Sad Mat Newman

Missing Lotusphere (IBM ConnectED)

It’s about this time of year that thoughts in the IBM/Lotus community traditionally turn to Orlando, to the Dolphin & Swan hotels, and to IBM’s major collaboration and social business event of the year.

From Lotusphere to IBM Connect to this year’s IBM ConnectED, the name hasn’t mattered too much (I still think of it as the ‘Sphere), it was the technology and the people that made the event what it is.  Thousands of geeks and business folks alike, flocking to the same space every year to meet, greet, debate and innovate on topics near and dear to their hearts.

LotusphereFor me personally, it’s been an almost career-long fixture that has led from a couple of hops to Berlin for Lotusphere Europe, through to more than a decade of crossing the pond to Orlando for the real thing.  I was telling someone just last week that I’ve missed only two events since 2004. The first was in 2006 when I’d temporarily left the Lotus space to venture into other technologies. It was partly reading the news from the event whilst trying to get my head around HP OpenView systems management products that made me jump back into the Lotus partner space within a few months! Then in 2008, my employer decided at the last moment to cancel my ticket – the last straw in a long debate about the importance of collaboration technologies to their business.  Having handed in my notice, Lotusphere 2008 coincided with my first week of running my own business.

The Sphere is where I’ve met huge numbers of IBMers, colleagues and peers. Folks that started as business contacts bumped into in some corridor in the Dolphin, whom I now consider very very close friends – a significant part of the narrative of my adult life.

So why this post?

As most of you will be aware, IBM ConnectED takes place next week in the Swan Hotel.  More technical, more intimate, smaller and less glamorous this time, but still part of the two-decade long history of this great gathering. It will have a different feel for sure, but I have no doubt that enough of the familiar events, locations, features and faces will be present to make it a hugely fun and informative week.

Sadly, it will also likely be the final ‘Sphere event.  The IBM contract is up at the Dolphin and Swan, and as I’ve previously blogged, IBM’s focus seems to be on very large consolidated events in Las Vegas for the future. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing by the way, just that it will be different.

So, it’s the last ‘Sphere, I’ll be there, right?  Nope. Not this time.

There’s a few reasons while I’ll be missing it:

  • The most important is that I promised my wife Philippa that I wouldn’t do it again this year. Almost every January since the kids were very small, I’ve left her to look after the brood for an entire week whilst I had fun and did business in the Floridian sun (at the time of my first Orlando trip in 2004, Philippa was 5 months pregnant with our youngest, and was already looking after three under-7s!).  This at a a time of year when things are most difficult for those of us that are self-employed – Christmas and New Year eat into our potential billable days, and then we take another week out to head to Orlando, whilst usually paying $2-4000 for the privilege!  I would hate to add up what the lost earnings and expenses add up to over the time I’ve attended – that wouldn’t be a happy number.  The ‘Sphere has been an enormous sacrifice for my family and this was the year when it needed to end…
  • The fostering that I spoke about at the NerdGirl Sparks session last year has now well and truly kicked in, and we’re about to have another little person move in this week. This alone would make it almost impossible to attend this time around.
  • My business is less IBM-centric now. This has been a trend for the past few years, but has accelerated since last summer. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still working with IBM Connections, but I’m spending as much (if not more) time on Jive, Tibbr and Yammer (amongst many others) as I am on Connections.  Certainly, Notes, Domino and Sametime (or Verse even) are a long way from my focus area these days.

So, for all those that do congregate in Orlando next week, I wish you the very very best time!

Enjoy the beach soccer, the Mai Tais, BALD on the Boardwalk, the ESPN, the Dolphin bar, karaoke in Kimonos, homebrews by the pool, Mat Newman hugs, the pretzel cookies, all of it.  Party like it’s still 1999 and there’s almost 10,000 people there.  Raise a glass to all those that have been a part of ‘Sphere tradition.

TWiL in the RotundaMost of all, just for me, please close out the ‘Sphere at 4am in the Dolphin Rotunda with the style that it is accustomed to (you could even record a podcast to commemorate the moment)!

I’ll miss you, Lotusphere.

IBM Connect 2014 banner

Orlando-bound: my perspective on the upcoming IBM Connect 2014 event

It’s a dark and dank early Friday morning in mid- to late-January, so as is the annual routine, I’m in a airport car headed for London Gatwick and onto the hopefully somewhat brighter climes of Orlando, Florida.

What takes me there?

I’d be surprised if you need to ask, but if you do, it’s IBM Connect – IBM’s premier Social Business, collaboration and workforce management conference –  the event formerly known and loved as Lotusphere.

IBM Connect 2014 banner

This is my tenth Lotusphere/Connect in all, with my first being a European event in Berlin in 2000 and then subsequent US trips in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2009-14.

Whilst my attendance at these kinds of conferences has become much wider over the years (Le Web, SugarCon, Jive and Salesforce events to name but a few), the annual trip to the Swan and Dolphin is still a major highlight of the year.  The mix of business, technical, community and social is still a heady one, even with the continued evolution of the conference from being Notes/Domino-centric in the 90s and early-noughties, through additions such as Sametime/Quickplace/Portal/Workplace/Foundations in the mid-2000s, to the current focus on Social Business (Connections) over the past few years.  With the recent acquisition of Kenexa (the event is also tagged as Kenexa World Conference), the theme of Social Workforce will be a strong one this year too.

Dolphin and Swan

There is no doubt that the audience has changed massively over this time, with 2014 seeing the notable absence of a good number of those that have played a central role in the community (Bruce and Tom amongst many many others who will be sadly missed), however so far it is definitely the case of ‘the more it changes, the more it stays the same’.  Connect is still Lotusphere as far as I am concerned, and whilst some of the changes can be hard to accept, there are plenty more that are exciting and innovative.

