» Archive for the 'Collaborative Business Environments' Category

In the briefing room: Bluenog ICE

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by Jonathan Spira and Cody Burke

Ten years ago, Basex laid the groundwork for the Collaborative Business Environment (CBE), a conceptual framework for a workspace for the knowledge worker that is now starting to supersede the traditional desktop metaphor of separate and distinct tools.  A properly designed CBE facilitates knowledge sharing and collaboration and, especially in today’s economic environment, managers are looking to technology to give their organizations a competitive advantage.

Bluenog, an enterprise software company, this week released Bluenog ICE 4.5 (ICE stands for integrated collaborative environment), the latest version of the company’s enterprise software suite.  Bluenog integrates multiple open source software projects to form the basis of its platform.  The company, through its professional services division, will further integrate ICE into an organization’s existing systems.

Bluenog ICE originally included content management, portal, and business intelligence functionality.  ICE CMS is a content management system built on Apache Cocoon, Apache Lucene, OS Workflow, TinyMCE, and HippoCMS open source projects.  ICE Portal is a portal solution that leverages Apache Portals, Apache Jetspeed-2, Apache Wicket, Adobe Flex, and Spring Source.  ICE BI provides business intelligence and reporting and is based on Eclipse BIRT and Apache Jackrabbit.

These core components have all received enhancements for the new release.  The HTML editor in ICE CMS has been replaced by the TinyMCE HTML editor and ICE BI has improved report viewing and search integration.  Also new for this release is ICE Central, a simplified central management console for all ICE components, and a propagation tool to move content, portal artifacts and configurations across environments.

These improvements are all worthy of note but what may really help organizations realize significant enterprise productivity and efficiency gains is that Bluenog added significant collaborative technology to ICE, namely ICE Wiki and ICE Calendar.  The wiki component is based on the JSPWiki, Apache Jackrabbit, Apache Lucene, and Apache FileUpload open source projects.  The wiki is accessed through an ICE portlet and features rich HTML editing page level permissions, version control, reporting on page and link usage through ICE BI, the ability to manage attachments, support for wiki markup language, and support for multiple wikis running on a single server.

Wikis are an increasingly popular tool for content management within organizations of all sizes and ICE Wiki allows non-technical knowledge workers to create, edit, and maintain content using a fairly easy-to-understand interface.

ICE Calendar is a group calendaring application based on the open source Bedework project.  Just as in ICE Wiki, the calendar is available as an ICE portlet, and enables publishing of events, workflowing of events for approval, and importing and exporting events to other iCalendar-based calendars.

Bluenog ICE falls into the category of commercial open source software.  It’s built using open source projects but sold as a commercial package.  Virtually unknown several years ago, commercial open source is becoming a popular alternative for organizations of all sizes that want the openness of open source but don’t necessarily have the skills to do the heavy lifting to deploy and integrate multiple open source projects.

We’ll be taking a look at the changes that are taking place in the content management space, including where commercial open source fits in, in a report slated for next month.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.
Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Zoho

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 by Cody Burke

It may seem obvious that the various software tools, platforms, and environments used by knowledge workers should work together, yet an examination of common tools used in the enterprise shows that this is often simply not the case.

Basex has codified the desktop metaphor of the future as a Collaborative Business Environment (CBE).  Three high-level tenets describe the ideal CBE, namely the One Environment Rule, Friction-Free Knowledge Sharing, and Embedded Community.  This workspace should provide a single integrated environment to work in, remove friction-such as extra steps in a process or application or that caused by poor tools (search platforms that regularly deliver 564,768 results are suspect), and embed community through presence awareness and integrated communication tools such as instant messaging.

For companies looking to build a CBE, there are multiple options in the market including offerings from some of the largest players including Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle.  There are however, also many smaller players that offer considerable functionality in environments comprising rudimentary CBEs.

Zoho, formerly known as AdventNet, provides Web-based desktop productivity software.  The company  has ten fully integrated productivity and collaboration applications and nine business applications available.  Modules include standard productivity software for applications such as e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, document management, wikis, and chat, as well as business applications such as CRM, Web conferencing, reporting and BI, project management, and online invoicing.  The applications are available on-demand, or for on-premises deployments with over 10,000 seats.

