Happy 25th Birthday Lotus Notes

November 27 2014 12:25:03 PM Add/Read Comments [11]
My career in technology began in May 1993 when I was a coop student at IBM Canada. My responsibilities there were spilt between AS/400 tasks and setting up this new groupware thing called Lotus Notes. Well today Lotus Notes celebrates its 25th birthday.

Image:Happy 25th Birthday Lotus Notes
Image taken from Mat Newman's blog.

It's amazing how pioneering Notes was in creating the industry that we today call ‪"social business." I, along with many of my friends and colleagues owe our careers to Lotus Notes.

Let's look back at some of the things Notes did, oh so many years ago:

Applications
: Long before Apple made the slogan "There's an app for that" popular, Lotus Notes users spent their days clicking on little square icons each representing a different business application. These applications included CRM tools, inventory control, project management and thousands of other uses.

Security
: Long before two-factor authentication sent text messages to your phone to help secure logins, Lotus Notes required not only a password, but that you had an actual ID file on your computer. Notes has built in encryption which still protects data better than many of today's collaboration tools do. Notes has granular access control lists (ACLs) for each application (database) providing a range of user roles ranging from Depositor to Manager. Notes uses execution control lists (ECLs) to control what programs can and can't do on your behalf. (think of it like today's "permissions" in mobile apps) Notes even provides field level security via reader/author name fields on forms. These features are mainly invisible to users, but provide an incredible level of security.

Replication:
Long before people starting "syncing content to the cloud", Lotus Notes enabled people to "replicate" data between their computer and the server that hosted their applications and mail. This local replication enabled people to use their mail and apps even when disconnected from the network. (i.e. offline)

Mobile:
Long before "mobile" was an industry buzzword, Lotus Notes apps ran on phones and PDAs. Yes, it was mainly Palm Pilots and BlackBerry's back then, but it was still amazing for the time.

What do you think Lotus Notes greatest strength was? (is?)


Sadly, I barely use Lotus Notes anymore, but I still respect how ahead of its time it was, and in some ways still is. I'm constantly hearing pitches from "hot new startups" that are trying to do things Notes did 20+ years ago. I've posted this poster from 1991 several times, but let's review it once more.  Just replace a few words and this could be any collaboration vendor's current marketing campaign.

Notes from Lotus

Until now, most PC software was designed for individuals using individual PCs. But today, more and more people are working in teams on networked PCs that require a new kind of software.  Software that lets them quickly share ideas and information no matter where, when or how they work.

Enter Lotus Notes.

The first software than actually thrives on the fact that people need to work together to be effective.  Lotus Notes creates a new communications environment where users can develop applications - for sales tracking, project management, customer service, and free form discussions of all kinds - and routinely access and share this information from their desktop to anyone, anywhere in the world.  In fact, no other software maximizes your investments in networked PCs like Lotus Notes.

After all, helping people work together is what Lotus does best.  

Image:Happy 25th Birthday Lotus Notes










The New Collaboration UI?

November 21 2014 11:00:00 AM Add/Read Comments [3]
Remember when every software product was designed to look like Facebook?  

Now it appears a new "common UI" being used in many of the new collaboration tools.  

Here's a quick UI comparison of Slack, Glip, Unify Circuit and Cisco Project Squared.



Introducing IBM Verse

November 18 2014 07:00:00 AM Add/Read Comments [4]
About a year ago IBM first announced they would be developing their next generation email client, code named MailNext. Today in NYC (and similar satellite events around the world) IBM unveiled the official product, now named IBM Verse. That's verse as in converse, or social interaction, not the shoe company. It's not a play on universe, nor a song or poem, nor related to Lotus "Notes" making up a verse!



One of the most significant things about IBM Verse is the level of attention it has within IBM. Full disclosure, I have been advising IBM on Verse for over a year now, so I have seen this first hand. The resources being put into Verse, from design and development to sales and marketing far exceeds anything I have seen from IBM related to collaboration in a long long time. From the very top down, meaning Ginni Rometty and her entire executive team, the company is viewing the launch of IBM Verse as a critical event. The internal attention to IBM Verse is the type of thing we dreamed about during my time working at Lotus. I say that not to stir up bad feelings, but instead to put into perspective how vastly improved the situation is now.

The codename MailNext only represents a limited part of the vision of this project. The concepts behind IBM Verse are not solely focused on creating a better email client. Instead, IBM has used their reinvigorated focus on Design Thinking to more holistically look at improving the way people deal with communication and collaboration. That said, the first manifestation of IBM Verse is email centric, but it's just the start of IBM's longer term vision.

How Does IBM Verse Compare To the Competition?


