Tag Archives: open social

IBM Connections 4.0 Expands Its Social, Integration, and Analytic Capabilities

With the latest release, IBM Connections 4.0 continues its movement from providing a suite of applications to becoming a comprehensive social business platform with tighter integration.

Suzanne Livingston, Senior Product Manager, IBM Social Software

I recently 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). Suzanne and I discussed several enhanced capabilities within Connections 4.0.

First, IBM expanded Activity Streams to include 3rd party applications and “embedded experiences”, a new OpenSocial API to allow for tight integration with other special purpose business applications.

This feature allows the user to not only receive updates from a variety of enterprise apps through the Connections Activity Stream, but also it allows them to take action (e.g., approvals, changes) on these updates directly without going to the originating app.

The Activity Stream is the event listing (“for example, Bill commented on your request for approval”) and the embedded experience is the mini-view that lets you interact with the app. Both the Activity Stream and the Embedded Apps enable 3rd party integration.

Connections 4.0 aggregates Activity Streams that are customized for your context and you can further enhance this contextualization through following or unfollowing items, groups, people, etc. This filtering allows for more relevant content and reduces the potential for fire hosing the user.

I think this is huge and a potentially transformative step toward better enabling the connected enterprise. Connections can become the hub of this connected enterprise, by not only introducing more social features into enterprise apps, but also by establishing greater integration between the apps, the tasks, and the people within the enterprise.

Suzanne said that this is part of IBM’s goal to transform business processes and I certainly agree with this direction.

This embedded experience feature is built on Open Social, a set of standards that IBM and other firms such as Jive Software, Atlassian, Microsoft, and Google have collaboratively developed or utilized.

IBM has turned its contribution into the Open Social Foundation, allowing third-party vendors to make better use of the embedded feature capabilities within Connections for even more robust integrations.

SugarCRM, the leading open source CRM, is one example of a firm that has taken this step. Suzanne said that we will continue to see even tighter integrations moving forward.

AppFusions is actively working on such integrations with Immersive for Atlassian, for IBM Connections, integrating the “Atlassian Suite” to bring business and engineering users and functional system access together.

In IBM Connections – Coming Q1, 2013 firm.

With a target release at IBM Connect 2013, AppFusions will unveil native integration with Atlassian JIRA (issue tracking), Confluence (enterprise wiki), Fisheye (source code viewer, etc.), Crucible (peer code reviews), Stash (enterprise Git), and Bamboo (continuous integration server).

Suzanne next covered upgrades to email usage within Connections 4.0. Now you can work on your email within Connections, without having to go to the email client. They have this feature for both IBM Domino and MS Exchange (Outlook), hitting the vast majority of business email.

Not only can you respond to emails within Connections, but you can also easily share social content. In addition, access to calendaring is provided. This gives you access to the major collaborative capabilities within one environment.

You can have this email access anywhere within Connections and “click to share” updates within your Activity Stream, including adding hashtags and images with these updates.

You can then look for trending topics within related hashtags to follow the flow of relevant conversations by those people you are interested in.

You can also drill down through filters to see more detail and obtain greater focus.

Connections 4.0 also provides expanded metrics. There are now tools to make use of available analytic data and create custom reports. For example, you can track adoption across the enterprise and create reports on this activity.

There are many use cases for this new capability.You could use Connections to roll out a new HR policy and then track who reads it, who shared it, and what they said about it to get a better picture of how it is being received.

Communities are becoming a major use case for Connections and these analytic capabilities are proving very useful to community managers. They can see the most valued content, the top contributors, and other ways the community is performing. They can make adjustments to the community interface and track responses to these changes.

To further support communities, Connections is making it easier to tie different communities together, even those in separate spaces, or inside and outside the enterprise. This latter feature is important as McKinsey has shown that higher enterprise operating margins correlated with the “a willingness to allow the formation of working teams comprising both in-house employees and individuals outside the organization.”

Now one central community can be used to track what is going on in several related communities, becoming the hub for connected conversations. Activity Streams with embedded experiences can be used to facilitate these cross-community conversations.

Suzanne said they are also facilitating the use of public domain content within the communities. She gave an example of using a blog post, such as this one, to spark a conversation within a community.

  • The community manager can ask for responses to the post or comments on it from the community.
  • The manager can also use the post content to spark conversations about product improvements or enhancements to customer service.
  • The community’s reaction can then go directly back into the blog as a response to the post.

They are also allowing for other public domain content from such sources as LinkedIn or Quora, as well as other internal communities, to used by the community.

Connections 4.0 also includes mobile support for iOS, Andriod, and Blackberry. It provides devices specific enhancements such as using the browsing capabilities specific to tablets versus smart phones.