All the applications work together: if in the document library, a user can open a document in a tab without opening up a separate word processor.  He can also initiate a chat with the author from within the document library through integrated chat functionality that moves with the users as they shift between applications.  E-mail can be sent from within applications, without moving to the actual e-mail application.  Attachments can be viewed without opening a separate application, i.e. a Word document can be viewed in the Zoho Writer application instead of opening a separate instance of Word on the desktop.

Zoho’s compliance with the three tenets of the Collaboration Business Environment is demonstrated by the tight integration between applications and the embedded presence awareness and instant messaging functionality that extends across applications.

Zoho may not be for everyone, but its simplicity and tight integration between applications makes it worthy of consideration for companies looking simplify their collaboration and knowledge sharing environments.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex

In the briefing room: Nordic River TextFlow

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Collaboration on documents is a given in knowledge work.  Seldom will one author be the sole contributor to a document; rather, two or more knowledge workers typically come together to create the content, make edits, fact check, and finalize.

Nordic River's TextFlow visual version management software

Nordic River's TextFlow visual version management software

There are myriad pitfalls in this process ranging from lost efficiency as a document is e-mailed around for review, requiring those involved to wait their turn to edit, and to version and save conflicts when different versions of the document are inadvertently created.  Manually combining the work of multiple authors and editors into one document is a time consuming process – and definitely not a pleasant one.

To date, the greatest advancements in document collaboration have been the simple track changes and commenting functions found in most word processors.  Being able to insert comments, make edits with the original text preserved, and, through the sometimes dizzying color coding, keep track of who did what and when, makes it possible to pass documents through a workflow process and arrive at a consensus without manually comparing multiple documents and manually merging them.

However, the track changes method is far from perfect.  Its use is premised upon there being a single master copy of a document that is circulated to colleagues and editors, either as a file or via a document repository.  In either case, there is one master copy and knowledge workers take turns writing and editing in a serial fashion.

Nordic River is a Swedish company trying to change that dynamic through TextFlow, an online document collaboration tool that takes a decentralized approach to collaborative document creation.  TextFlow is browser-based, but also can be run as an Adobe AIR desktop application.

The Flash-based system lets the user drag-and-drop documents into the browser window where they are automatically merged with changes shown for approval or rejection.  The suggested changes show up inline in the document (similar to the way a traditional word processor would display tracked changes) unless they are of a larger size, in which case the changes are presented in a color coded box with options to accept, move to scrapbook, hide, and reject.

All changes are also indicated by tabs on the left side of the page that are clickable to hide or show the changes.  A box in the window shows whose documents are being merged, and this can be changed at anytime to adjust which documents are being merged.  For example, it is possible for two colleagues who are subject matter experts to have their documents merged first, and then incorporate the changes of other authors.

TextFlow also serves as a repository by hosting documents on its server that also maintains an archive and history of each document.  Documents that are created in or added to TextFlow can be put into a workflow via e-mail to colleagues and split and merged as many times as necessary.  It is not necessary to be a user of TextFlow to participate in the workflow process.  Because there is no master copy, every collaborator has a copy and can work concurrently without fear of creating version conflicts.

For companies that find themselves struggling to manage the document lifecycle, TextFlow may provide a very simple yet elegant solution that simplifies the authoring process.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the briefing room: NewsGator Social Sites

Thursday, May 14th, 2009 by Cody Burke

With hundreds of millions of regular users, social software has become a part of many knowledge workers’ daily lives – outside of the enterprise.  But the value of such tools doesn’t necessarily end at the firewall.

One vendor recognizing the potential in this space is NewsGator, a company that, in the past, has been synonymous with RSS tools.  NewsGator supports collaboration and social networking in the enterprise through its Social Sites offering, currently in version 2.7.

Social Sites is a social computing layer that is added on to Microsoft SharePoint Server 2007 deployments.  It brings social features such as Ajax-based profiles, activity feeds, community creation, and idea generation functionality to SharePoint.  Social Sites enables the users to build both internal and external communities, increases use of internal portals, and uses social networking to enhance communications within an enterprise.  All of this takes place through SharePoint, which exports data natively in RSS, making it easy for NewsGator to hook on to.