IBM Connect 2013 Community

As for my role, the heady and incredibly busy days of IBM blogger programs, weekly podcasts and running the Lotusphere Blog are behind me, so this year’s event will be a calmer, more reflective affair.  With my new direction at Social 365 and continued developments at my primary customers, I’ll be approaching this event with a different focus, looking at the announcements, roadmaps and sessions from a more analytical perspective.

The Social Business marketplace is at an interesting inflection point right now. In many cases the technology is now mature, vendors are generally innovating a little slower than previously, and many organisations are taking a second (or in some cases, third) look at their investments and strategy in this area.  Since these solutions became available in 2007/8/9, many significant technology working practice shifts have taken place (and they continue to come thick and fast) – the ever increasing use of mobile devices, the shift toward the cloud, the continuing evolution of social media and the links between private and public networks, the migrations away from traditional on-premises messaging systems, the development of open standards for Social transactions and activity streams, the move from Human Resources to Talent Acquisition and Management and more.  These have meant that what was expected of a Social platform in 2014 and beyond is very different to in years gone by.  Organisations are looking for solutions that bridge the worlds of CRM, ERP, HR, messaging, team collaboration and social media.  That’s not to say that they necessarily want one platform that does it all, but Social Business reaches into all of those areas and therefore any products or platforms must have answers to questions being asked in all aspects of an organisation’s business rather than just from the perspective of internal collaboration and knowledge sharing.

IBM has a massive heritage in this space, and the strength of products such as Connections, Sametime, Domino and Portal is well acknowledged by Gartner and the like.  However, this space is more competitive than ever. Companies like Jive, Cisco, VMWare, Microsoft and SAP are driving their solutions forward.  The smaller niche players such as Box, Dropbox and Huddle are innovating fast.  Meanwhile, Salesforce are making such inroads (as they widen their scope from their position as CRM leaders) that they’ve just been given their own category in Paul Greenberg’s CRM Watchlist for 2014.  It will be fascinating to see how IBM takes their existing platforms, combines them with their Kenexa acquisition and their other investments under the SmartPlanet banner, and even throws in a little magic from Watson.  All the while, they need to be looking outside the walls and working on improved integration with social media and the established players in those other spaces I mentioned above.

I’m coming into IBM Connect with less knowledge of what’s coming up than ever before.  I have very little steer on what Connections Next will look like, or at the higher level, what IBM’s Social Business strategy for the next 12-24 months looks like.  That’s quite exciting…  In addition, changes in management always stir things up.  The switch from Alistair Rennie to Craig Hayman as GM of ICS (in addition to Craig’s existing role as head of Industry Solutions) is sure to be interesting to follow – I’m anticipating a change of style and possibly a more substantial strategy adjustment too.

So, all in all, I’m headed across the Atlantic with great expectations.  Hope I’ll see you there?  If not, look out for plenty of posts over the next few days…

Missed Lotusphere 2012? Some tips on catching up

If you missed Lotusphere this year, you may be wondering how you can catch up on all the news?

Well obviously there’s plenty of blogs (not least that you can read.  The presentations are also gradually being uploaded into the Lotusphere community on the Greenhouse.

However, you could also listen to a series of podcasts that cover the topics. As usual, your best bets are IdoNotes, Taking Notes and This Week in Lotus.  Here are some of the recent highlights:

Taking Notes Episode 148: 2012.01.24 – Alistair Rennie on Lotusphere 2012 and Getting Social
Taking Notes Episode 149: 2012.01.27 – Learn about OpenSocial with Ryan Baxter and Mikkel Heisterberg
Taking Notes Episode 150: 2012.02.09 – Activity Streams of the Future, with Alan Lepofsky
This Week in Lotus 086 – Live from Lotusphere 2012
This Week in Lotus 087 – Where’s the ’Do Not Disturb’? (covering IBM Quickr futures)
This Week in Lotus 088 – UltraAJAXersize (featuring Jason Dumont) (covering Lotus Notes, iNotes and Connections Mail)
This Week in Lotus 089 – Lotuslive becomes SmartCloud for Social Business

All are worth listening to if you want to get up to date.

Are we having fun yet?

Lotusphere 2011 – my review in 6 posts 3) The Keynotes

Post 1 covered the stats and the take-aways from Lotusphere 2011.  Post 2 discussed IBM’s new Social Business message.

So, we’re onto the Keynotes…

It’s hard to discuss the Opening General Session at Lotusphere 2011 without rehashing arguments and points that others have already made.  Suffice to say that of all the Lotuspheres I’ve attended (and this was the 8th in total), this was by some margin the worst OGS session that I have yet sat through.

In the past I have suggested that IBM needs to tell a story in its major event keynotes rather than just detail IBM’s strategy pitch, or to jump from product to product (see ‘What’s the story, Lotus?‘ from May 2009).  

I stand by that post, e.g.:

At no stage did Lotus ever tell the story behind its products, why they’re relevant to an organisation, what difference do they make to a knowledge worker’s life, how they work together to make a user’s work more enjoyable or a department more efficient…  Where are the ‘day in the life’ demos, the captivating success stories, the ‘wow’ moments, the creation of desire and excitement amongst attendees, viewers or readers?

The Lotusphere 2011 OGS was almost bizarre.  I remember sitting in the Bloggers Den looking around at the other blogger’s and attendees, exchanging glances of ‘what’s going on?’, ‘are we really seeing this?’ and ‘how long is left?’!  I also glanced across at the front row of the audience, filled with IBM execs, VIPs and press, and saw Blackberry devices being checked, conversations taking place and general boredom setting in:

Are we having fun yet?

