Virtual Collaboration for Lotus Sametime

June 25, 2009 at 3:49 pm | Posted in collaboration, IBM, virtual worlds | 1 Comment

Some of the great research work that IBM was doing around virtual worlds has now made it onto enterprise desktops through IBM’s announcement of the availability of the “Virtual Collaboration for Lotus Sametime” plugin for Lotus Sametime 8.0.1 or later.  An OpenSimulator instance runs on the server and connects to Sametime through a bridge. There is a web client, although most users would probably use the SecondLife client.

The plugin provides 3 enterprise virtual world environments that I’d classify as virtual collaboration: collaboration spaces, boardrooms (meeting rooms), and theatres (see details in the slideshow below or the YouTube video).

It looks like neat stuff to me.  And from what I can tell, there’s no cost to Sametime users to add this since OpenSimulator and the SecondLife client are free.  Even though this has moved from research to general availability, I still consider it an experiment.  Now is when early adopters can start playing around with this, find good uses, and report their stories back to start assembling a business case.  I haven’t had a chance yet to read the “Business Value Study” they reference. From my research last year, the best business cases were around rehearsal and training, not virtual collaboration, but I look forward to seeing what they came up with once I get past Catalyst season.

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

Two Spots to Address E-mail Overload Suggestions

June 13, 2009 at 6:41 pm | Posted in Attention Management, email, IBM, Information Work | 1 Comment

In my last posting I listed 15 ideas for improving the attentional characteristics of e-mail (in other words, addressing “email overload” or “inbox overload”).  There are now a couple of efforts underway to describe how these ideas are currently or can be applied to popular e-mail clients.

First, Ed Brill of IBM picked up the gauntlet and summoned Lotus users to describe “which of these attention management issues you’ve addressed in your e-mail environment.”  I’ve been both a Notes and Outlook user and suspect Notes will fare a bit better when measured against an enterprise attention management yardstick.  I’m interested to see what Ed’s readers can tell about their environments.

And Jack Vinson of the Knowledge Jolt blog has created a wiki to track which e-mail products can meet these requirements and which cannot.  I encourage any and all e-mail experts to peruse the table and update it with information on how to accomplish these attention shielding tasks in each e-mail client. 

BTW – I think it’s important to note how difficult it would be to accomplish these modifications: default, one-click (contextual option the user can easily find and select), multiple clicks (buried in option lists; requires some assembly), third party solution, or programmatic.

When IBM Was Faced With 2 Options, They Picked #3

May 19, 2009 at 3:58 pm | Posted in IBM, Microsoft SharePoint, Notes/Domino, social software | Leave a comment

Good posting from Mike Gotta on IBM’s nice, but too late integration point between Connections and SharePoint.  Mike says that if he was picking directions for IBM he would have “prioritized deep integration with SharePoint”.  I agree entirely. 

Actually, as I mentioned in previous blog posts (like here and here) I think there were two angles to explore and IBM picked #3.  #1 is the “insanely great integration” that Mike describes.  #2 is a compete strategy if they think their social software is good enough to go head to head against SharePoint and knock it out of the running. 

What I do not feel was a real option was the “don’t say anything” option, also known as “wait and see” or “I’m sure clients will include us on head-to-head comparisons and POCs and figure it out themselves”.  Or “pretend Jive is your only competition”.  That’s option #3 and a non-starter in my book.

So I’m happy to see some effort coming out of IBM to address coexistence strategy, but I would like to see a more comprehensive strategy with technology, sales awareness, and marketing push (e.g., catchphrase and branding such as ConnectPoint, brochures, maybe even a sliver of the Lotus advertising budget) behind it.  If it’s not too late to pull that together.

Oracle Enters Beehive in Collaboration Tournament

May 4, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Posted in collaboration, IBM, Microsoft SharePoint, Oracle | 1 Comment

Oracle announced its release of Beehive 1.5 today.  They are hoping that a technology refresh of the Beehive collaboration assets (along with additional assets acquired along with BEA) can give Oracle another shot at the collaboration market after the moribund Oracle Collaboration Server has fizzled. 

