Another January and another trip to Orlando for what was this time a very rainy edition of IBM Connect, formerly known as Lotusphere. So what were this year’s product highlights? (I’m planning to tell you about a lot more than the products.) Well, this year they addressed three areas in particular: HR solutions with IBM’s Kenexa Talent Suite, Digital Experience enhancements and integration features, and last but not least, Mail Next, an exciting new addition to IBM’s collaboration portfolio.
IBM’s Mail Next was perhaps the most exciting announcement and was greeted with enthusiasm by visitors. With Mail Next, IBM is presenting a revolutionary new e-mail client, and when I say revolutionary, I really mean it. For far too long, we’ve sorted e-mails and dragged them into folders, only to look for them and never find them again. Now IBM is showing that it doesn’t need to be that way. IBM Mail Next helps users manage this deluge of information by showing messages in context with relevant information from other sources, such as social media channels and other repositories.
IBM achieves this by harnessing the analytic capabilities of the IBM cloud – a treasure trove that no other email or collaboration solutions provider has matched in terms of scope. Analytics are used to bundle and sort information, which is then presented in an innovative user interface specially designed for tablet users. The plan is to transfer this design to conventional email clients too. The new UI certainly has the wow factor down. Design and user-friendliness are two of IBM’s strengths and they are evident in abundance here. The work being done in IBM’s new Design Centers is certainly beginning to pay off. IBM Mail Next is not a new email server; it’s based on the Domino server that has more than proven itself in terms of stability and security. The first beta versions will be available in the cloud in 2014, and they say the product release will happen in 2015.
This Mail Next announcement somewhat overshadowed other exciting new developments and pushed them into the background. In the digital experience, portal and web content management arena, there were a whole range of enhancements and new possibilities for integration. They were all aimed at helping customers shape and optimize their own digital presence. For example, IBM’s commerce and automated marketing products will now be more tightly integrated into the portal. Web Analytics is also being used to optimize click patterns and, as a result, website design. Used in combination with Worklight, it also enables users to create high-performance mobile apps. The enhancements are often in the details. However, IBM also said clearly that it wants to move more and more of these functions to the cloud, in order to keep complex backends away from customers, enabling them to create user-friendly digital solutions for the Web and mobile devices. These new solutions are aimed more at marketing departments than IT departments.
Finally, another focus at IBM Connect was personnel and HR. At the conference, IBM presented its Kenexa Talent Suite – a solution that allows HR departments to manage everything from recruitment to onboarding to rolling employee development and talent development. The suite is available as a SaaS solution in the cloud. It integrates IBM Connections and its social functions, and it uses IBM Watson to analyze employee data and trends. IBM Connections enables employees to connect with each other, share information and use communities, while Watson provides detailed analyses of employee-related data.
The latest major IT trends – mobile, clouds, big data and analytics – were everywhere at IBM Connect, and it was clear that they should be considered together rather than separately. IBM’s overarching strategy builds on them and integrates them into its various solutions – from Smarter Commerce, Smarter Analytics and Smarter Cities to Watson Solutions and Smarter Workforce. The cloud is the delivery model of the future. All solutions need to be available on mobile devices. Social functions drive interaction and collaboration across all types of solutions, and Analytics and Watson are increasingly providing these solutions with the intelligence they need to use big data productively.
This trend was also reflected at IBM Connect, formerly known as Lotusphere. The event is no longer a conference for nerdy programmers; it is an important event for HR managers, marketers, “line of business” and IT. The conference makes a conscious effort to bridge the gap between all these target groups, while continuing to provide all the (once yellow-clad) techies and developers with a worthwhile program and, above all, an ideal platform for sharing experiences and ideas. As for me, IBM Connect always fills me with inspiration and energy to do the work I have in the months that follow.