As others have detailed, the OGS started so well – a good performance by the band, then Alistair welcoming everyone including the 500 students in attendance, then Kevin Spacey giving us his experience on collaboration.  All really involving and exciting to watch.  Then we had the pitch by Blackberry around the Playbook – so-so, and understandable that they would want to talk about the device at an event they are sponsoring.  But then we had the panels.  Oh my goodness!  I want to say so much about these – so so wrong.  Scripted, tele-prompted (why??), uncomfortable seats (so lots of shuffling), monotone voices, too long on each answer, no real mention of how IBM Social Business products and solutions are making a difference to the organisations, just vague waffly discussions of why Social might be important in the next five years.  Nothing for technical attendees, nothing for students, nothing for anybody to hang onto at all.  And just as the first panel finished after about 25 minutes, another one started.  I saw so many tweets and live blog comments that said something along the lines of ‘oh no they’re bringing out more chairs, its another panel ;-(‘.  And this was just more of the same…

So, what about the panels?  For me they have no place in the OGS, no place at all.  Can you imagine Steve Jobs inviting a panel of CEOs onto the stage at an Apple keynote and talking from scripts for 25 minutes, let alone for two sets of similar conversations?  Of course not!  He would never let it happen!  Sure, he might have one or two come on individually for 2-3 minutes to say their piece (revolving around the Apple announcement and products naturally), he might have snappy recorded interviews that can be interlinked into his presentation, but never a panel.  [As an aside, I think IBM would benefit from asking ‘What would Steve do?‘ on a regular basis – not to copy Apple’s strategy, but to copy their style and attitude towards business people as consumers…]

In summary, the panels were dire, awful, dull.  if IBM wanted to do panel discussions on the Social message, they should have been saved for the Symposium over at the Yacht and Beach.

Then we got to two of the real positives of the OGS.  Doug came on, and recognised that folks back stage had been reading the tweets regarding the panels, and promised to push on and get to the demos.  Awesome.  IBM listening to attendees in real-time.  That’s social!  Then the new demo-man came on, Brian.  Brian did a tremendous job of the demos – high-energy, engaging, clear explanations of what he was showing – just what was needed.  Ron and Suzanne did their usual professional jobs, and then Alistair closed off the session.  Much better.

But… where was the story??  Sure the demos were engaging (and as the oasis in the desert of panel discussion, so should they have been!), but I felt as if they were too bitty, too fast and too jumpy – at very few points were products mentioned, and no real description was given as to how the solutions could be built or when.  The demos didn’t really relate back to any narrative – no discussion of how they would make people or organisations more social, no mention of a roadmap for the next 3-5 years.  The demos were fine, but only that.  For me there was no wow, no distinctive message as to how IBM was going to build on the collaboration infrastructure that so many attendees already have in place to take them to the next level of Social Business.  A massive opportunity lost, I felt.

So that was Monday’s OGS keynote in a nutshell.  One last point, it overran, again.  Meaning that later sessions were delayed, and attendees were actually kicked out of the OGS hall, interrupting conversations and killing atmosphere.  A plea of Lotusphere 2012, please schedule in some overrun for the OGS – it always happens, and don’t schedule any sessions in the OGS hall that morning.  That would leave attendees to make conversation and to savour the OGS experience rather than being hustled out of the hall at high speed.

This year there were actually 4 keynotes in total, Business Development Day (Sunday), the OGS and then two more sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I would love to say that the OGS was the only letdown, but I’d be lying.  The BDD day general session for business partners also featured an over-long panel, was missing a guest speaker or any kind of guest appearance (e.g. like the artist of last year), and generally did not hit the heights.  Tuesday’s keynote was better than the OGS, but not by much.  I was looking forward to hearing John Iwata’s talk, but even then it was a very low-key keynote, no real razzmatazz at all.  Wednesday’s saved the week for me – Andrew McAfee got things back on track and the subsequent content reflected the vision of Social Business well – I covered this in Post 2.

So all in all, I was utterly under-whelmed by the keynotes.  Knowing folks like Suzanne Livingstone and Chris Reckling as I do, it really pains me to be so negative about the massive amount of work that they do towards these sessions.  However, this year at Lotusphere, someone got it very wrong.  The timing was off, the content badly chosen, the atmosphere neglected, the students ignored, the loyal Notes/Domino techies left out.  It was notable how many times there were pauses for applause in the script that never came, someone clearly misunderstood the audience.  Whilst I completely recognise that this was always going to be a ‘different’ Lotusphere, with few announcements and the need to tell the Social Business story, there was no excuse for delivering a total of 7-8 hours of such poorly targeted sessions.  

What’s more, this was the year of the streaming content (great work by the way Kathy et al!), and thus was the chance to broadcast the keynote sessions to a far wider set of attendees than ever before.  So, lights, camera, action…. Zzzz.  Another massive opportunity missed.

Lastly, and I know I’m straying into personal territory here, which is always dangerous… For me, Mike Rhodin has no place on the main stage at Lotusphere.  For a great number of loyal Lotusphere attendees, the Workplace product set that Mike owned represents the nadir of our relationship with IBM.  I recognise that Mike has a very important role within IBM Software Group, and that includes a relationship with the Lotus brand, but really IBM, I’m sure you could find other execs and presenters that would raise the atmosphere in the room rather than, well…

So, back to the positive.  From the tweets I’ve seen about LCTY events that have taken place so far, the reaction to main sessions seems to be much more positive.  I hope that IBM learns from Lotusphere 2011 and works towards much more story-led and involving keynotes in the future.

The series:
1) The Stats and the take-aways
2) The Social Business message
3) The Keynotes
4) The people of Lotusphere
5) The social side
6) The future of Lotusphere
7) Where do we go from here?

IBM Social Business @ Lotusphere 2011

Lotusphere 2011 – my review in 6 posts 2) The Social Business message

[ Ah, that took rather longer than I’d expected! Real life getting in the way again 😉 ]

So, post 1 covered the stats and the take-aways from Lotusphere 2011.

This post is discussing the main topic of this year’s event – Social Business.  I know you’ll all have missed that, ‘cos it wasn’t mentioned much! 😉

IBM Social Business @ Lotusphere 2011
(Image courtesy of Jon Roling on Flickr)

The theme

Unlike most other Lotusphere themes (Envision Decisions, FutureInSight, Emergence, Resonance etc.), the tagline of Lotusphere 2011 – ‘Get Social. Do Business.’ – really did sum up the significant message from the conference.  Social Business was the thread that ran through all the keynotes, was mentioned in almost every session I attended and was taken to heart by every almost attendee I met.

