Joined-up Thinking

Sometimes IBM does things that surprise me – occasionally that’s a very bad thing, I’ll admit.

More often, it’s because they make changes that show they are really thinking about how to make their products better and showcase the benefits that are available to organisations and their users.

A case in point is the latest beta release of Lotus Symphony 3.  This Beta 3 includes a lot of changes, not least a significant improvement in speed and responsiveness over the previous betas and Symphony 1.3.   However, a number of apparently small enhancements made me both smile and begin to see the future being marked out much more clearly:

1) A streamlined approach to installing widgets and plug-ins

The procedure for adding plug-ins to Notes has always been tricky – policies/configuration settings need to be changed, the menus are terribly intuitive, and the process takes a while.  Symphony 3 makes this much, much easier:

Use the menu Tools/Widgets/Get Plug-ins Online:
Home - IBM Lotus Symphony

This opens a web-browser within Symphony, accessing the Symphony Plug-ins catalog:
IBM Lotus Symphony - Plug-ins for IBM Lotus Symphony 1.x - IBM Lotus Symphony

Simply choose the plug-in you need, e.g. the new LotusLive Files connector (see below):
IBM Lotus Symphony - Plug-ins for IBM Lotus Symphony 3 Beta: LotusLive Connector : Links you to LotusLive by simple click - IBM Lotus Symphony

Drag this plug-in to your My Widgets sidebar (it would be great if this pane could be opened automatically when accessing this menu) – this begins the provisioning process:
Widget Provisioning

Accept the license agreement:
IBM Lotus Symphony

Approve the signer:
IBM Lotus Symphony LotusLive! Feature in IBM Lotus Notes

And restart Symphony:
LotusLive! Files - IBM Lotus Symphony

Whilst I think that the dialogs can still be made more friendly (does the user need to know the names of the plug-in files, sizes etc?), this is a massive improvement on what has gone before, and should lead to a lot more users trying plug-ins and widgets in their Symphony environment.

2) Increased integration between on-premise/local applications and the Cloud

IBM has long discussed the integration possibilities between on-premise and Cloud-based applications – they even have a nifty slogan for the idea, “Click to Cloud”:

Click to Cloud

However, it is clear that this integration effort is increasing in importance with every new release.  Alongside Symphony 3 Beta 3 IBM has introduced the brand new plug-in for LotusLive files which makes it much much easier to access, edit and upload files from the cloud, and is a great effort from everyone in the Symphony/LotusLive teams – a big step forward.

This is, of course, just the first step in a long journey towards seamless integration.  Project Vulcan offers a vision of a mesh of social and collaborative applications accessing local, networked and cloud-based resources, in such as way that the user has almost no need to differentiate where and how the information is being stored. At the same time, competitors such as Google are pushing the boundaries of online collaboration and editing forward, so IBM needs to keep making improvements in this area with every release.

3) Cross-sell the Lotus vision

I often wonder how many IT professionals even know that Lotus still exists.  Indeed, I often also consider whether most Notes users know that Lotus do anything beyond the products that they use day-in, day-out.  That’s why Lotus Symphony is so critical to the ongoing success of the brand.  It isn’t right for every organisation or user – many will stick with MS Office through thick and thin, or else focus purely on a cloud-based productivity tool future – but the fact that Lotus really has a contender in this space (and that it is free) keeps the brand mindshare alive.

Likewise, Symphony can act as a means to inform users of the possibilities of using other Lotus offerings.  That’s why I was excited to see the new release advertising LotusLive collaboration services:
Home - IBM Lotus Symphony
Home - IBM Lotus Symphony

So, just three small incremental steps, but all together I think they add up to some exciting ‘joined-up thinking’ from the Lotus brand.  Keep it going!

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!