EXPECT a huge price tag for IBM web 2.0…hmm Web 2.0 applications are primarily for free with upgrade options so how will IBM market these solutions to corporates, interesting to see how this evolves…
IBM recently announced three major collaboration and social networking applications under the heading of a Web 2.0 Goes to Work Initiative. The three applications are IBM Quickr 8.0, IBM Lotus Connections, and IBM Info 2.0.
IBM has been using the concept of collaboration and information sharing internally for the better part of a decade, according to Jeff Schick, vice president of social software at Big Blue. Schick tells me that seven years ago the company built employee profile capability within IBM — called Blue Pages — that support connecting people to people, people to information, and people to the extraprise.
With 6 million lookups per day, Blue Pages gives IBM employees access to co-worker’s phone numbers, IM presence, and profiles — which help them locate colleagues with a particular expertise.
This week IBM officially launches the commercial version of all this under Lotus Quickr, Lotus Connections, and Info 2.0. While the concept may have been around for 10 years, I’m certain the technologies IBM is using today are far different.
Quickr is team collaboration software, and Connections is a social-networking application in the vein of MySpace and FaceBook, but with an enterprise focus. The apps have a lot in common in terms of the technologies underneath.
Quickr allows users to share and organize content libraries, create online collaboration sites, and access libraries through plug-ins on their desktop applications.
Connections offers five capabilities, including profiles to find people with expertise in particular fields, communities to build team sharing sites, wikis, blogs, and something called Dogear, which is essentially a way to share bookmarks. Another feature called Activities allows users to monitor their work with a dashboard, share tasks, and establish best practices.
Finally, Info 2.0 is a mashup technology that gives users the ability to mix and match components from various applications to make new applications. The example IBM offers is a store manager tracking inventory shipments against weather reports from national weather advisories and then mapping that with Google for inventory management.
IBM tipped its hand about all this in January and this summer will be under a full head of Web 2.0 steam, shipping these applications by the end of June.
All of this could potentially have an impact on network traffic, bandwidth, and storage, but that is not the largest issue IT faces, according to David Cearley, lead analyst at Gartner.
The main challenge for IT will be delivering a set of end-user computing capabilities that best enable Web 2.0 for the enterprise.
Up until now, IT in the main has been focused on delivering e-mail and Microsoft Word to the desktop. But new tools will now be needed to seed the environment with the ability to build community. Yes, end-users will create, maintain, and drive those communities forward, but according to Cearley, IT will need to deliver a new set of capabilities to make that happen.
For example, there are a lot of tools for blogs and wikis. Differentiating the functionalities each offers will be vital as enterprise demand for these tools proliferates.
“Simply giving someone wiki capability doesn’t mean anything,” Cearley says. Rather, IT will have to identify how employees will use the functionality, paying particular attention to the types of communities they will want to build. IT will then have to examine a range of social software to determine the best fit.
Choosing a solution is one thing; getting end-users up to speed is quite another. If you recall back in the ’80s companies actually had end-user computing departments that worked with people to show them how to use word processors and how to create applications with spreadsheets. Over time, the need for that kind of end-user support diminished.
Giving end-users the ability to create applications and mashups will likely mean a resurgence in the importance of having an adequate end-user support plan in place.
“It raises a whole new era of support requirements,” Cearley tells me.
I have to confess I was part of the community that first ignored social networking, then laughed at it, then attacked it, and now, I guess I have to say I was wrong. It wins.
My advice is to skip a few stages and figure out how to accommodate social networking and collaboration into your IT architecture now. And if you can’t, well, now that Big Blue is in the game, get out your checkbook; there’s always IBM Global Technology Services.