So, do we all understand what IBM means by ‘Social Business’?  I’m sure that the high-level message of the need for all businesses to begin operating outside their walls, in ways that break down knowledge silos, enabling employees, customers and partners was understood. In particular, Andrew McAfee did a great job of expounding on what Enterprise 2.0 (his term for Social Collaboration or Social Business) software is, and how he sees it revolutionising businesses and organisations in all geographies and verticals.  For me, that was the turning point of the conference, when the audience began to really understand the possibilities of Social Business, and IBM followed this up particularly well in the rest of the Wednesday keynote, by laying out how the rest of the IBM solutions portfolio (Cognos, Rational etc.) will be building on Social technology in the future.

The vision

I think that overall, the vision was articulated pretty well – this being something that Collaboration Matters has been talking about with our customers for years now – that organisations need to adopt facets of Social computing inside, outside and through the firewall; that organisations can operate in a flatter and more dynamic way with both employees and external contacts, and that innovation can be embraced by increasing knowledge flow.  Whilst I certainly didn’t enjoy the panel discussions in the keynotes (2-minute videos of each case study would have worked much better), the customers involved did outline areas in which Social Business projects have had a significant effect on their profitability, staff retention and customer loyalty.  Those are the kinds of use cases that all of us can use in the future to assist other organisations to understand the benefits of Social Business.


Where I believe that IBM did not do a good job was in outlining ways in which organisations can get from here to there – from the messaging and collaboration infrastructure and techniques in use today to this grand vision of Social Business that we expect to see in 3-5 years.  To some extent, that is because the tools don’t exist in the right forms today – whilst Connections, Domino, Quickr and Sametime are all ‘Social’ in one form or another, none of them fulfills all the aspects of Social Business.  Plus, of course, there is cultural change that needs to be embraced alongside the technology.  However, besides ‘buy Connections’ (and yes, we’d be happy to deploy it for you!), and watch out for the ‘Next’ versions of the products, I never really felt that IBM outlined a clear methodology or roadmap for businesses to transition to Social Business.  Perhaps that kind of content was delivered at the Social Business Symposium over at the Y&B, but it certainly wasn’t on display in the keynotes or the session presentations I’ve seen.

‘Social Business’ as a brand

IBM has clearly begun an effort to own the term “Social Business’.  Whilst many vendors are talking about “Enterprise 2.0”, “Social Media” or “Social Computing”, IBM has put a marker in the sand around “Social Business” and “Get Social. Do Business.”  If this is subsequently backed up by real marketing and TV advertising (yes I know!), then it could build a real brand around the terminology and use it for a significant period of time (much as it did with ‘eBusiness’ and ‘onDemand’).

However, there’s work to do… Looking at the results to a Google or Bing search for “Social Business’, none of the first 10 results I found were for IBM sites, nor even for coverage of Lotusphere.  IBM doesn’t own either the or domains that could be leveraged for this campaign, and as far as I can tell, it hasn’t trademarked either term.

Inside & outside…

The other major issue as it stands is that there is no obvious means of enabling social ‘through the firewall’ in the Lotus portfolio either as it stands or as outlined for the ‘Next’ versions.  Quickr does this but in a relative formal project-based way, whereas Connections doesn’t play at all well in this space right now.  LotusLive could provide a way forward, but even then, many organisations are not yet ready for cloud, and it is yet another silo to manage.  This needs to be addressed ASAP.

Drinking one’s own champagne

Much was made of IBM’s own transition to being a Social Business – this has been picked up in many areas of the tech media.  I definitely applaud this move and evidence of the move was available throughout Lotusphere.  Whilst there is still much work to do, this is inevitable in an organisation the size of IBM (or even just the size of the IBM Collaboration Solutions business unit).

However, this again raises a concern for me, which stands for almost every IBM solution – IBM is not the same as 99.9% of organisations I meet.  The tools and techniques that IBM uses internally will not work for all organisations, particularly for the massive majority of organisations – those with less than 1,000 employees.  Whilst ‘drinking one’s own champagne’ is definitely a good thing, I would love IBM to also sample other tipples once in a while, and to also recognise that others will have different beverage tastes!  As I raised at the ‘Ask the Product Managers’ session at Lotusphere, in some areas freemium tools such as DropBox are absolutely killing products in the Lotus portfolio, and IBM must start using and understanding these tools and technologies to ensure that they understand why for smaller businesses (and the consumers that run them), they fit the bill so brilliantly.  For products such as Quickr and Connections to make inroads in these areas, they much be made more small-business-friendly…

In summary

I think IBM made a great start of launching Social Business as a strategy at Lotusphere 2011.  I just hope that we will see this start being built upon, every week through 2011.  There is much work to be done!

The series:
1) The Stats and the take-aways
2) The Social Business message
3) The Keynotes
4) The people of Lotusphere
5) The social side
6) The future of Lotusphere
7) Where do we go from here?

Now on SlideShare – BP105 – 12 More Things Your Mother Never Told You About Installing Lotus Connections

At Lotusphere 2011, my good friend Rob Wunderlich and I also presented a Best Practices session on Lotus Connections 3.0, entitled ’12 More Things Your Mother Never Told You About Installing Lotus Connections’.

Here it is on SlideShare:

It is also available for download from the SlideShare site, as well as on LS Online.

Please do share with your colleagues, and use for your own benefit.  However, if you’d like to use the content for your own presentations, please ask for permission first.

Obviously, if you have any questions, or need some assistance with your own Lotus Connections 3.0 deployment, please let me know!

Now on SlideShare – SHOW202 – Enterprise 2.0 Hero – a Beginner’s Guide to Installing IBM Lotus Connections 3.0

At Lotusphere 2011, my good friend Rob Wunderlich and I presented a Show and Tell session on installing Lotus Connections 3.0.

