activities. In yellow (the middle part) you'll see the new, cool, microtweeting like functionality of Connections 2.5
One of the big advantages of Connections is that it is people centered and not document centered, like Microsoft Sharepoint. You can tag about everything, including people so that it becomes very easy to find experts. Obviously, it is very important to stimulate everyone to fill in their profile details, so we added a few things to the default Connections 2.5 implementation. On the left hand side you'll see two widgets below the profile picture (oui, c'est moi). The first is the standard Tagcloud for your profile (which is minimized now) which we use to find expertise and interest. At Sogeti, we work for different customers all the time so we added a "MyClients" widget. We added an extra field to the profile page where we can fill in the Clients we've worked for, and they appear in the bottom left widget "MyClients" This way we can easily find who's been working at a specific client to get references.
A second Widget we've made is to stimulate everyone to fill in their profile information and is a Profile % Complete counter, quite similar to what you'll find on LinkedIn. Currently my profile is 51% complete as you can see in the right column. Basically the widget counts which profile fields have been filled in, and assigns a weight to that. Obviously a profile picture carries more weight than the phone number of my (sadly) non-existent Assistant.
So, that's it for a first view of the Sogeti TeamPark platform based on Connections 2.5. More to follow.
A few posts back I did a quick comparison on Microsoft MOSS 2007 and IBM Lotus Connectins to see which one is best suited for Enterprise 2.0, for Corporate Social Networking. One of the criteria we've developed in our TeamPark approach at Sogeti is that the software needs to be S.O.C.I.A.L.
In this comparison I also showed the Gartner graph on Social Software;
In their review, Dogear Nation rightly pointed out that for instance Yammer, Facebook, Twitter and so on are missing. So where have the Garter researches been?
However, the graph also shows that none of the currently available platforms moves into the socalled 'Magic Quadrant';
The Gartner Magic Quadrant is a proprietary research tool developed by Gartner inc., a US based research and advisory firm. It is designed to provide an unbiased qualitative analysis of a “markets’ direction, maturity, and participants
In the upper left quadrant we see both Microsoft and IBM named "challengers" with a great capacity to execute (read established corporate penetration), in the lower right quadrant we see a number of "visionaries" like Atlassian, Jive and Socialtext. The majority however falls into the lower left quadrant of "niche players" and no solution has made it to the magic quadrant yet.
What does it take to get into the magic quadrant? In blunt translation of the Gartner graph it should be Microsoft buying Atlassian for instance to combine 'completeness of vision' with 'the power to execute'. But that is not the correct answer.
If we mix up Jive with IBM or Atlassian with Microsoft it does not create a winner, it will not be a magic quadrant recipe, because it will undoubtedly be a functional cocktail from a technical point of view, not from a social point of view. It will result in a (probably very good) platform which offers everything you would want, but in the end won't work.
What does it take to get into that magic quadrant? Basically this is an identity management based issue. In my opinion we use the web in three ways:
Probably we should rename 'www' to 'ppp' ;) .You could argue the terminology though, it could just as well be personal, social and professional. However, I think theseare the three domains to which we use the internet and with the current cloudcomputing trends this will create a new paradigm for identity management (IdM) and this will be the key in stepping inside the magic quadrant.
In the 'old days' we had our home pc to facilitate our 'private need', meaning we used it to store our documents, photos and accessed the internet to find information for our hobbies. We also had a corporate pc on which we stored our work related documents. And in the Web 2.0 age we started to use the internet for social interaction.
Nowadays, more and more is shifting towards webbased functionality. We use Google Docs for our documents, share our photo's on Picasa, Webshots, Flickr, Paintbucket or wherever. We started blogging, and we started Tweeting...
Each of these three domains is becoming more and more webbased and it confuses us, it frustrates us. We're constantly putting up content on a variety of sites, distributing our lives through various media to various audiences and we often find the content should move beyond the boundaries of just one domain and we end up duplicating the same information to another blog or wiki.
The current trends on aggregation, the creation of lifestreams is convergence; pulling the content of various media into one single lifestream distributed to all our contact. Regarding the three domains however, we want - no, NEED - divergence; one single point of entry and the option to distribute it to different audiences, across the boundaries set by these domains. One of the functional prerequisites is the ability to organically group contacts (there are more ;)) regardless of the domain they are confined to.