At login, Social Sites provides a personalized start page that collects information based on a variety of factors, including one’s colleagues (the Social Sites version of Facebook friends), groups and communities the user is a member of, content preferences , and projects.  The profile is customizable and during set up the system will recommend colleagues, groups, and communities based on common tags and interests.  From profiles, a user’s details, contact information, ideas that have been generated, votes for ideas, tag cloud, and content subscriptions are visible.  An activity feed appears on a user’s profile, similar to Facebook’s activity stream, which features relevant notifications, such as bookmarking by colleagues, events, community and group activity, document creation and editing, and content from outside Social Sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.  This feed can be sent out as an e-mail digest, in full or in a custom version around topics or certain kinds of activity.

Social Sites can create a social network graph linking an individual with colleagues based on common interests and activities such as tagging.  A mini profile of each individual is one click away but it isn’t possible to pivot from one person’s network to another’s at this time.  NewsGator says this may be included in a future release.

Communities can be created easily and quickly around projects, interests, and idea generation.  The idea generation and innovation aspect of Social Sites is a good addition to the social functions; it allows brainstorming to be conducted relativity seamlessly, without having to utilize a separate system or tool.

A key area featured in Social Sites is the idea of surfacing connections between knowledge workers who do not know each other, and may be working on similar projects unbeknownst to one another.  If Joe in Los Angeles is working on a presentation and posts something to that effect on his blog, and Frank in Munich is working on the same type of project and has added a wiki page on it, the system will make that connection and recommend they become colleagues in the system.

Social Sites is not intended to replace direct communication tools such as e-mail and instant messaging; rather, it serves as shared knowledge repository, be it through exposing users to content that may be relevant to them or functioning as a virtual brainstorming session.  It does, however, allow companies to add valuable social networking tools onto their SharePoint deployments without the risks that the use of public social networking tools entails.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

In the Briefing Room: Brightidea

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009 by Cody Burke

Ideas.  Employees, customers, and business partners have lots of them and companies large and small can be overwhelmed by them.  They do, however, need to be managed.  Most companies still try to manage ideas and suggestions the old-fashioned way, perhaps not with a wall-mounted suggestion box but with tools that have not strayed terribly far from this protocol.

Despite the wealth of idea management tools that exist today, some companies still get it wrong, a recent initiative by Starbucks being a prime example.

An effective idea management environment must support ideation and subsequent review.  Both of these must be done in lockstep, with the goal being to enable what amounts to a Massively Parallel Conference (MPC), defined by Basex as a massively scaled meeting that takes place in a computer mediated environment and facilitates many-to-many collaboration leading to many-to-one gathering of information.  In this case, the goal is to generate and refine ideas through large scale participation and brainstorming and then communicate the best ones to decision makers.

Brightidea, an idea and innovation management company addresses these areas in its WebStorm idea management offering.  WebStorm is a solid ideation environment.  Think of it as a browser-based brainstorming session that supports the large scale generation of ideas, increasing the odds of quality ideas being generated and discovered.  Once submitted, ideas are ranked by session participants; the best ideas float up to the top, ensuring that good ideas do not languish on a manager’s overcrowded desk or inbox.

The offering includes collaboration and social networking tools that enable a Community of Reliance to be formed around idea generation initiatives.  A Community of Reliance is formed on an ad hoc basis where members rely upon the participation and input of other members whom they may not actually know or come into direct contact with.  With WebStorm, participants rely on each other to rate and comment on ideas; this is enabled through individual profiles that include social networking functionality.  The ideas an individual has created, as well as the popularity of the ideas, are visible in the profile, allowing management to set up incentives for participation through recognition for the contribution of quality ideas.

Brightidea uses its own product internally to battle what they call “idea overload”.  They had found that their own product managers were being bombarded with and spending significant time responding to suggestions, new feature requests, and other submitted ideas.  Automating through use of its own products steps that ideas, suggestions, and requests take reduced this overload by pulling them out of e-mail and into a better suited system.

For all companies, the creativity and passion of employees and customers can provide an extremely effective and cost efficient source of new thoughts and proposals.  Large-scale brainstorming, à la the MPC concept, could be an excellent model for companies to follow as they seek to generate new ideas, and products such as WebStorm make conducting this sort of event easier and more accessible.  Companies that are considering tapping the potential of large scale brainstorming should give thought as to how they can leverage an idea management solution to automate the workflow of ideas, provide incentives, and enable social and collaboration capabilities.