Here it is on SlideShare (all 289 slides!):

It is also available for download from the SlideShare site, as well as on LS Online.

Please do share with your colleagues, and use for your own benefit.  However, if you’d like to use the content for your own presentations, please ask for permission first.

Obviously, if you have any questions, or need some assistance with your own Lotus Connections 3.0 deployment, please let me know!

Lotus is dead. Long live IBM.

[I note that Alan Lepofsky and Ed Brill have blogged thoughts on IBM vs. Lotus over the past couple of days – it’s worth checking out their posts]

So, Lotusphere is done for another year.  For me personally, Lotusphere 2011 generated an extreme set of emotions, and was a not altogether pleasurable experience.  Let me explain…

In the lead-up to Lotusphere 2011, I was ecstatic about the upcoming conference.  The headline topic, Social Business, was music to my ears – I’ve been preaching the Social Collaboration message for the past 3 years and more – and seeing IBM pushing that vision was exciting.  The IBM Marketing team gets Social themselves – folks like Kathy Mandelstein, Donna Bieg and Jacques Pavlenyi really do understand social marketing and the community. Finally, the folks that I know and love so much would be there, and so the community would be back together once more.

So it was with surprise that three days in, I felt really really angry and frustrated with the Lotusphere I was attending.  I won’t list out all the issues I was seeing, because that’s not the point of this post.  I’ll simply say that at every turn it seemed that the conversation was being forcibly directed away from the things that mattered to me – no focus on SMB, strategic panels versus product-related announcements, no mention of Lotus as a brand, partner programs that shift the focus from Domino/Notes to Portal and many many more.  It seemed that the Social Business moniker was being used as a weapon to beat away the Lotus brand that we have been loyally following for so long.

Then it hit me.

It really doesn’t matter…

This is not my fight.  In fact, there should not even be a fight.

IBM is a profit-driven business. Shareholder value is what counts.  Always has, always will do.  Lotus software is, at the end of the day, just a set of products within a ‘legacy’ brand that they acquired back in 1995.  The folks at the top of the tree, even in SWG, don’t get the community, the loyalty or the devotion – they have no reason to.  After all, it doesn’t deliver what they want – profits.  Despite being an IBM partner for longer than being involved with Lotus – my first job was consulting around IBM RS/6000 servers – I have railed against this for years and years.  To be honest, it has got me nowhere and probably won me few friends inside IBM.

If we drill it down to bare facts, this is where we are at…

  • Many of the technologies that have been part of the Lotus brand (Connections, Quickr, LotusLive and Portal) are now front and centre in the new Social Business campaign.
  • Technologies like Connections and Portal are market-leaders, at least amongst large corporates.
  • Domino and Notes may no longer be a core part of the IBM collaboration story, but they are healthy and in some areas (XPages) resurgent.
  • The Lotus brand may not be ‘going away’, but it is being deprecated.
  • The conversation has been moved on from being one about messaging, to one about Social Collaboration and Social Business.  This has to be a good thing.
  • Lotusphere will be with us until 2015 at least – IBM has publicly stated as much.

Whether the Lotus name and brand exists in 5 years doesn’t matter…
Whether Portal is or isn’t an ‘exceptional web experience’ doesn’t matter…
Whether IBM advertises product or not doesn’t matter…

The only thing that should matter is whether IBM technologies can do a valuable job for our organisations or for our customers?

Right now, that’s a resounding ‘YES’!

IBM gets Social.  It gets Social Business.  It gets why organisations need to push on in this direction over the next few years.

That’s what matters.  That’s why Collaboration Matters is an IBM partner, and why we advocate IBM solutions.

2011 is therefore going to be the year I stop engaging in pointless spats with others in this community and focus on the positive.  We at Collaboration Matters help to change our customers’ businesses using innovative solutions based on IBM software.  That’s what matters!

Lotusphere 2011 – my review in 6 posts. 1) The stats and the take-aways

As ever, it takes a while to digest the impact of the Lotusphere conference.  It is such a crazily manic 6 days that it is not really possible to sum ones feelings up in a fair and sensible way until the conference is over and Orlando is receding into the distance.  I’m writing this whilst cruising at 35,000ft up the East coast of the USA on the way back to Manchester – no wifi unfortunately, so this will get posted on landing if I get it done before the battery fails me.

So let’s have a go…

First of all, my stats from the conference.  I attended all 5 official days of the Lotusphere agenda, sat in 4 keynote sessions (BDD, plus the Monday OGS, Tuesday and Wednesday), watched three breakout sessions (JMP206, BP303 and BP106) plus the Ask the PMs session and Speedgeeking, and gave two sessions of my own with Rob Wunderlich (SHOW202 and BP105) and I was on the Gurupalooza panel.  I failed to attend any BoFs.  I also took part in a number of private sessions as part of the blogger and press program, and a few roundtable discussions as a result of our BP relationships.

I live-blogged the three keynotes on Monday-Wednesday, having as many as 200 live viewers during the OGS.  As you would expect, I’ve been tweeting pretty prolifically as well.  Through the Lotusphere Podcast I published four interviews (including with Sandy Carter) and have a pile of other recordings to process when I get the time. Finally, we also recorded a live This Week in Lotus episode.

As well as all that, I managed to get to BALD, the Turtle Party, Kimonos every night, the Welcome Reception, UK Night, the Great Geek Challenge (we co-sponsored those last two events), the Showcase Reception, Australia Night, the UKI reception, the Blogger/Press Reception (those last three all very briefly), the Wednesday Night Party and even the Bill Buchan Rotunda Drink-up.

So what does that all mean?  A phenomenally busy 6 days – no doubt.  Very little sleep, very little time to relax, and plenty of exercise!  So here’s my take-away.  That lot is too much – way too much.  Lotusphere is an incredible event and is tough on the body however you manage it.  But for the first time this year, I really felt that something had to give.  Like many others in this community, I wear a number of hats.  In my case, that includes being a partner, a design partner, speaker, blogger/press, podcaster, customer advocate, panelist and more.  I wouldn’t have it any other way – I love doing all that stuff, and is part of my company’s commitment to be social in everything we do.