This is, what in my opinion, will make it impossible for each of the platforms mentioned in the Gartner graph to truly claim the Magic Quadrant. Each of these solutions focus on one particular domain; social / personal or professional. The Magic Quadrant platform needs support all three domains in one coherent mashup of these multiple online identities we have fostered with ample mechanisms to guard our privacy, with the appropriate tools to include and exclude people to see certain types of information. It needs to be able to discern who is allowed to see which part of a certain domain
Labels: cloudcomputing, digital identity, enterprise 2.0, facebook, gartner, ibm, identity management, LC25, Lotus Connections, microsoft, social networking, social software, social web, teampark, yammer
All around us, companies feel the need to go Social. As the web grows and companies see their employees blog and interact, share knowledge everywhere, suddenly we have to take Social Networking behind firewalls and create a corporate walled social garden.
It's not that big of a surprise senior management sees merit in embracing social networking as communities are pretty loyal and dedicated. It would be nice if we could bind our employees so strongly and also use their creativity to get better. It's probably no surprise either that they just don't quite get the essence of social networking. In the end it is about information, about knowledge that is the company's main asset, isn't it?
The next thing your senior management will probably ask for is a thorough analyses of requirements and a turn up a full list of features. A Social Networking site should have blogs, wiki, forum, chat, and so on. Over the past month I've been doing just that and made a thorough comparison between Microsoft MOSS 2007, IBM Lotus Connections and Telligent Community Server. Drawing up comparison charts, listing the functionality is a cumbersome job. Especially when the result is that there hardly is a difference. All platforms offer more or less the same functionality.
When it's all about the same, the obvious choice for senior management is to stick to what they know and we already use inside the company. From this reasoning, many companies will probably go for Microsoft MOSS 2007 (or MOSS 14 if they can wait until 2010) as it will offer the basic functionality you would want and integrates well with the other corporate software, and even allows you to keep sharing those all important documents.
Last week I attended a presentation by my Swedish colleague Andreas Sjöström, who founded the website inarockband. In his presentation he said working for Sogeti was like playing in a rockband:
inarockband.com builds on the analogy that working for Sogeti is like playing in a rock band.
Just as rock musicians we are serious about our passion, instruments and customers. In our creative work we understand that everyone in the project plays and important role, just as every instrument counts.
Working with Sogeti is not about working your career, but about your passion. Be passionate about your work, try to excell and in excellence delight the crowd.
In my opinion, Corporate Social Networking also fits this analogy. Blogs are a stage to enthuce and delight, communities a place to share passion. When we look at platforms to support this we are looking for simplicity, easy to use software instead of massively complicated configurable packages. The most suitable software for the job is Social, Organic, Collectively Intelligent, Alive and Linked.
We at Sogeti are passionate about our job. We like to excell. Small wonder we are constantly working up new books on best practises, creating new standards and methods. One of the latest books we've come up with is about moving from Crowd to Community. The second part of the book deals with the Teampark idea, a method to implement and adopt social software inside companies. In the next release this part will be extended and worked out into a full approach.
In the acronym S.O.CI.A.L my colleague Patrick Savalle has tried to capture what the elements are that empower social software:
These are the key elements for Social Software. From this vantage point, there is a clear winner when it comes to Enterprise platforms: IBM Lotus Connections. Whereas MOSS will excell in sharing explicit knowledge, LC will tap into the implicit knowlegde of your workforce.
I'm not saying Lotus Connections is the perfect match, but from an enterprise point of view, it's closing in on the magic quadrant, as Gartner puts it:In the graph IBM is not yet in the Magic Quadrant, and Microsoft isn't far behind. Don't get me wrong, MOSS isn't a bad product, not at all and I'm not saying IBM has done the trick yet, but they're slightly ahead at this point in time. In June last year, the CIO magazine also ran an article on IBM vs. Microsoft in the Social Software space and concluded:
While both vendors showed their products could integrate with existing e-mail systems (especially e-mail systems that they sell, such as Notes and Exchange), IBM’s Lotus Connections looked, at minimum, a year or more ahead of SharePoint in its social computing capabilities out of the box.
It was a lot prettier looking, too.