[For an in-depth look at the topic of idea and innovation management, you can also read our report Improving Profits Through Idea Management: How America's Smartest Companies Embrace Innovation]

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Google Gaffe: Gmail Outage Shows Pitfalls of Online Services

Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by David Goldes

Google’s Gmail system was down for 2.5 hours earlier this week, the sixth such outage in the past eight months.  It isn’t unusual that an e-mail system crashes, but most such occurrences are limited to one organization.  When Gmail, a service Google touts to businesses as more reliable and easier to use than Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Notes/Domino, goes down, it makes headlines – as well it should.

Applications that exist “in the cloud,” such as Gmail and Salesforce.com, come with risks that are not readily apparent to many people, especially relatively unsophisticated users and managers in smaller organizations.  Gmail was first introduced in 2004; a business version of the offering was released in 2007.  Its pricing model, $50 per user per year, is very attractive to many organizations that lack the ability to manage their own IT infrastructure.  Yet outsourcing your e-mail, which essentially is what using Gmail amounts to, is far different than outsourcing other aspects of an operation, such as the company cafeteria.  Unless cooking is your core competency, there is no reason to keep that operation in house.  But e-mail is the lifeblood of almost every organization today; rather than pick up the phone, people send e-mail – and they expect that it’s received promptly on the other end.

Just imagine if all of the phone lines to your office failed – not today but ten years ago, when the telephone was the most important means of communication (along with fax, I should add).  That’s what Gmail’s users were facing on Monday.  The silence was deafening.

In addition, after five years and 30 million users, many of them corporate accounts, Google still considers this a beta product.  Apparently, based on the adoption rate, companies have had no compunction about using beta-ware for mission critical e-mail services.

Would a non-cloud based system perform better?  Perhaps not, but when it fails, not everyone would go down at once.

David M. Goldes is the president of Basex.

Enterprise Social Networking: Some thoughts from the Online Community Unconference 2009

Thursday, February 19th, 2009 by Cody Burke

Last week I moderated the Social Networking in the Enterprise session at the Online Community Unconference East 2009 in New York.

The theme for the session was Social Networking in the Enterprise.  We discussed trends in social networking that are both internal and external to the enterprise.  In attendance were over 15 knowledge workers from a variety of organizations including Crowd Fusion, IBM, Leader Networks, Leverage Software, McKinsey, MediaVision, Ramius, SAP, Social Intent, Symphonic Consulting, and Time among others.

Here is what we discussed.

Despite the proliferation of social networking, many organizations remain clueless in this area.  Ultimately most companies want to use social networking to improve collaboration and knowledge sharing but they are not sure as to how to proceed.  In addition, many organizations feel pressured to use public social networks for marketing purposes, but they typically do not have a clearly defined set of goals in mind.

It is also important to recognize that building a social networking presence requires a lot of work behind the scenes.  Just because everyone else has a corporate Facebook page does not mean that it is right for your company.  Clearly, more thought needs to go into the benefits of developing a social networking presence in the context of an organizations identity and its own requirements.

One thing was clear (at least to me), companies that develop social networking tools for the enterprise will need to educate decision makers about the benefits of social networking tools in order to gain traction in the marketplace.

Another interesting topic was that of expertise location, something Basex has reported on extensively.  Many knowledge workers experience difficultly in finding subject matter experts, i.e. a Russian speaker or someone who understands how to deploy a specific software solution, and view social networking tools as a possible solution.  Another interesting trend is that some companies are considering deploying fairly sophisticated social networking tools although they have not yet deployed fairly basic community and collaboration tools (such as instant messaging).  That type of leap may not work very well for their knowledge workers.  Social networking tools add an additional level of complexity that some may not be quite ready for.

In terms of knowledge sharing, we heard that many knowledge workers are still information hoarders and have not learnt that there is tremendous value in sharing information with colleagues.  If an organization can’t get past this obstacle, it will not be able to compete successfully in the knowledge economy, where knowledge sharing is, of course, de rigeur.

The foregoing was just a brief overview.  As with most good discussions, more questions were raised than there was time to answer them, but the quality of both people and ideas that were present was refreshing, and we at Basex look forward to continuing this conversation.

Cody Burke is a senior analyst at Basex.

Lotusphere: Blue is the New Yellow

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Jonathan Spira

This week was the 16th annual Lotusphere conference in Orlando, Florida.  It was my 16th as well, although my count includes three Lotuspheres in Berlin.

As has been the custom all these years, IBM once again unleashed a flood of information, both in the general session and throughout the event.  For those allergic to information overload, Orlando was a dangerous place.