However, only attending 3 break-outs from the amazing list of sessions on the agenda this year is a massive fat #FAIL.  Given the very high level overview of the keynotes this year, it was even more important than usual to attend the breakouts in order to get the inside track on what is happening in the Next versions of the products, and of course to be educated on the technical details, the best practices and the amazing innovation from around the community.  As a result of my commitment to the Blogger program, to seeing my customers, partners and key IBMers, and probably most significantly to preparing for our ‘Show and Tell’ session, I only made it to three (admittedly great) sessions.  Not good.  In addition, I lost count of the number of good friends and contacts that I met briefly in the corridors and had to say ‘Great to see you, sorry I’m rushing to XYZ event, will catch up with you later on’ and then never did.  Really not good.

So, next year, a couple of things will change:  

First up, no Show and Tell sessions.  Kudos to all those that do them year-on-year, and particularly to Christian/Paul/Gab for managing that track.  But be under no illusion – delivering a new Show and Tell track session at Lotusphere will cost you in the order of 50-200 hours of preparation, and probably make you
go grey or lose your hair too.  They are hard hard work.  By the way, plenty of people (Darren and Paul in particular) warned me of this – I should have listened!

Secondly, for the first time in about 5 years, I tried to compress Lotusphere into 6 days this year – fly from the UK on Saturday and fly home on Thursday/Friday.  For purely financial reasons, that makes sense – additional nights in the Dolphin and Swan plus days away from paid work add up… And of course I miss the family too!  However, that leaves no breathing room in the schedule – it is simply too intense given all those hats I mentioned.  Next year, I’ll find a way to do Friday-Friday/Saturday – it will be worth it.

So that’s it for post 1, more posts will follow.

Coming soon:
2) The Social Business message
3) The Keynotes
4) The people of Lotusphere
5) The social side
6) The future of Lotusphere
7) Where do we go from here?

Wow, a long day!

A brief recap of today:

04:30 UK – Alarm goes off
05:00 UK – Leave home
07:30 UK – Arrive at Manchester airport
10:30 UK – Flight leaves
19:30 UK | 14:30 ET – Flight lands
20:30 UK | 15:30 ET – Arrive at Dolphin
21:00 UK | 16:00 ET – BALD at the Big River Brewery
23:00 UK | 18:00 ET – ESPN party and dinner
02:00 UK | 21:00 ET – Kimonos
04:30 UK | 11:30 ET – Bed

Business Developer Day starts at 08:00 ET tomorrow!

On the positive, have seen so many great friends already – Bruce & Gayle Elgort, Kathy Mandelstein, Joyce Davis, Tom Duff, Julian Woodward, Matt White, Jon Mell, Mick Moignard, Sharon Bellamy, Darren & Lisa Duke, Wes Morgan, Lars Olufsen, Mikkel Heisterberg, Mitch Cohen, Handly Cameron, Sean Burgess, Mary Beth Raven, Susan Bulloch, Marie Scott and many many more…

#ls11 is off to a great start!

The top 10 reasons why you should meet with Collaboration Matters at Lotusphere 2011

Are you attending Lotusphere 2011 (#ls11) next week?  Have you considered meeting with Collaboration Matters while you’re there?

Here’s the top 10 reasons why you should get in touch to schedule a chat at Lotusphere (or indeed why you should just say hello when you see me in the hallways of the Dolphin or Swan):

1.  We can help you. That’s what we do!  Provide assistance, ideas, planning, trustworthy advice and an opportunity to chat through any concerns, issues or problems you have with your organisation’s collaboration or social business architecture.  
2.  There’s no commitment, no charge, no hard sell.  This is the same as when any customer meets us at any time – it’s up to us to prove to you that our assistance is of value.  Else smile, shake hands and that’s fine.
3.  We’re independent.  There are a lot of folks at Lotusphere that will have a product to sell you.  That’s fine, but we’re different.  As an organisation that really truly understands Social Collaboration, we get that one size does not fit all, and that neither IBM as a vendor, or Collaboration Matters as a partner has all the answers.  We partner with the best organisations out there, both at the vendor level (IBM/Lotus of course, plus SocialText, Atlassian, Jive, Google and more) and at the Partner level (Applicable, Elguji, Opus Neo and more) to ensure that we give you the best advice and the best solutions we can deliver.  If we don’t think a product will deliver real value, we won’t sell it!
4.  We’re focused.  There are a lot of solution providers out there that are jack of all trades (if it’s yellow, we’ll do it) but masters of none.  Collaboration Matters is different – Social is what we do.  In fact, it’s all we’ve done.  Since incorporation at the start of 2008, we have been 100% focused on Social Collaboration and Social Business.  If you need an XPages app or a CRM system, we’ll happily point you in the right direction to a supplier you can trust, but we’re about being social – it’s what we live for.
5.  We understand the options. Whether its ‘on-premise’, appliance, private hosting, private cloud or multi-tenant you need, we can knowledgeably discuss the options.  Through our partnership with Applicable we can offer true SaaS delivery of Lotus Connections and Quickr solutions, charged per user per month, including very low cost and fast-provisioned Proof of Concept options.  If you need the solution on-premise, Applicable can manage it there too.
6.  We’re efficient. We know how some organisations charge exorbitant daily rates for low-grade consultants, and how sometimes a few hours becomes several days of paid work.  That’s not our ethic – we have plans that enable both customers and partners to call on our time in small flexible chunks, meaning the security of a relationship with high-quality expert staff but at a low cost of engagement and with fast turnaround on requests.  We know the economy is tight, and we try to ensure our customers get the benefit of calling on the right partner at the right time.
7.  We’ve been there and done it. As far as we’re aware, we’ve completed more successful installs, upgrades, customisations and roll-outs than any other partner in the UK.  So much so, that IBM use Collaboration Matters for a number of their Connections projects too.  We’ve already upgraded multiple customers to Connections 3.0, and with Applicable, have the only hosted Connections 3.0 infrastructure available in Europe.
8.  We know that technology alone doesn’t deliver. Social is different to your traditional collaboration project.  This isn’t about IT, this is about delivering real business value through cultural change – breaking down barriers, flattening organisation structures, listening as well as broadcasting, opening up leadership teams and so.  Social is about use cases, about synergies and about line of business ownership.  Therefore, throwing a Connections installation together in a couple of days won’t make your organisation social.  We understand adoption, overcoming cultural inertia and are used to delivering social workshops and training to everyone from the CEO to the Intern.
9.  We operate worldwide.  Collaboration Matters has direct customers based in the UK (obviously), in the US, Australia and Asia.  However, we also have (and continue to seek) a number of partnerships with organisations that operate in these locations – local business partners and ISVs that know the geography and the industry involved.  We truly are social in our approach – partnerships are one of the demonstrations of this.
10.  We know IBM, so you don’t have to. IBM is a terrific organisation, and Lotus is an amazing brand. However, dealing with either is sometimes complex and tricky to navigate.  Our deep long-term relationship with IBM and its key employees and teams mean that we can work with IBM on your behalf – to get issues fixed, to find the right resources, to get the information you need to plan your route forward.