The announcement comes at a good quiet spot between IBM’s collaboration announcements at Lotusphere in January and Microsoft’s announcements on SharePoint 2010 that will probably come to a peak at their conference in October. Likewise, its most attractive feature is that its platform and standards offer an alternative to a Microsoft stack (Windows Server, SQL Server, SharePoint) and an IBM stack (Notes/Domino and/or Quickr+Connections with WebSphere).  Beehive offers more standards than you can shake a stick at (although I don’t recommend shaking sticks at beehives generally): WebDAV, IMAP/SMTP, JSR 170 for content repository access, XMPP for IM and presence, LDAP or AD for directory, and JMX for management.  You can use Solaris, Windows Server, or Linux for the serve and any development tool desired.  From a technology point of view its appeal is likely to be based on architectural decisions about what standards and stack an organization wants to embrace (or stay away from).

But technology aside, the key for Oracle (as always) is whether they can utilize their channel to sell this stuff and whether organizations can be persuaded to pay real money for it after previous false starts.  In the past, Oracle hasn’t had much voice left to talk about collaboration and portal after yelling about database and ERP.  But since the Stellent acquisition, content management has been a bright spot for them and I think it has changed some minds. 

Personally, I want to see the collaboration market stay competitive.  End users win when vendors compete hard on features, quality, and pricing.  Lately it seems like Microsoft SharePoint has gotten a lion’s share of attention from organizations.  Microsoft has been the main attraction at this tournament  and I’m glad to see Oracle showing up to play.  IBM Lotus still feels to me like they haven’t shown up to the tournament and are setting up a parallel exhibition match for the same sport in another part of town.  They didn’t mention SharePoint by name in the Lotusphere main tent (although it was clear who they were talking about and Jive got a mention). But as an analyst I’m like an unaligned spectator at a sporting event – you just want to see a diverse set of skillful challengers compete really well and bring up the level of play.

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog

Vendor Conferences: Preaching to the Faithful (and the Press)

April 21, 2009 at 8:01 am | Posted in IBM, Lotusphere2009, Notes/Domino | 1 Comment

I had an interesting discussion with Bob Picciano and Ed Brill of IBM Lotus about big name vendor conferences like Lotusphere while they were in Chicago for Lotusphere Comes to You.  It seems to me that one of the ironies of the success of Lotusphere is that Lotusphere is not the best place to make game-changing announcements about Lotus.  The people that go to Lotusphere – a sea of yellow shirts (and sometimes hair) that IBM says broke attendance records this year – are the Lotus faithful. They already like Notes/Domino and have dedicated years of their life to it.  If they weren’t interested in Lotus, they wouldn’t be there. 

But when you’re in a saturated market (which the developed economy large enterprise e-mail market is), you can only gain market share by taking it from your competitors, so how do you get them to listen and what do you tell them?  Messages that resonate with the faithful (removing hassles, UI beautification, and incremental feature improvement) don’t resonate as well with prospects.  Prospective buyers don’t want to hear about eliminating redundant attachment storage (which I’m sure got a standing ovation).  They want to hear why something has strategically changed versus their current point of reference which impels them to reconsider their position.  This often involves hitting at soft spots in the competitor’s armor that the faithful may not care as much about.  Better Quickr and Connections integration, for example, is a minor point to current users but has a more strategic edge when used to provide a better apples-to-apples comparison against Microsoft SharePoint.

This isn’t an IBM issue – it is the same for any vendor that holds conferences and needs to prioritize messages for current customers against those that attract new ones.  But some other vendors have the advantage of broader conferences that allow for more cross-selling, such as OracleWorld where a database faithful can get pounded with a portal and collaboration or business process management message at 120db and possibly walk away with something new to think about.

Accordingly, IBM made a great move when they spoke at MacWorld, speaking to a huge audience of prospects that offer a real chance to steal marketshare.  Bob also recited several other non-IBM events they had spoken at.  I think this is the right path for hitting a new set of ears.

Good-bye to Metaverse Evangelists

March 2, 2009 at 8:59 am | Posted in IBM, virtual worlds | Leave a comment

The Silicon Alley Insider reported today that Ian Hughes, “IBM’s ‘Metaverse Evangelist’ and point man for all things IBM and Second Life” has resigned.  The article doesn’t mention there was a second chap at IBM with that title as well: Roo Reynolds.  Roo resigned on August 18th. The article then questions IBM’s ongoing commitment to Second Life (which was surprisingly strong).  I’ll agree, this does seem be turning down the volume on their virtual world involvement.  Especially compared to when they cranked up the volume in 2006 (for example, see “MEDIA ALERT: IBM Expands Its Virtual Worlds Initiatives With a First-of-Its-Kind Virtual Block Party in Second Life“).

