» Archive for January, 2008

Lotusphere: Yellow is the New Black

Friday, January 25th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

This week was the 15th annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida.  It was my 15th as well, although my count includes three Lotuspheres in Europe.

IBM unleashed a fire hose of announcements at the opening general session.  We’ll try to walk through the most interesting ones here.  It’s a lot of material but you should read through it regardless of whether you use mostly IBM tools or mostly Microsoft tools as there are implications here for all.

One memorable moment from the conference’s opening session: Mike Rhodin,  the general manager of Lotus Software, aped Steve Job’s keynote from MacWorld in which Jobs introduced the MacBook Air by pulling it out of an envelope.  Rhodin pulled the new (and very yellow) Lotus Foundations server out of an envelope.

Lotus Notes and Domino 8.0.1
While this may sound like an insignificant maintenance release, it most definitely isn’t.  There are some significant enhancements to be found in it.  (Of course, the move from dot-zero usually allows companies to start deploying the new version as many of them are allergic to dot-zero releases.)

8.0.1 includes several significant updates including My Widgets and Traveler.  My Widgets (which some, including IBM execs, call a Web 2.0 feature) uses a technology called Live Text that identifies patterns and phrases and associates them with an appropriate widget. (Live Text is similar to what Microsoft calls Smart Tags.)  One example would be the recognition of an address within an e-mail message and the ability to automatically display directions from the recipient’s location to that address.

Another example is retrieving real-time flight information by clicking on a flight number in an e-mail or itinerary.  Knowledge workers can add (via drag-and-drop) an almost unlimited number of widgets including Google Gadgets, feeds, Web pages, or custom programs to the widgets panel in the Lotus Notes sidebar.

8.0.1 also includes Domino Web Access Lite.  This is a browser-based e-mail client optimized for low bandwidth environments.  It’s AJAX based and includes in-line spell check, rich editing, and Google Maps integration.  The standard version of Domino Web Access has a much faster startup time.  Finally, 8.0.1 adds 35% compression for mail files.  Lotus is introducing some compression with 8.0.1 and further compression with 8.5 (see below).

Lotus Notes Traveler is a very cool client for Windows Mobile devices that provides automatic, real-time replication of e-mail (including attachments, calendar, contacts, etc.) to the mobile device.

Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5
8.0.1 may be hot off the press but IBM is not sitting still.  Notes and Domino 8.5 will support AJAX, style sheets, and RSS or Atom feeds.  It also supports better ID management, compression technologies that can reduce storage requirements by up to 35% for attachments on Domino servers, and also reduce overall disk space requirements for databases by up to 35%.  Lotus will also update templates for discussion databases and document libraries and introduce Domino Designer 8.5, the first Designer client based on the Eclipse and Lotus Expeditor frameworks.  This will provide a full palette of AJAX-based controls that you can drag-and-drop directly into Notes and Domino applications.

Lotus Protector
IBM wouldn’t skimp on naming, this is really called IBM Lotus Protector for Mail Security, but what’s key here is that this is a hardware appliance (in bright yellow) that provides virus and spam protection through the IBM Proventia Network Mail Security System.  Protector also uses IBM Internet Security Systems’ threat mitigation and information security technologies and the IBM ISS X-Force research and development team played a significant role here.

Beta 4 of IBM’s desktop productivity tools, based on an open programming model, will be available by the end of this month.  The new beta allows software vendors to connect documents to applications; documents can access and manage applications such as the issuance of a shipping order or an invoice directly from a spreadsheet.  Information flows both ways; inventory data can pass into Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets for analysis.

Companies will be able to use the workflow inherent in Notes in conjunction with composite apps that are built using the Symphony tools.

IBM is making available a series of plug-ins including IBM Lotus Sametime Unyte Meeting, Lotus Sametime Unyte Share, and IBM WebSphere Translation Server on the Symphony community Web site.

IBM Applications on Demand for Lotus Notes
IBM Applications on Demand for Lotus Notes provides a hosted and managed environment for Notes and Domino as well as Sametime, Lotus Connections, and Lotus Quickr tools.

