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Lotusphere Report – The Future is in Sight

Monday, January 23rd, 2006 by Jonathan Spira

Including three European Lotuspheres, this year’s is the 13th I am attending.  To some that may mean that I’ve heard it all before.

In some respects, I have.  While the products add more features and colors, Lotus’ message of collaboration and knowledge sharing has remained intact.  And that’s a good thing because IBM and Lotus have been building tools that will enable companies to build true real-time Collaborative Business Environments.

But will customers know how to use these tools to their best advantage?  Today, the answer is no.  And it isn’t the fault of the tools or the vendors per se.  Rather, it stems from what is a very sudden appearance of a knowledge economy (sudden in the overall scheme of things) and a distinct lack of preparedness on the part of both the business and IT worlds.

What is proper preparation, then?  Training managers on managing knowledge workers would be one answer.  I was interviewed today by a newspaper reporter about our research on interruptions.  She asked me for suggestions on how to lessen the impact of technology-driven interruptions and one suggestion was to avoid the temptation to peeak at each e-mail as it comes it.  She told me of a friend who works at a company where her manager would never tolerate a delay in replying to one of his e-mails, that this manager would be on the phone asking why she hadn’t replied.

Clearly, that manager needs to read my book, Managing the Knowledge Workforce.

But I digress.

The theme of this year’s Lotusphere is FUTUREINSIGHT.  Lotus may have the future in sight, but there is a lot of work to be done before they – or any other vendor of collaboration and knowledge sharing tools – will have it in grasp.

The problem is not with the tools – in fact, quite the opposite (I’ll get to Lotus’ announcements in a moment).  The problem is that the IT industry as a whole – including, of course, the large subset that sells $50 billion of tools supporting collaboration and knowledge sharing each year (a market supersegment we call Collaborative Business Knowledge) – does not know how to talk to its customers.  I’ll cover that rather large issue in a future column.

Today Lotus announced a variety of new real-time communications tools and partnerships.  First, Lotus Sametime was renamed Lotus Sametime (no more IBM Lotus Instant Messaging).  Sametime 7.5 sports a brand new client and adds voice-over-IP capabilities, allowing knowledge workers to talk with colleagues through their computers.  Lotus is adding a Sametime 7.5 client for Apple’s Mac OS X version 10.4 and for Linux.

Sametime 7.5 is now built on the Eclipse open source framework.  As a result, users can access a variety of plug-ins, including Google map mash-ups and audio/video extensions.  Sametime also comes with a new Web conferencing interface that simplifies the chore of managing such meetings.

A rather innovative new feature is the addition of social networking capabilities, allowing companies to access organization-wide collective knowledge, locate experts, poll users, and create communities to whom focused content or enquiries might be sent.

Finally, IBM announced connectivity with public IM services, including AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and Yahoo Messenger.  IBM also announced plans to enable interoperability with Google Talk.

IBM further demonstrated the next, yet unreleased version of Lotus Notes, code-named Hannover (it was introduced at the Hannover Fair last year).  Hannover will include support for service-oriented architecture, composite applications, activity-centric computing, and support for server-managed clients.

On the IBM Workplace front, IBM announced availability of Workplace Collaboration Services 2.6, Workplace Managed Client 2.6, Workplace Forms 2.6, and Workplace Designer 2.6.  A major highlight was Workplace Forms, allowing companies to capture business data that exists or is created on paper, so it can be processed and integrated with back-end corporate data and applications.

So, dear reader, you can see it’s been a busy day here – and it’s only Day One of Lotusphere.  I’m sure we’ll have more insights soon.

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