Last year, Roo told me that the title of “metaverse evangelist” wasn’t really an evangelist to the general public as often assumed.  It was mostly to be an internal evangelist within IBM to convince and help the myriad groups within IBM to use virtual world technology (not exclusively Second Life).  This is a common modus operandi for IBM.  I’ve seen them set up horizontal evangelists with Java and XML as well.  By having an internal evangelist, various groups get exposure to a top mind in the field.  As a sample result, Lotusphere this year had several virtual world projects on display.

I agree with the article that this is a data point for the deflation of the fad part of virtual world’s popularity.  There’s still a real part of their popularity as well that won’t be affected by this and will continue to grow over time based on actual use of the technology. It’s just a shame that my son won’t have the opportunity to grow up to have what was frequently hailed as the “best job” to have: metaverse evangelist. 

What I Am Looking for Out of Lotusphere 2009

January 19, 2009 at 10:22 am | Posted in collaboration, IBM, Lotusphere2009, Microsoft SharePoint, Notes/Domino | 1 Comment

While I’m freezing here in Chicago and looking at the pictures of arriving conference goers in shorts squinting in the sun, my significantly warmer CCS teammates Guy Creese and Bill Pray are in Orlando at Lotusphere 2009.  They will be writing blog posts from Orlando as events occur, but here’s an opening set of thoughts from me about what I am looking for out of the Lotusphere 2009 announcements and what comes out of the sessions (and Guy and Bill’s meetings with IBM execs).

  • The overall question every year for me is whether Lotus can gain upward momentum in our target market – large organizations in developed countries
  • Is there a 3+ yr strategy or vision apparent in the messages? Or is it, like previous years, a big, long, unprioritized list of features, branding, and acquisitions.  To simplify a message you have to know your audience, so this is a proxy for asking whether Lotus has identified its target market for new client acquisition and a clear strategy to attack it
  • In talking with the rest of the CCS team about the upcoming Lotusphere, we bounced around the idea that maybe Lotusphere isn’t the right place to make strategic IBM Lotus announcements. Kinda ironic given the title of the conference, but it really is meant for the Lotus faithful, and particularly the techies (admins, developers) among them. It’s all just preaching to the converted. Maybe that’s why the MacWorld announcement got so much attention – to gain marketshare they have to convey a message to those not among the faithful, and those people won’t be at Lotusphere.
  • Will Bluehouse finally include email, the first priority for SMBs wanting SaaS communication and collaboration?
  • What are the new growth figures for Notes/Domino and its new cousins Quickr/Connections?
  • What’s new with the SaaS strategy?
  • What is the SharePoint compete strategy?  What is the SharePoint coexistence strategy?  SharePoint has been growing like a weed on their home turf and to this point we’ve heard no marketplace messaging on how to compete with it or live with it.  To date the answers out of IBM have been conversationally pointing out where IBM is better (e.g., social software, UC) or why Microsoft sucks.  But a verbal script plus labeling your competitor’s customers as morons doesn’t equal a strategy.
  • How has the messaging for portal evolved as portals are subsumed into the superplatform and mashups are sprouting up everywhere?

This promises to be a make-or-break Lotusphere and I’m interested to hear what comes out of Orlando. 

Note: This is a cross-posting from the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

JSR 286 Grows Up

August 1, 2008 at 8:00 am | Posted in BEA, IBM, Oracle, portals, SAP | Leave a comment

A belated congratulations to the JSR 286 group, which went into final release in June. You can get the details here.  Good job to Stefan Hepper of IBM, the specification lead, who must have had a tough time herding the cats on this one.  Right out of the gate it’s good to see JSR 286 getting some attention from the portal vendors. 

Of course it’s been in development for quite some time.  When JSR 168 was being created a number of enhancements were shifted to JSR 286 to keep from slowing down the original portal spec’s ratification. The most important features of JSR 286 are inter-portlet communication (IPC) and alignment with the ongoing work on Web Services for Remote Portlets 2.0 (WSRP 2.0).

Vendor support has been promised soon as well (or is already here in the case of IBM). 