IBM Lotus Mashups
Mashups allows knowledge workers to create enterprise mashups such as ad hoc visualizations created by blending information or data from both enterprise repositories and the Web.

It includes a browser-based tool for mashup creation; ready-for-use widgets; a catalog for sharing and locating additional widgets and mashups; a builder for the creation of widgets that can access enterprise systems.

IBM Lotus Connections 2.0
The new version of Connections features a new home page built using Lotus mashup technology which aggregates and filters social data from the five Connections services, namely Profiles, Communities, Blogs, Dogear, and Activities.  This allows knowledge workers to see what’s new across their professional networks and find the information they need to finish projects.

Lotus has also enhanced the community component of Connections with discussion forums and the ability to link to various wikis including Lotus Quickr, SocialText, and Atlassian.

IBM Lotus Quickr 8.1
Lotus Quickr is IBM’s Collaborative Business Environment for teams.  The new version adds content libraries, team discussion forums, Weblogs, wikis, and new connectors to information sources.  IBM will release Lotus Quickr Entry, which will serve as a entry-level version of the platform.  IBM Also announced plans to integrate Quickr with various enterprise content management systems such as IBM FileNet P8 and IBM Content Manager.

Lotus Foundations
IBM hasn’t focused on smaller organizations, which it defines as businesses with five to 500 employees, in years.  Lotus Foundations is intended to be a line of Linux-powered software servers that are offered through IBM Business Partners.

IBM is counting on simplicity – the server software will require little technical expertise and will be autonomic – to appeal to this audience.  This means it should install without requiring an IT department to deploy and administer it.  The first Foundations offering will be a server with the Lotus Domino mail and collaboration platform, file management, directory services, firewall, backup and recovery, and office productivity tools pre-installed.

A key component of Foundations comes out of IBM’s acquisition last week of Net Integration Technologies, a privately-held company that provides a simplified business server software solution for small businesses.  It’s not a coincidence that the company’s platform supports e-mail, file management, directory services, back-up and recovery, and office productivity tools.

IBM and SAP announced a joint offering, code-named “Atlantic.”  Atlantic will integrate information from the SAP Business Suite into the Lotus Notes client, allowing knowledge workers to remain in one environment for more of their work.

Another interesting if somewhat amorphous announcement was the beta of a Web-delivered service with the code name “Bluehouse.”  Bluehouse provides extranet services (file sharing, instant messaging, social networking, Web conferencing, and project management) that allow smaller companies to collaborate with one another.

Lotus Open Collaboration Client Solution
IBM will offer an integrated Lotus Open Collaboration Client Solution with support for Ubuntu, a Linux-based operating system from Canonical.  Ubuntu is popular for thin-client and desktop/laptop applications (as opposed to servers).  The client is based on Lotus Notes 8 and Lotus Symphony.  The client supports e-mail, calendar, unified communications, as well as word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation capabilities that support the Open Document Format (ODF).  It’s built on Lotus Expeditor, which is based on the open source Eclipse Rich Client Platform.

Full support for Ubuntu within Lotus Notes and Lotus Symphony is planned with Lotus Notes 8.5 in the second half of 2008.  The Lotus Symphony office productivity suite is included with Lotus Notes 8 and is also available as a separate download, at no additional charge.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Help! I am Drowning in a Sea of Information

Friday, January 18th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Hundreds of knowledge workers attended our first InfoBasex online event, “Information Overload Strategies,” yesterday.  Attendees (with titles ranging from president to product marketing manager to professor) came from companies of all sizes including IBM, Siemens, SAP, Citibank, American Express, Price Waterhouse, FranklinCovey, H-P, Jive Software, Deloitte, Consumers Union, Open Text, and Pratt and Whitney, just to name a few to point out the breadth and depth of attendees.

I wanted to share with you some comments and insights from the participants about why they attended and how information overload impacts them.