The hardest part of that question is defining who the competition is. There are several categories that combine to contribute to the way people work. The market for improving communication and collaboration includes an array of vendors, each delivering a different set of capabilities. Here are a few things various software vendors are doing:
- Google recently launched their new Inbox for Google (currently available only for personal accounts, not Google Apps accounts) and Microsoft launched Clutter for Outlook.
- Startups like Slack , Glip and Convo are providing people with alternative ways of working, more social networking than email.
- Unified Communication vendors are launching new collaboration tools focused on blending social networking with VIOP and web-conferencing, such as Unify Circuit and Cisco Squared.
- Vendors like Contatta and Nimble are focusing on helping people take action on their email, not just respond or file it.
- There are dozens of "mobile email" clients introducing innovative new features, lead by the popular MailBox by DropBox.
- There is an entire industry of social task management tools, including Asana, AtTask, Clarizen, LiquidPlanner, SmartSheet and many many more.
- There are new modern online document editors from Office365 and Google, but also startups like Quip and Evernote.

While IBM Verse offers a vastly improved experience over existing IBM products, it is not yet a major leap forward in changing the way people work. It is not "best of breed" in any of the areas mentioned above. But what it does do is bring many of them together. IBM Verse's first release competently accomplishes its initial goal of improving people's email experience. Features like a dashboard of my email-centric action items, people-centric navigation along the top, the ability to easily filter and search email with facets, share a message to a blog, snoozing and setting reminders on messages, and learning more about recipients all combine to create a compelling user experience.

What IBM Verse accomplishes is placing IBM back into the conversation with companies that are evaluating Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps, especially in the SMB market where they previously would not have considered IBM.

Looking Ahead


As I mentioned above, it's been a long time since I've seen IBM as committed to collaboration as they currently are. Looking across the key areas of IBM:
- IBM Design is making a huge difference in the way products are developed. Instead of product managers prioritising a long list of feature requests from large paying customers, IBM is now developing products based on solving the challenges people face at work.
- IBM's vast analytic capabilities will play a large part in shaping how IBM Verse will help people know what they should be working on.
- IBM BlueMix will provide the application development capabilities for business partners to expand and integrate the features of IBM Verse.

This first release of IBM Verse has set the framework for a new generation of communication and collaboration from IBM. I hope future releases of IBM Verse will seamlessly blend the plethora of tools people use including email, chat, text, and video conferencing with collaboration features like task management, social networking, file sharing and document co-authoring, as well as the core business applications people use to get their jobs done. A tool that combines these features and wraps it with a layer of assistance (powered by analytics) to help people focus on what they should, and should not, be doing is what is needed to change the way people work.

The signup page for IBM Verse is now online, but accounts are not being set up yet. After you register, you'll receive an email saying "as soon as IBM Verse is ready to try, we'll let you know." After months of seeing prototypes and early builds, I look forward to trying out the official release.

By the way, while I am not a fan of IBM's marketing phrase "A New Way To Work", I do like that it brings back memories from our old Lotus advertising!

Image:Introducing IBM Verse






It’s Like Facebook At Work

November 17 2014 10:00:00 PM Add/Read Comments [4]
For the last few years many software vendors in the enterprise social market have explained what their product does by using the analogy "It's like Facebook at work".  Well, now it appears Facebook themselves will be getting into the game by actually offering, Facebook At Work. At the moment there are few official details from Facebook about the product such as when will it be available, what will it cost, what will it do, etc.

Below are a few of my thoughts about the potential Facebook At Work:

1) You can't just move a consumer tool into the enterprise, the requirements are very different. For example, directory support, security, application integration, compliance, auditing, and industry regulations. Many consumer tools are unable to make the transition to enterprise in areas like scalability, language support and accessibility... but given Facebook supports a billion people all across the world, I think they have these aspects covered.

2) Facebook At Work needs to be much more than just a "private Facebook for your company".  To be a successful platform for work, Facebook's business offering will need to integrate with the business tools people use to do their jobs. This includes things like CRM, Customer Service, Marketing and HR. Obviously Facebook can partner with almost every enterprise software vendor, but they may want to acquire one or two to develop robust native offerings. Since Facebook is all about people, CRM vendors like SugarCRM, Nimble or Contatta could be a natural fits.

3) Facebook has massive consumer mind share, but do they know how to sell to CxOs? Do they understand how companies buy software, support it and integrate it into their infrastructure?

4) Security. Security. Security. It's one thing to mistakenly share your cat photos with people you had not intended, it's another to accidentally leak a company secret. Facebook does not have a stellar reputation when it comes to security and privacy so they will have to ease the minds of corporate software purchase decision makers.

5) Enterprise social networking is not a "one-size fits all" business. The successful enterprise collaboration vendors understand the needs of specific vertical industries such as Healthcare, Finance, Manufacturing, Legal, Education, Entertainment and Government.

