Although I did not attend the IBM Lotusphere 2012 and Connect 2012 events in Orlando last week, I managed to wake up early enough (I'm in California) to watch the Opening General Session (OGS) and Keynote live-streams. These main "messaging" sessions are IBM's opportunity to tell its customer and partner base how it sees the current communication/collaboration/productivity IT market and what IBM plans to do about it. Largely the message includes a resolute - and not unexpected - re-branding strategy that shifts the discussion away from old themes to contemporary technology for business trends. Once again IBM is trying to keep at the front of the Business IT pack with the hope of driving the market and minds of business buyers. The idea is to start a new game, Social Business, and 2012 is the season opening.
gam·bit (gmbt) n. 1. An opening in chess in which a minor piece, or pieces, usually a pawn, is offered in exchange for a favorable position. 2. A maneuver, stratagem, or ploy, especially one used at an initial stage. 3. A remark intended to open a conversation.
It's clear that IBM has spent a lot of time considering its Social Business marketing strategy and how to dovetail a re-branding of the increasingly thread-worn Lotus marque. That consideration is showing up as a more focused IBM that is betting on a branding trifecta:
Social - more seamless integration of social tools with productivity tools and enterprise information
Mobile - consistent access and experience on different devices
Connect - a range of communication and collaboration experiences with information and people
Not only is this a message customers (i.e., buyers) can hang their hat on, but it's competitively targeted at IBM's rival's weaknesses. This is most evident when looking at Microsoft. In Microsoft's 2011 strategy has been marked by an anemic social message, the inability to disrupt the mobile market (although WM 7.5 is getting some good press traction), and siloed productivity tools.
IBM's gambit includes the sacrificing of the Lotus brand; although not dead yet, it's been relegated to the back-seat with IBM Connections at the driver's seat. Notes Mail, Quickr, and Domino applications are now playing second fiddle to Social Messaging, Content Analytics, and XPages in the IBM Social Business strategy. It's as if IBM went to the spa and came out looking like a teenager.
This isn't all bad but the proof obviously comes in how the strategy attracts customers and if the follow-through and technology meet IBM's ambition. As one attendee tweeted during the OGS: "The geek aspect of all this is great. But will non-geeks embrace the cultural implications of all this?" (@duffbert).
Raising Bars No matter though, IBM is confident and the teenage awkwardness we've seen at previous Lotuspheres has moved into young adulthood. Although there were some rocky moments - especially around the Websphere versus everything else message - in general this is not the clumsy and seemingly confused IBM of the past. IBM raised many bars at this year's events that are likely to have an impact on its customer and partner base. Overall the quality level of the entire event was a step up from events over the last several years.
I am pleased that IBM finally invested in live streaming of important sessions. The insular, "you gotta be here to get it" attitude, was quite frankly insulting especially coming from a company that sold communications products. It's as if IBM really got what it means to be social. Not only that but the quality of the IBM web sites for Lotusphere and Connect were easy to navigate and use.
IBM also brought in A-list guest speakers. Instead of parading in partner and customer honchos IBM brought in key industry thinkers and figures such as Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Guy Kawasaki, Manoj Saxsena (OK he's IBM but it's Watson), Bill Taylor (FAST Company). These talks gave the event a world-class feeling with TED-style lectures that inspired discussion on how technology in business is changing how we do our work.
Game On In the IBM realm it's "Game On!" challenging competitors to join the scrimmage with IBM's new rules. Now let's see how, or if, IBM's competitors join or if they will start or continue their own game. In competitor's circles IBM Lotus customers have become installed base point fodder as they compete among themselves. Now that the new game has begun IBM needs to stay the course and make sure it delivers quality technology that will strengthen and grow its fan base. Should IBM catch the attention of business customers and revive ties to the IBM brands enough to unsteady the competition then the Social Business gambit may be just what IBM needed.
Wed, Apr 4th 2012 6:24p Karen Hobert Consumers really do care about their privacy, according to a Consumer Reports survey: According to a Consumer Reports press release, the national survey found that 71% of respondents said they were very concerned about companies selling or sharing their information about them without their permission. Another 65% of smartphone owners don't like that apps can access their contacts, photos, locations and other data without permission from them. Who knew? ;-) [read] Keywords: blogger
Social in Business: Rubber meet Road
Fri, Mar 16th 2012 11:44a Karen Hobert In this next installment of Social in Business we focus on Strategy. Hopefully the thesis of this post shouldn’t knock your socks off; in a nutshell, businesses need a social software strategy in order for the social in business to be successful at the firm. Want to reach the holy grail of an e-mail free working environment? In reality what you’ll likely find, especially if you do the strategy legwork, is that the goal is not getting rid of e-mail. Rather, the goal is to improve e-mail usa [read] Keywords: blogger
Enterprise Social Networking is More Than Facebook Behind a Firewall
Thu, Mar 8th 2012 1:04p Karen Hobert More input from Brian Solis at Altimeter Group on the "you" in social in business: Everything you see in social networks is unique to you because you are at the center of the entire experience. This is why I lovingly refer to social media as the Egosystem. By design, everything revolves around you. Your friends, co-workers, the businesses and organizations you support, are linked to by you. You have become the ringmaster of your personal connectivity and in many ways, serve as the IT departmen [read] Keywords: blogger
Social in Business: What are we doing here anyway?
Thu, Mar 8th 2012 11:04a Karen Hobert This is the third post in the Top Dog/Elguji Social in Business blog series. The first post was entitled "Social in Business: What we are talking about" and the second was entitled "Social in Business: Build it and they will come (?)". Today we focus on Objectives. So if you’ve followed my blog (or other similar minded bloggers) you’ve likely come across one of my occasional rants about the pitfalls of buying technology for technology’s sake. This is sort of one of those posts in thi [read] Keywords: blogger
Oliver Marks, ZDNet: It's the People, Stupid
Fri, Mar 2nd 2012 1:24p Karen Hobert Another point of view on the people factor of social (or collaboration) in enterprise: There’s plenty of great online and mobile technology available across a wide range of price points for small & medium businesses right up to global enterprises, but none of them will be of much use without successfully motivating your prospective participants to start interacting through these channels Read full article here: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/collaboration/its-the-people-stupid/2361 [read] Keywords: collaboration