Why they came

Attendees were looking to find out:

  • how to manage [the problem of information overload]
  • new ideas
  • [It's a] daily challenge
  • strategies for better working practices
  • [how to] receive only what is accurate, timely, useful
  • [what is its] impact on strategic thinking

They stated:

  • “It’s personal AND professional–overwhelmed in both areas!”
  • “I have information overload…”
  • “Personal and professional.  Information Overload affects me, and I also see this as a major issue for knowledge workers in general.”
  • “I suffer from it.” (executive at Fortune 500 IT firm)

Regarding the problem as it concerns their organizations: ” [it's] a major challenge for us.”

One attendee’s job revolves around “developing objective measures of information complexity.”

Another noted a thought that could have come straight out of our research:
“I feel strongly that knowledge workers have not been trained properly to work in these times and that information overload is an outcome of this lack of training, as well as several other factors.”

Two comments stood out and we hope that we were able to throw a life preserver in their direction:

  • “I am deluged by everything I receive and things I read and research. Help!!!”
  • “I am swimming in a sea of info.  Need strategies to save and retrieve information on demand.”

I’ll leave you with this comment in conclusion: Information Overload is real, we live with it everyday and need to manage it.”  I heartily agree.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Did 1997 Stand Still? Looking Forward While Looking Back

Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

In preparing our annual State of the Technology Industries diatribe, I thought to look back at what I penned one year ago.  It seems that, in many respects, time stood still.  Imposssible, you say.  The industry now moves on Internet Time.  Let me clarify:  the industry did indeed make tremendous progress.  But that seems to have occurred despite itself.  This year, we are changing our perspective: rather than go company by company, we look to the The Desktop to ease us into the year.  In a related article, we’ll review our 1997 musings and see how things panned out.

The desktop computer is perhaps the most important interface that one has, and will continue to have, over the next few years.  Despite promises of body-networks and the like, the average computer user will sit himself before a computer workstation and be saddled with its brief but illustrious user interface history.  With the court’s permission, 1998 should see the advent of Windows 98 and NT 5.0.  For starters, limited self-healing features and self-administration with the attraction of multi-user Windows may make for a more centralized and more easily managed environment (read: significantly lower costs for both hardware maintenance and support).  Both OSes will benefit from a common addressing scheme for hardware, the Windows Driver Model, making upgrades from Windows 98 to NT 5.0 a possibility.  [The most recent Windows 98 beta that arrived at my desk hinted that it has a Windows 3.x migration facility; unfortunately, I don't have any Windows 3.x machines left to try this out on that would support Windows 98's hardware requirements).

1998 will also be a make-or-break year for Java, which is the apparent main alternative to Windows.  A new Java Development Kit (JDK), combined with significant recent product introductions showing a committment to the platform (Lotus' eSuite for one) may signify that Java is now ready for prime time.

For Apple, 1998 may be a true crossroads.  Rhapsody, its multithreaded, multi-tasking, cross-platform OS, will offer developers yet a third alternative to Windows.  Although Rhapsody does not pretend to achieve Java universality, its ability to run on Intel, PowerPC and Alpha will be a plus, since its development environment also runs under NT.  Will the wait Be worth it?  Or will Mac users flock to Be insead of waiting?

Will the hardware be up to the challenge?  Memory prices continue to decrease dramatically, making the possibility of 128 Mbyte workstations reality for some.  [Of course software developers are aware of this and already seem to be increasing minimum memory requirements without recognition that the installed user base of machines has yet to upgrade to 32 Mbytes.]  Intel continues to offer its Motherboard-of-the Month Club option and one of these days the underlying architecture will catch up to the speed of today’s supersonic microprocessors [didn't we say that when 80386's were introduced as well?].

1998 should also be a do-or-die year for diskless network computers and their variants.  Will these turn out to be cheaper and more easily managed the their larger PC cousins?  Or will they turn out to only be a (significant) 3270 upgrade path?

So what’s missing in the Desktop Environment.  Ah, yes.  Bandwidth.  Coming this year:
Gigabit Ethernet at a pricepoint that is implementable
Rotorouter for the Router – better intelligent switching to eliminate bottlenecks
One agreed-upon standard for 56 Kbps modems (ok, this is wishful thinking but we better agree on something before 56 becomes too slow)


1998 should be the year of what we at The Basex Group have named the “Virtual Corporate Community”.  Wipe that smirk off your face:  the picture you should have in your mind right now is not a bunch of funny-looking avatars lurking in The Palace talking about politics or sex.   To learn more about this phenomenon, please click here.