6) The consumer version of Facebook is missing several standard features of enterprise collaboration platforms, including: document editors, file sync and share, project management and web-conferencing. If Facebook is serious about being a tool people can use to do work, they may want to purchase companies like Slack, Glip, Box, Egnyte, Fuze, BlueJeans, Quip, Evernote... the list goes on and on.


There is nothing wrong with using tools at work that are similar to those you use at home.  People do it every day with Google and Microsoft products, so perhaps Facebook will be next. Would you want to collaborate with your colleagues and customers using a private version of Facebook?





Analytics Is At the Centre Of IBM’s Future

November 13 2014 11:30:00 PM Add/Read Comments [0]
Today was Day 1 of IBM's Analyst Insight Summit. This exclusive event brings together the top industry analysts from around the world to meet with the heads of IBM's software division.  

If I had to sum up the event in one word, it would be analytics.

IBM has a vast software portfolio that covers a variety of topics, but at the centre of all of them is IBM's message around using data to gather insights that can lead to better decision making. While IBM has several technologies in the analytics space, the crown jewel is IBM Watson.

Image:Analytics Is At the Centre Of IBM’s Future

Yes, Watson is best known as the computer that played (and won) the TV game show Jeopardy. But Watson is not just a fast computer that knows a lot of trivia. Watson is culmination of years of IBM research into cognitive computing. Explaining that is beyond the scope of this blog entry, but you can read more about it here. Almost everything we heard today had some link back to Watson. From the Watson Analytics tool that enables anyone to upload data (ex: spreadsheet) and instantly gain insights, to the Watson Services for IBM BlueMix than enable application developers to leverage Watson's capabilities in their own applications.

What can analytics (and Watson's features) do? How about:
- Help doctors make decisions using far more information than they could possibly process themselves. (ex: every clinical trial ever conducted + every medical journal + every patient record in milliseconds)
- Enable airlines to predict engine failures before they happen
- Empower financial analysts to see trading patterns
- Assist law enforcement in solving crimes
- over even help a small business owner figure out the needs of their customers

Think of any use case where there is just too much data for a person to possibly process on their own, that's where analytics and tools like Watson come in.

Those of you that follow my work will know I am doing lots of research on how future generation collaboration tools will be able to help us prioritise what to work on and what to avoid doing. How will they do that? Analytics. We can't possibly look at our email, calendar, contacts, chat messages, text messages, social networks, social media, CRM data, inventory, customer requests, competitive news, and a dozen other sources and process all that information... but Watson just might be able to.

Here is a presentation I recently gave about how analytics could be the key to helping people be more effective at work



Are we there yet? Not even close. But IBM has a lot of the right pieces in place to start building the collaboration tools that I envision for our future.



















Microsoft Office Begins Plan For Mobile Domination

November 6 2014 10:44:40 AM Add/Read Comments [0]
For the last two decade Microsoft Office has been the dominate desktop productivity suite. Argue about "cool alternatives" all you want, but who doesn't come across Word, Excel or PowerPoint at some point in their day?

As web-based applications began to take hold, alternatives to Office became quite viable, most notably Google Apps. The rise of web apps also brought into question the need for word-processors, spreadsheets and presentation software. Alternatives like wiki pages, blogs, collaborative documents, presentation tools like Prezi and others enabled us to rethink what type of tools we even need. Microsoft was slow to bring their Office suite to the web, but has now done so with Office365 and is even introducing new apps to the suite like Sway.

But a 3rd battle ground may be even more important than the web, and that's mobile. For years Microsoft's direction was clear, they would not bring office to non-Windows mobile devices, but thankfully under their new leadership that silly notion changed.  In March 2014 they released Office for iPad which has been installed more than 40M times. Today Microsoft announced they are bring the Office apps to Android and iPhones, updating the iPad apps, updating the Mac apps, and planning for touch versions for Windows 10.  They refer to this as "Office Everwhere for Everyone."

Office has always been a "cash cow" for Microsoft. Making Office available on almost any device, and even opening Office up to partners like DropBox show Microsoft does not plan on letting that go any time soon.  

Image:Microsoft Office Begins Plan For Mobile Domination

My Thoughts On Jive Software’s Jiveworld 2014

October 27 2014 01:28:53 PM Add/Read Comments [0]
Last week in Las Vegas, Jive Software held their annual JiveWorld conference.  In front of around 1600 people Jive talked about how their products and services enable people to "Work Better Together".

Below is my analysis of some of the key announcements, including:
- Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 integration
- A new view for "Top and Trending" in the newsfeed/activity stream
- The introduction of Jive's WorkTypes tool
- Analytics and insights, including a look at their future "Chord Diagram" feature




Image:My Thoughts On Jive Software’s Jiveworld 2014