If we look at the road ahead, this conclusion still stands with Lotus Connections 2.5 going into Beta in April and expected to go Gold by Mid July whereas Microsoft MOSS 14 is due for early 2010. However, it is more than just release dates. It is about the core focus of the product. In terms of S.O.CI.A.L aspects, LC2.5 still has a more informal, organic, people centered approach than MOSS 14, which (from what I have seen under NDA) still is more formal and hyrarchical focussed on information, despite all it's slick tricks.
Identifying the right triggers to create Social Networks is not a guarantee for instant succes though. On the one hand, setting psychology loose on Social Webdesign to delight the crowd and direct communities, creating emergent behaviour is tricky, but on the other hand we have the issue of the walled gardens. Companies will try to contain these platforms behind their corporate firewalls.
About a year ago I did a project in wich security played an important role. The client went into extremes to protect its data. However, all it's corporate knowledge, its value, could be found on Wikipedia for free. Knowledge and creativity are hard things to contain, they will find a way. Take blogging for instance.
From a bloggers point of view, his main drive will probably be to build a reputation. Blogging is more than just jotting down short things you are passionate about. You want to excell and gain authority. A global audience will probably suit you better than a limited corporate stage can offer.
Regarding this, Hutch Carpenter wrote an interesting article on his blog "I'm not actually a Geek" where he asks how much scale is actually needed in Enterprise 2.0 Employee Adoption.
Blogs: The nature of a blog is a single person’s thoughts, observations and ideas. Inside companies, these applications can be tools for the ongoing recording of things that fall outside the deadlines and process-oriented activities that make up the day. Making them public is a great way to share these contributions with other employees and establish your record of what’s happening. If only a few key people blogged inside a company, there will be value in that.
The article raises many interesting issues, but the question remains if we should take it all behind walls. It is quite true that Blogs do not require a large scale adoption, It will take justa few catalysts to start interesting corporate blogs, but if you want your employees to excell, to put effort into this Social Environment you have to offer them a worldwide stage. Have them interact with the world instead of limiting them to peers.
From a knowledge point of view we really have to consider which information really is actually a corporate asset. Is it knowledge on technology (which probably is out there on the web anyway) or is it about privacy, personal data and sensitive information about competitors or clients?
When you carefully look around in your company you might find these catalysts; passionate people who engage and delight the crowd. These thoughtleaders and visionaries inside your company probably have their own blogs, as they will be sharing their passion, having a global stage to build their reputation. Do we really want to confine them inside corporate walled gardens? Will they combine the pursuit of their personal passion and delight the corporate crowd? You will undoubtedly find out they will put more effort in personal blogging than in corporate blogging if we rigidly put our Corporate Social Network behind firewalls.
The current Social Networking trends focus on aggregation, pulling together updates from a variety of media into a single lifestream. If I look at my Plaxo Pulse stream for instance puts my twitter messages and my blogposts into a single update stream which is visible for all my connections. The next challenge will be to move from this information convergence to information divergence. This divergence will allow me, as a blogger, to write one passionate article and distribute it to the medium I chose and the audience I choose. This divergence will even more require personal and professional digital presence to blend, calling for better identity management and privacy measurements. In short, getting into the Magic Quadrant of Corporate Social Networking will not be about more features, but about smart blending of corporate and private digital identities.
Over the past month I have been doing a Proof of Concept to see which Enterprise software would offer the most social value. The main focus was on the differences between IBM's Lotus Connections 2.5 (going into Beta in a few weeks) and Microsoft MOSS.
At our offices in the Netherlands we have a version of MOSS 2007 running, but apparantly we were not using it to its full extend, so Microsoft felt we were not giving them a fair chance and they did a full proof of concept at our offices in Paris. I must say, I was a bit surprised. Microsoft Moss (Sharepoint) is actually better than I had thought.
We also received a preview of the upcoming MOSS14 release, which should head into Beta later this year and will probably arrive early 2010. Without going into specifics, it won't be a surprise that Microsoft will continue the trends they set with Office 2007, using contextual ribbon menu's and throw in a lot of Silverlight. Of course, there will be more focus on social networking. One of the features Microsoft included in the presentation was an external kit, the Podcasting Kit for Sharepoint (PKS) by Codeplex. This kit went into beta last month and also heavily leans on the Silverlight technology. PKS can also be added to the current Sharepoint version of course.