Did 1997 really stand still?  Of course not.  1997 was a year for clarification and regrouping.  But the future picture is much brighter.

Jonathan B. Spira is the CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.  This article originally appeared in the Basex Online Journal of Industry and Commerce (BOJIC).

1993: When Life was Much Simpler

Friday, January 11th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

Someone recently mentioned an interview I had done on CNBC, back in 1993.  It was about time management.  Reading an excerpt from the interview transcript in light of the problem we face today of information overload is telling,

CNBC reporter: It’s not just meetings that are taking up a ton of time, there’s also a problem with mail.  And in this day and age, mail means e-mail.  You think you’re busy?  Consultant Jonathan Spira can get 150 e-mails a day!

Spira: It can be just overwhelming because you don’t want to have a really important one that sneaks in that doesn’t get addressed.

CNBC reporter: Here is his answer to the problem.  He uses an electronic filter built into Lotus Notes that prioritizes his e-mail.  Mail from certain people goes into a priority file, while others go to the lesser priority files he reads at his leisure.

I guess I yearn for a time when I only received 150 e-mails per day.  Nowadays, one can get 150 e-mails before noon.  That trick of prioritizing e-mail that I used to use?  Doesn’t work today.  One trend I’ve noticed with my e-mail is that there are so many senders who have legitimate reasons to send me an e-mail, I couldn’t possibly whitelist them all.

One vast improvement in my Lotus Notes inbox, contrasted with the 1993 version, is the use of visual clues associated with e-mail such as the blue dot that is solid if the e-mail is addressed only to me, half full if the e-mail is addressed to me and one other person, and the outline of a circle if there are multiple recipients.  I can easily zoom in on “blue” mail as the likelihood is far greater that it’s something I need to look at.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

Information Overload – The Answer for 2008 May be As Simple As Hot Chocolate

Friday, January 4th, 2008 by Jonathan Spira

I thought the period around New Year’s Day would be quiet.  I would finally catch up on some long-standing projects and perhaps even take a few hours off.  The New York Times and AP stories about our twist on the person or product of the year, naming Information Overload as the 2008 Problem-of-the-Year, pretty much guaranteed that would not be the case.

We certainly struck a nerve.  But don’t let that stop you calling or e-mailing. Most importantly, if you haven’t yet, please take our New Workplace Challenges survey.

Other stories have followed on CNN, NPR, ABC, and Fox Business News, and dozens of bloggers have been writing about this, many of them identifying with the problem and wondering what to do about it.

In the meantime, I’ve been studying your responses in our New Workplace Challenges survey.

We’ve gotten hundreds of responses thus far and it will take us a while to analyze the data and discern patterns, but there were a few responses to a question about dealing with meeting strict deadlines that I feel should be discussed.

While a lot of people simply “disconnect,” here is what a few others had to say.  I think these folks are onto something here.
- “I decline meetings to which I am not a primary decision-maker.”
Good sage advice.
- “Once I used my e-mail out-of-office message to notify folks that I was “in a meeting” (with myself!) for a few hours.”
This is something I hadn’t thought of.
- “I basically ignore everything/everyone until [a project or task] is done.”
Usually good advice.
- “I set goals for time use.”
Hard to do sometimes.
- “I hide from family [and] co-workers where I will not be found/disturbed (coffee shops, basement, someone else’s office/desk work well).”
More and more people indicated the need to “hide” but this respondent gave advice as to where one could hide.

And my favorite
“Usually I will (and don’t laugh) get comfortable – this time of year – fuzzy slippers, loose sweatshirt etc, cup of hot chocolate, favorite tunes on the iPod!”

For me, I think the hot chocolate will do just fine.

If you haven’t yet taken the survey, please click here.  Survey takers are eligible to enter a drawing to win a Palm Treo 750 with Windows Mobile 6.

Please take the survey today and feel free to share this link with colleagues.  The more input we get via the survey, the more we can do to solve the problem of Information Overload together.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.