and lastly:

11.  We’re nice people!  Come have a chat and a beer with Stuart at Lotusphere, and lets see whether we can work together.  Could be the most profitable drink you have all year!

James Governor: Lotus Gears Up To Embrace The Web, Rebuild its Developer Story, pwn Social Business

James Governor of respected analyst firm RedMonk is excited by the direction that Lotus is taking right now, particularly with reference to development platforms:

Lotus is about apps. But that won’t cut it as a platform play. Without a strong developer story Lotus can only be a top down big sale item – that is, IBM business as usual. But IBM needs growth in collaboration, from the bottom up, and that means developers. Its been a long time since Lotus had a decent story for developers- arguably since the embedded app server was deprecated, and Lotus took a turn to the heavyweight with WebSphere.

I was pleased to see a classic consultant slide from Lotus GM Alistair Rennie with a quadrant labeled Developer. Not a moment to soon. IBM needs to dramatically accelerate its attraction to Web developers – and Rational is the wrong tool for the job.

So what kind of language did Rennie use about Lotus and its developer play?

  • Social Business platform design principles
  • web UI (see ibm project vulcan)
  • strong aggregator toolkit
  • mobile first as a design point
  • embedded experience
  • security model from the ground up

Nothing there to scare off a web developer. And what about the standards IBM plans to support with this new approach, code-named Project Vulcan.

  • OpenSocial
  • Oauth
  • SAML
  • CMIS
  • ATOM
  • ActivityStreams
  • HTML5
  • OpenAJAX

Whoa – that’s a laundry list designed to keep a Silicon Valley hipster happy (well, maybe if you took SAML out, anyway). IBM needs to deliver of course- but if it really goes after this stack, packaging up the technologies that developers actually want to use, it could become aspirational in terms of pulling web developers into enterprise work. The winner in any tech wave is the best packager- so far no enterprise company has nailed and packaged the web development wave.

So, James likes the idea of Lotus appealing to Web developers.  

What about Lotusphere and it’s theme ‘Social Business’:

So what about this Social Business stuff?

IBM has some great assets there. The Lotus portfolio is surprisingly functional in terms of chatter based apps. But the real kicker for me discovering that Sandy Carter has a new role for 2011 – She is now Vice President IBM Social Business and Collaboration Solutions Sales and Evangelism. If you don’t follow IBM SWG you may not know that Sandy is Steve Mills’ go to person for the job that needs doing, particularly spanning cross party lines. Last year Sandy ran channel sales and IBM’s performance improved by a significant percentage. So she will be working with an already solid Lotus team to drive Social Business in IBM customers.

It will be fascinating to see the role that Sandy Carter takes on at Lotusphere and through 2011.  (Darren Duke and I have interviewed Sandy on the latest episode of This Week in Lotus due out tomorrow – I’ll post the link when it is available.)

Finally, what’s James looking to see at Lotusphere?

I am going to Lotusphere in a couple of weeks and everything should be somewhat clearer after that. IBM is running a Social Business Industries conference in tandem with the tech show, which is new and pretty cool- looking at things like Open Government. All in all though I am fairly positive about things. And from a disclosure perspective I should point out that we work with Lotus, and I am pretty fired up about helping IBM better serve web developers. We have been pushing for this for a long time.

James and the Redmonk team are taking part in the Business Development Day at Lotusphere 2011, so it will be intriguing to see their input, particularly around the Lotus application development story.

Fascinating times…

Is Lotusphere really worth the cost?

Is Lotusphere really worth the financial cost?

Or the time or the travel or all those things that are going through your head when you are thinking about booking for Lotusphere 2011?  

At Collaboration Matters we would answer that question with a resounding “Yes”.  Why else would we commit to it so wholeheartedly?

That being so, how do you justify the time/expense/travel to the people left behind picking up the pieces whilst you are away?  Be that the boss, colleagues who are taking on your workload or the person who is going to spend the week dealing with your kids, for effectively what looks to them like a week in Disney in a hotel quaffing champagne!  Not that that isn’t a very worthwhile pursuit!

We have found that the benefit of Lotusphere is not always easily quantifiable.  We have had direct custom from Lotusphere which has really helped us to grow our business, but there are other benefits too.  Wider “community” benefits that not only make your job more efficient but more enjoyable too.  

So the question is:

What did you get from Lotusphere 2010 and how do you justify attending this year’s event in this difficult financial climate?

We would love to hear from you, business partners and IBM customers alike.  Send us your experiences and we will post them on the blog.  Even better, if you have an exciting story that you can fit into a blog post, we would love to share it.

