IBM Connect 2013 Notes: Reinventing the Inbox – Ed Brill

This is another in a series of my notes on IBM Connect 2013. I am very pleased to be back again after the last two years thanks to IBM’s support. Here is a summary of my notes for 2012 and 2011. These notes cover the Monday Press Session: Reinventing the Inbox with Ed Brill, Director, Social Business & Collaboration, IBM.

I first meet Ed Brill in person at the 2011 Lotusphere. He remembered our phone interview six year earlier when I was collecting cases for blog book. Here is that interview: Blog Cases from 2005: Ed Brill on IBM, Collaboration, and More.

Before I get into the session I want to mention, Ed’s excellent new book, Opting In: Lessons in Social Business from a Fortune 500 Product Manager. I had a chance to preview the first few chapters. As I wrote in response to this preview:

Opting In is an important book that takes social business beyond external marketing to provide practical guidance on how to drive significant business value through enhancing human interactions within the enterprise.

McKinsey’s research has demonstrated many quantified benefits here and Ed shows you how to realize them. I look forward to reading the rest of the book.

Ed runs product management for messaging, collaboration, and unification products. The two big new things this year are improvements to existing apps through Social Notes 9.0 and IBM docs.  Ed said that email has become dysfunctional and needs to be transformed.

Adding social capabilities will greatly increase its efficiency and I would certainly agree. Some of the content that used to be in broadcast emails has already moved to social apps for good reason. But there needs to be changes to email itself. This is happening in several ways.

There is embedded experience so that email alerts can come into other apps you are working on. You can respond to the email without leaving the other app. Another major change that is coming is to use analytics to prioritize your mail so the most relevant messages come to the top of the email inbox, replacing the simple chronological order that has been standard for some time.

There could be several different types of filters for this prioritization such as skills, team membership, location, or relevance to a project you are working on. Ed said that one challenge will be getting people to trust the prioritization.

Within IBM as an organization, Connections has replaced the portal as the first place people go. Now you can have mail within Connections so you do not have to leave it. There is also a discovery engine that teaches people how to use the new features. One capability I really like, is the ability to act on a message directly. For example, you might get a request from HR in an email that requires using an HR app. You can respond to the request directly in the email without having to go to the app.

I have covered IBM Connections in depth recently on this blog (see IBM Connections 4.0 Expands Its Social, Integration, and Analytic Capabilities). For this post I spoke with Suzanne Livingston, Senior Product Manager for Connections on the 4.0 release. I have covered Connections a number of times before (see for example, Review of IBM Connections 3.0 and IBM Connections: Analytics + Social).

Ed talked a bit about activity streams as they also have this embedded ability to respond to requests from apps. Email and activity streams are now two parallel communication channels. Activity streams are for public information, as many people can see them. Ed said they can be useful for discovering new information. Email remains the channel for private communication. It is still necessary but some of its uses have moved to better tools. Here is a list of features for Notes 9.0 from the IBM product page.

  • Provides an easy-to-use, single point of access to everything you need to get your work done quickly, including business applications, email, calendars, feeds, and more.
  • Lets you tailor your work environment with widgets that bring social communities that are important to your job, both within the enterprise and across the Internet, right into your peripheral view.
  • Enables you to work with people right at the point of context with social tools weaved into the work experience, allowing you to pivot to the tool you need, such as business cards, presence awareness, instant messaging, and more.
  • Helps you quickly locate the people and content you need through integrated access to social tools from IBM Connections and IBM Lotus Quickr® software, including profiles, activities, team places, and content libraries.
  • Offers advanced replication technology to enable you to work with email and applications even when disconnected from the network.

Sometimes changes to becoming more social can have unintended consequences. For example, Ed mentioned a CEO who started a blog to more directly communicate with his workforce and allow for two-way exchanges that email messages did not promote.  Employees were so pleased to have a communication channel with the CEO that many comment threads got pushed into topics unrelated to his post. So he set up a second app, called the Speaker’s Corner, to allow for these comments. This allowed his first blog to stay more on topic.

Ed said that Notes use remains very active. In fact, many clients who let their Notes licenses expire are coming back. The added social features are one driver of this re-engagement.

IBM Docs also has integrated social features. You can open a document and invite others to collaborate on it in real time. In
traditional word processing you designate a file name and place it in a file structure. It is document oriented. IBM Docs is more people oriented. You open a document and place in a location such as a team workspace within Connections, not an abstract file structure.

Then others can be invited into this workspace. I see this people orientation as a great improvement and one of the shortcomings of MS Word and SharePoint. IBM Docs can work in the cloud as IBM SmartCloud Docs is a cloud-based office productivity suite, which allows users to simultaneously collaborate on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents. Here is a sample screen is on the right.

Notes can also be in the cloud. IBM recently did a study on the cloud and found that organizations – both big and small, across geographies and in virtually every industry – are embracing cloud as a way to reduce the complexity and costs associated with traditional IT approaches. Almost three-fourths of the leaders in their survey indicated their companies had piloted, adopted or substantially implemented cloud in their organizations – and 90 percent expect to have done so in three years. And the number of respondents whose companies have substantially implemented cloud is expected to grow from 13 percent today to 41 percent in three years.

There is also extensive mobile support including client and client-less (HTTP, browser based) access options and seamless
network connectivity as you roam. There is optimized network utilization to reduce data transmission and connection costs. Notes Mobile Connect also supports a wide range of device types – mobile, desktop, laptop – for security-rich connection into business infrastructure. It is nice to see that Notes in alive and well and entering the social age. This move should ensure its longevity.

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