The news, from a somewhat modder, hipper, Lotus, which trotted out the Blue Man Group (one had to wonder why it took Big Blue over a decade to book them) and Dan Aykroyd to further underscore the message of collaboration and this year’s theme of resonance.  Last year, incidentally, we said that “yellow is the new black.”   Regardless of color, the tools coming from Lotus allowing knowledge workers to share knowledge and collaborate are stronger and more powerful than ever.

Indeed, resonance can be “very very powerful,” Lotus GM Bob Picciano (attending his first Lotusphere following his appointment to the top position eight months ago) pointed it out in the opening session.  When it’s working at its full potential, he added, it will “absolutely shatter windows.”

With Research in Motion CEO Jim Balsillie present, IBM celebrated the tenth anniversary of the BlackBerry mobile device by unveiling a new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Sametime, IBM’s unified communications and collaboration platform, that supports Web conferencing, file transfer, public groups, and enhanced presence.  BlackBerry addicts, excuse me, users, can also open Lotus Symphony word processing documents attached to e-mail or Sametime, with eventual access to presentations and spreadsheets.   They can also download, edit, and post to Lotus Quickr team software.

The new BlackBerry client for IBM Lotus Connections social software platform integrates with e-mail, camera, media player, and the browser, and supports blogs, activities, and communities.  It also supports enhanced profile information including name pronunciations and pictures.  Previously, users on BlackBerry devices could only access Connections’ profiles and tag tools.

But there was more, lots more.

Lotus Sametime
IBM also announced Lotus Sametime 8.5.  Not surprisingly, the new version sports a brand new user interface.  It also includes a tool kit that allows customers to use Sametime to add collaborative capabilities such as presence, instant messaging, and click-to-call, to their business processes.  Sametime features enhanced meeting support, including an Ajax-based zero-download Web client and the ability to add participants by dragging and dropping names.  Other enhancements include improved audio and video, persistent meeting rooms, better support for the Mac and Linux platforms, and the ability to record meetings in industry standard formats.  The Sametime Connect client includes connectivity to profiles within Lotus Connections and pictures from contacts in Lotus Notes.  Sametime Unified Telephony ties Sametime to corporate telephone systems and allows knowledge workers to give out one phone number and set up rules that allow them to be reached based on various conditions (if one is in a meeting, the call could go directly to voicemail unless it’s one’s manager, in which case it would ring on the mobile).

LotusLive
After a year of public beta using the code-name “Project Bluehouse,” IBM announced LotusLive.  The new cloud-based portfolio of collaboration tools and social software supports e-mail, collaboration, and Web conferencing. LotusLive is built using open Web-based standards and an open business model allowing companies to easily integrate third party applications into their environment.  Two LotusLive services are available from the site, Meetings and Events.  Meetings integrate audio and video conferencing; events supports online conferences including registration.

The IBM Web site also lists LotusLive Notes, or IBM Lotus Notes Hosted Messaging in more formal IBM parlance, but unlike Events and Meetings, you can’t sign up and start the service online.  The only button to click is the one that says “Contact Sales.”

Partners for LotusLive: Skype, LinkedIn, Salesforce.com
IBM also announced that LotusLive will support Skype, LinkedIn, and salesforce.com.  LinkedIn members will be able to search LinkedIn’s public professional network from within LotusLive and then collaborate with them using LotusLive services.  Salesforce users will be able to use LotusLive’s collaborative tools in conjunction with the customer and opportunity management tools available in the Salesforce CRM application.  LotusLive users will also be able to call Skype contacts from within LotusLive

LotusLive Engage
IBM also announced the beta of LotusLive Engage, a “smarter” meeting service according to IBM.  Engage is a suite of tools that conflates Web conferencing and collaboration with file storage and sharing, instant messaging, and chart creation.  It allows knowledge workers to continuously engage – not just for one meeting – in a community-like environment.

IBM and SAP present Alloy
IBM and SAP announced their first joint product, Alloy.  Previewed at last year’s Lotusphere under the code name “Atlantic,” Alloy presents information and data from SAP applications within the Lotus Notes client and Lotus Notes applications.

If you want to look back at news from past Lotuspheres, feel free to click back to 2008, 20072006, 2005, or 2004.

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

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.

Symphony
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.

Atlantic
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.

Bluehouse
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.


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