In addition, you can add geolocation to your status updates directly from your mobile device and even upload photos for your network or communities to view.

Collectively, these enhancements are making Connections into a hub for the connected, social enterprise and should greatly extend its adoption and use.

IBM’s 2012 CEO Survey revealed that 57 percent of CEO’s identified social business as a top priority and more than 73 percent are making significant investments to draw insights into available data. The new capabilities within Connections support both of these findings.

Open Social Provides Standards to Help Put Social Software to Work

In 2011, customers spent $767.4 million on social software globally, and will spend almost $4.5 billion in 2016, according to IDC. That is a better than 40% growth. However, one of the factors that could work to slow down the momentum, is the involvement needed from IT departments to deploy and integrate the software. Dion Hitchcliffe, address one critical means to address this integration issue in his post, Enterprise Social Networks Need Open Standards.

Dion writes, “social media in general has proliferated so extensively now that there are often a half dozen or more social apps that we use every day in our personal lives, in the workplace, or both. But they usually have quite limited interoperability when it comes to our identities, data integration, and inter-social network user experience. Thus, our work in them is fragmented and siloed, limiting their reach and value. Standards would greatly help with this.” I could not agree more.

He goes on to note that with the rise of the app store, IT will move more into on-demand and disposable world. This will make the shelf-life of applications shorter. There must be a way to “easily and simply achieve continuity as the social foundation beneath us shifts and changes.

Open standards make it possible to swap out obsolete and outdated social components, move our data over as necessary, and keep working with as little disruption as possible.” Dion also points the need for social software to be part of the enterprise application architecture and connect with traditional work apps in a central way.

Two platforms diving in deep with the OpenSocial technology are Jive and IBM. Mark Weitzel is Director, Platform & Ecosystem, Jive Software and President, OpenSocial Foundation. He spoke at this year’s Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Boston on a panel, Designing Social Applications, with AppFusions, Ellen Feaheny and others. Mark said that one of the key things Jive recognized early on is the need for a real component model for the delivery of SaaS based apps.

Mark feels that OpenSocial is the best thing out there for this purpose. It is standards based. They put a market infrastructure around this so you can pick an app and get it installed right away like an iPhone app. OpenSocial also allows for IT controls in case you need to take out an app that is a problem.

Mark said they wanted to invoke apps within Jive in an easy way wherever you are and put it into the flow within the activity stream.  For example, AppFusions has created an OpenSocial-based JIRA in Jive integration. OpenSocial is now in the cloud version of Jive and will be coming to the on premise version by the end of the year.

I also spoke earlier with IBM’s Suzanne Livingston, Senior Product Manager for Connections. She said that the common underlying theme in the recent moves for Connections is the movement from providing a suite of applications to having Connections becoming a comprehensive social business platform with tighter integration.

One of the enablers of this tighter integration is the use of Connections with the OpenSocial Foundation, a standards board that IBM and other firms such as Microsoft, Google, Atlassian, and Jive collaboratively develop or utilize. Here is the list of OpenSocial adopters.

Wikipedia defines the OpenSocial Platform as a “public specification that defines a component hosting environment (container) and a set of common application programming interfaces (APIs) for web-based applications.” This effort is designed to give social tools the ability to work together, a wise move.

One of the major advances on the social platform evolution is the enhancement of the activity stream. I really applaud this move as I see the activity stream becoming the glue that holds the social enterprise together and make it run efficiently. To this end IBM has made its Connections activity stream open to third party apps. For example, an approval request from an SAP application can be placed into the activity stream and acted upon without leaving the activity stream.

Another example is AppFusions’ JIRA+ Enterprise Activity in IBM Connections integration, enabling integrated streams from any system integrated with JIRA — such as Box, UserVoice, Google Docs, Confluence, and any other system, to be streamed into IBM Connections. This is the type of capability that will truly enable the connected enterprise.

IBM has contributed this embedded experience capability into the OpenSocial Foundation so others can use it. So to be more specific you can take an item from a backend system, such as the SAP tracking order I mentioned, and place it into a side bar within a Connections activity stream. There it can be worked on and the results sent back to the backend system without the user actually having to go there.

The capability has opened doors for IBM to make stronger connections with other members of OpenSocial, such as Atlassian. AppFusions has partnered with IBM to create integrations between IBM Sametime with both Altassion’s JIRA tracking application and Confuence.

Open standards is a topic I have written about extensively on my Portals and KM blog and I certainly support all of Dion’s points, as well as the moves by Jive and IBM. I see open standards as one of the critical success factors for social software to enable social business and Open Social provides an effective means to address this issue.