IBM unveils Collaboration Agenda, Project Vulcan

ORLANDO–At Lotusphere 2010, IBM Corp. unveiled its Collaboration Agenda initiative to help customers outline a roadmap to using collaboration technologies for better efficiency internal and external to the business.

Through consultative workshops, customers will have available to them industry expertise, tools, best practices and industry-specific return on investment metrics to help them achieve that collaboration strategy.

The collaboration agenda will initially focus on the health care, banking, government and insurance sectors.

Alistair Rennie, IBM’s newly minted general manager for Lotus software and Websphere Portal, said the collaboration agenda is a vehicle for encouraging discussion of collaboration technologies in the business. The agenda extends this new way of thinking about collaboration to “your critical line of business priorities,” said Rennie.

The strategy of one customer, insurance company Zurich, is to use Lotus Notes as the entry point for an employee collaboration platform that will house apps like blogs and wikis. Group IT chief operating officer Sylvia Steinman said Zurich is currently migrating from Lotus Notes version 6.5 to 8.5.1. “Notes today is much more than just e-mail,” said Steinman. “It is the entry point to our new collaboration point.”

IBM even employed the services of actor William Shatner to tout the benefits of collaboration by sharing with the audience how certain Hollywood projects have benefited from collaborating stakeholders. “I don’t need to tell you making movies is a collaborative effort,” said Shatner.

Former Lotus general manager Bob Picciano, who was recently moved back to a leadership position in sales, was on hand to take shots at rival Microsoft Corp.

“I know there is a lot of misinformation being spread in the marketplace by desperate competitors who really lack solutions and a future vision,” said Picciano. Later he added, “Sometimes I feel sorry for our competition. We can’t all be leaders.”

Execs at Lotusphere 2010 also spoke of the importance of the cloud, in tandem with on-premise for a hybrid approach, as the new way by which technologies are acquired and built, making applications and people more accessible.

IBM said it would be expanding its cloud based social networking and social collaboration services, LotusLive, launched last year. LotusLive Labs was introduced as an open integration environment for IBM’s development and research teams to work together and share knowledge. New technologies being developed in LotusLive Labs include a Slide Library for collaborating on building and sharing presentations, and Event Maps for interactive visualization of conference schedules.

IBM will also open LotusLive even more to developers, through application programming interfaces, in the second half of 2010. LotusLive “was always designed as an open platform for the ecosystem to thrive on,” said Rennie.

Rennie said since its release in 2009, LotusLive momentum has reached 18 million users in almost 100 countries. One customer, Panasonic Corp., announced what Rennie described as “the largest enterprise cloud deployment” by adopting LotusLive for its global e-mail and collaboration platform.

IBM summarized the day’s announcements and vision by outlining Project Vulcan, a sneak peek at how the company sees the evolution of collaboration that will build on customer investments. “It’s the unveiling of what we think the future of the cloud environment will look like,” said Rennie. Project Vulcan focuses on four principles: continuity (building on existing investments and connecting collaboration tools to business processes), convergence (hybrid on-premise and cloud delivery model), innovation (the power of social software and analytics), and new opportunities (partner-developed technologies based on Lotus).

In recognition of the mobile device as integral to modern businesses, the keynote included several mobile announcements, including a new version of Research In Motion’s BlackBerry client for Lotus Connections. The new version of Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr will be sold through IBM sales channels. “Mobile is not an ancillary thought anymore,” said Rennie.

Not only is RIM an IBM partner but it’s a Lotus software customer. David Yach, chief technology officer for software with RIM, said “collaboration enables innovation, agility, time to market and a continuous feedback loop.”

Check out more Lotusphere 2010 coverage.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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