  • IBM quickly announced support in for WebSphere Portal 6.1 (as well as for WSRP 2.0).  Way to track the standards guys!
  • Oracle’s ALUI and Oracle Portal don’t have support yet.  I’m told Oracle Portal may get it in 11gR1 release or later
  • JBoss (Red Hat ditched its own portal in favor of the JBoss portal after acquiring JBoss) is promising support in Version 2.7, due out in Q3 2008 according to CMS Watch.
  • A document from someone at SAP coldly stated that “SAP supports and actively participates in this new standard as EG member. As this specification is in draft version, it is not supported in NW CE.”  I checked with my contacts at SAP and was told that JSR 286 is currently in scope for NetWeaver 7.0 Enhancement Pack 2, which is expected around October.  I also noticed they did not vote on the standard.  I wondered if this was a sign of lack of interest or a passive way to vote “no”, but their analyst relations staff said it was in fact because their committee representative was in the hospital. 

My guidance to portal architects though is to consider bypassing JSR 168 or 286 portlets and even WSRP and focus on creating web services for information that they want to expose.  Once the data portion is available as a web service, any decent portal product can create a quickie portlet (maybe in JSR 168 or some proprietary format) from the WSDL of the web service so it can be used in a portal.  And then you have the option of leveraging that interface through non-portal mechanisms as well.

I should mention JSR 301 here as well.  Presentation models have changed since the original JSR 168 specification was created. JavaServer Faces (JSF), the most significant of the presentation models for Java and has spawned many proprietary and open source attempts to transform JSF interfaces into JSR 168 portlets. The JSR 301 specification is only in its early stages, but promises to standardize these bridging mechanisms. No solid word yet on what that’s coming though.

Lotusphere Fini

January 26, 2008 at 2:45 pm | Posted in collaboration, IBM, Lotusphere2008, portals | Leave a comment

I’m done with my Lotusphere postings for now.  I posted my notes from days 1, 2, and 3 in this blog and described what I saw in the Innovation Lab and my overall impressions at the Collaboration and Content Strategies blog.

Make sure you also check out the personal blogs from my teammates Guy Creese, Mike Gotta, and Karen Hobert who also had good posts on Lotusphere.

I’ll leave you with this final shot of the orchestra onstage playing Kashmir for the opening session.

Lotusphere 2008 alarm

Lotusphere 2008 – Day 3

January 24, 2008 at 3:12 pm | Posted in collaboration, IBM, Lotusphere2008, social software | Leave a comment

I’m headed to the airport now (so no day 4+ postings from me), but here’s what I heard at the Social Computing Keynote before leaving Lotusphere.

Social Computing Keynote

I’ve noticed that Web 2.0 zealots often distinguish themselves by their evangelical zeal, tying broad sweeps of history to the fundamental nature of man; characterizing social software not as just something you should do, but something that people inherently yearn for, like democracy.  Look through these Web 2.0 binoculars and you can see coming a tidal wave of Facebooking, twittering young millenials that will crash upon the shores of the Enterprise, destroying existing siloed structures and washing old, unprepared, beached whales away.

I consider myself a Web 2.0 advocate, although not a zealot.  Learning how to apply these principles to existing structures will be the key to successful adoption for organizations that are not able to blow up what they have and start again.  This keynote on social computing worried me a bit at first by starting way up in the clouds (more like in the stratosphere), but then got closer to reality, and eventually poked a little fun at empty rhetoric and brought it down safely to Earth.

But first, Jeff Schick started out at the stratospheric level.  Phrases washed over me such as “Collaboration is how we hunted and raised villages” … “we collaborate better than any other animal” (actually I think ants may have us beat and they don’t complain as much) … “the forward march of civilization” … “epic sagas helped us to transmit knowledge over time” … “we transcend time and distance as we work together”

Whew!  But just when the oxygen was getting a little thin up there he started bringing it closer to Earth.  He talked about the need to have a common repository across content management and collaboration, alluding to some upcoming integration with FileNET. 

Next he brought up a set of customers to bring the higher level goals down to real life with good examples of how pilot programs for Notes, Quickr, and Connections can make a real difference. These are new products, so it’s hard to establish a track record quite yet, but these were useful examples including Teach for America, Bank of New York Mellon, Rheinmetal, and Colgate-Palmolive.

Then came Innovation Idol.  It was a cute way to give a few over the top humorous examples of social computing followed by some real demos of business-relevant functionality. 

I think that since Microsoft stumbled with KN, Lotus really has a point they can hammer home about actual, delivering social computing products.  They did a good job of this at the conference and in this keynote, spanning the high-level guru talk that some people still need to hear and the practical applications that others now need.

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