» Archive for August, 2006

IBM’s New Workplace (Part II)

Monday, August 7th, 2006 by Jonathan Spira


This is the second of a two-part look at IBM Workplace.  Click here for part one.

IBM Workplace is not something you can buy; rather, you have to buy into IBM’s vision for a strategy and vision that is predicated upon delivering role-based clients that include collaborative tools.  IBM sees the Workplace concept as eventually permeating all of its collaboration and knowledge sharing offerings.  In the meantime, however, customers will purchase either IBM Lotus Notes/Domino or IBM WebSphere Portal Server.  Both are part and parcel of Workplace and are starting points on the road to the IBM Workplace vision.

The dynamic nature of the Workplace offerings (Notes and Portal) allows knowledge workers better customization when using the software.  As a result, customers are able to get what they are looking for depending on the overarching platform they are using.  Knowledge workers running Lotus Notes can depend on the Workplace strategy in order to provide a true Collaborative Business Environment.  Knowledge workers operating WebSphere Portal use Workplace to access a composite application framework and to unify content applications.  Also with WebSphere, knowledge workers are integrated with the Domino Server as a back-end mail server while also receiving the benefits of Workplace services such as realtime communication, workflow, and content management.  All of these products are integrated, which allows for easy interoperability and consistency – a cornerstone within the Workplace strategy.  IBM realizes the need for companies to capture and utilize their knowledge is unprecedented, and the solution lies within the strategy of the software rather than the title.  Workplace is the epitome of IBM’s collaborative strategy and will serve as a guiding vision for years to come.

Workplace is also an excellent example of IBM’s SOA philosophy.  On top of that, Workplace functions in accordance with the ODF standards.  The ODF standard was recently ratified at the end of last year by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) and will provide consistency and growth for future platforms.

ODF is an XML-based document file format that allows end users to edit and create documents, regardless of the application vendor.  ODF offers consumers a choice between itself and proprietary document formats found in Microsoft Office components.  The openness of the ODF means that, unlike Microsoft, IBM’s product is interoperable with a variety of software; ODF can operate within its own format as well as within Microsoft Office or earlier versions of OpenOffice.  The fact that IBM adopts the ODF is promising for knowledge workers needing to communicate with a wide variety of companies that may or may not have IBM or ODF products.  ODF also ensures that companies will have more consistency and accessibility within their own documents.  The inclusion of ODF within a Collaborative Business Environment allows companies to make decisions based on business requirements, notwithstanding the vendor of the platform or the format of the software.

Workplace is designed around IBM’s activity-centric computing methodology.  What this means is that the platform is organized around activities performed rather than tools used.  In order to do this, Workplace provides an “activity thread,” which is an ongoing log of the sequence of interactions between employees on a project or among a team of employees working toward a common goal.  By providing this information, the technology takes care of the organizing and sorting of the relevant material so employees can reach a goal faster and more effectively.

The “activity explorer” program is the first tangible expression of the activity-centric philosophy.  The activity explorer allows knowledge workers to create, perform, track, and save their progress within the threads concept.  Knowledge workers create a document and share it with other employees working on the same project.  From there, employees can reply to the document with work of their own.  The activity explorer keeps a log of this activity so that progress is visible; it also has a presence awareness feature so employees can see who is viewing which document and what changes are being made.  The activity explorer also provides such options as shared computer screens, resembling the features of electronic whiteboards.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst of Basex.