Meet the casters – live, interactive and recorded BoF session at Lotusphere 2011

As you may well know, voting is now open for the BoF (Birds of a Feather) sessions at Lotusphere 2011.  

In many eyes, BoFs are the undiscovered gem of the Lotusphere experience – they either start early in the morning (7am) or late in the day (around 6pm) and are not your usual slides and speakers affair.  Instead, they are designed as interactive discussions, facilitated by one or more people, but with the aim of allowing all to contribute. If you haven’t made it to a BoF in previous visits to Lotusphere, I really would recommend you do so in 2011.

So as I say, voting is open.  If you have registered for Lotusphere 2011, you should have received an email asking you to offer your feedback by rating all the sessions on the agenda, and to vote on the BoF sessions you would like to take part in.  If you did receive this, I urge you to do just that –  how many conferences allow the attendees to dictate the agenda?

Now if you’re thinking on which BoFs to vote for, please would you give these two your consideration?

First up, Meet the ’casters – live, interactive and recorded, with Darren Duke.

As you should know by now, Darren and I co-present the This Week in Lotus podcast.  In this BoF we will host a round-table discussion live at Lotusphere 2011, involving as many of the podcasters and screencasters from around the community as we can muster, plus the opportunity for many of the attendees to take part too.  We will be recording the session and publishing it as the week’s podcast.

Secondly, I have submitted a BoF on my own too, ‘Keep hearing “we’re just not that kind of organization”? How to overcome opposition to Enterprise 2.0 and Social Software in your business‘.

Here’s the abstract:

Whilst the benefits of social software are becoming clearer by the day, the shift from being a ‘traditional’ organization operating in silos with a culture of limited sharing and vertical management hierarchies to one where social collaboration is accepted is a tough one to manage.

This session will give the opportunity to discuss the issues, share strategies for overcoming the objections, discuss the value that Social Software has delivered in those ‘traditional’ organizations and to generally meet with others in a similar position.

If this one floats your boat, then please do vote for it.  I am sure it will be a terrific discussion.

Speaking at Lotusphere 2011

I’m thrilled, really thrilled…

Two of the sessions I submitted for Lotusphere 2011 have been accepted:

Twelve MORE Things Your Mother Never Told You About Deploying Lotus Connections 3.0 – co-presenting with Rob Wunderlich (Best Practices)

This is a rerun of last year’s successful session dispensing advice to those looking to deploy Lotus Connections.  Completely refreshed for the new release of Lotus Connections, and featuring a whole host of new tips and tricks, we aim to pass on much of the knowledge that Rob and I have gained from successful installs and upgrades in the real world of our customer engagements.

From Zero To Enterprise 2.0 Hero – A beginner’s guide to installing Lotus Connections 3.0 – co-presenting with Rob Wunderlich (Show and Tell)

At Lotusphere 2009, the awesome duo of Chris Whisonant and Mitch Cohen delivered a Show and Tell session covering the installation and configuration of Lotus Connections 2.0 in just 400 slides.  This time around, Rob and I step forward to take on the most feared session preparation task of the year!  Between Connections 2.0 and 3.0, the product has got more complex in terms of additional features but the install process has been streamlined considerably, for example with the addition of the Installation Manager technology.  We aim to detail the new install process, showing the entire install during the session, and sending attendees away with a step-by-step process to get a single node install of Lotus Connections 3.0 running.  Wish us luck!

The presentations need to be into IBM by December 27th, so the hard work starts now!  However, it will be an absolute pleasure to deliver the sessions in Orlando come the end of January – it is an honour to be selected out of the hundreds of abstracts that were submitted.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy the sessions!

It’s worth noting that I had a couple of sessions rejected too:
Enhancing Lotus Connections Profiles – drive corporate HR information into and out of Lotus Connections. ‘Social’ information doesn’t need to equal low quality data!
– solo (Jumpstart)
Theming Lotus Connections 3.0 and Lotus Quickr 8.5 to match your corporate identity – from OneUI to YourUI!
– with my Collaboration Matters colleague Mike Bird (Jumpstart)

My aim is to get the content for these sessions documented any way, and get the content out there via the blog and the Lotus wikis if I can.

I’m still waiting to hear about a customer session (with the lovely Sharon Bellamy) and a couple of BoFs (one with This Week in Lotus co-host Darren Duke, and one covering dealing with opposition to Enterprise 2.0 adoption).  It promises to be a busy and exciting Lotusphere (is there any other kind?)!

See you there!

Image:UK Lotusphere Comes To You events announced

UK Lotusphere Comes To You events announced

Whilst I rather have seen the UK events arranged earlier in the year, it is great to see such major venues being used for the UK Lotusphere Comes To You sessions:

Image:UK Lotusphere Comes To You events announced
1 April: Wembley Stadium, London. Register now
3 April: Radisson SAS Hotel, Manchester Airport. Register now

What’s new:

The next generation of Lotus is harnessing the power of collaboration. Innovative new tools (and improved favourites) help people work together, combining information and capabilities from many sources into one easy-to-use suite. It’s Web 2.0, made business-ready.

What’s happening:

Join us in London or Manchester at Lotusphere Comes To You 2008 for an essential one-day briefing to get the latest news on the 2008 direction of Lotus strategy. This is the UK version of the annual Lotusphere conference in Florida, created to bring you the newest thinking, ideas and insights and help you stay ahead of the game. It’s everything you need to know, in one focused event.

On the day:
          Be among the first to hear the key Lotus technology and roadmap announcements for 2008
          Enjoy one-to-one access to IBM executives and experts and get your questions answered
          Attend the technical and business breakout sessions most relevant to you
          Listen to a keynote presentation from a Lotus Worldwide executive
          Network with colleagues and peers
          Hear direct customer testimony and find out how people are using Lotus in the real world
          Get hands on experience in our IBM Solutions demo area
          Meet with our top IBM Lotus Business Partners in the exhibition arena

I’ve just registered for the Wembley event – hope to see you there!