IBM Corp. announced across-the-board updates to its cloud-based social business platform at Lotusphere on Monday. Powered by IBM SmartCloud, the new IBM Connections provides a suite of business intelligence and collaborative tools.
Aside from combining e-mail, agendas, blogs, communities and employee-created wikis into one interface, the platform will incorporate analytics tools, including what IBM [NYSE:IBM] refers to as “sentiment analysis tools.”
These real-time business intelligence tools will provide a way for enterprises to act quickly based on customer feedback, whether it comes in the form of comments, blogs, tweets or Facebook posts, said Allistair Rennie, IBM’s general manager for social business. For example, a team member could take a discussion from the company Facebook page and migrate to an internal social media discussion with a few clicks.
The sentiment analysis tools go “a lot deeper than kind of watching something roll by” he explained. On an Internet in which sometimes the most vocal critics can drown everyone else out, he says certain bits of customer feedback should be considered “way more influential than others.”
“It may be critically important to respond to something Mike [Rhodin, IBM senior vice-president of software solutions] says, or it may be critically important to ignore it. And you need to understand the background of what’s going on in the network. You need to understand what questions to ask [in] sentiment analysis to really get to a root cause.
“It absolutely is more than watching a series of interesting Twitter comments, which is certainly entertaining, and going several layers deep. Who’s in the network? What are the things that really trigger a person’s noise?”
IBM vice-president of social software Jeff Schick called the landing page for IBM Connections a “single intelligent place.” It offers a top-level view of all the ongoing projects employees are collaborating on. IBM Connections is aimed squarely at the enterprise market, added Rennie. “We’re not trying to be a consumer business. We don’t want to be a consumer business.”
Jim Lundy, CEO of Palo Alto, CA-based Aragon Research, said that IBM had succeeded in making their case for wider adoption of social business. “Overall, I think the biggest thing that I saw was that they’re kind of starting to take the social landscape that’s been kind of confusing and start to explain it to businesspeople and get the partners on board.
“They’ve been talking about this for a couple years. This really seemed like they’re serious about it; the products are supporting the messaging.”
IDC Research group vice-president of software solutions Michael Fauscette agreed that IBM seems to have put its plans into action since last year’s conference. He says he found the unified user experience the most compelling aspect of the new platform. “I think last year we heard a pretty good story around social business, but the pieces weren’t connected, and that’s kind of the nature of where they were in their evolution. They put out a pretty aggressive roadmap.”
The Web-based platform will be especially attractive to firms operating on older backend technologies, he adds. “ In 12 months, I think they really accomplished a lot… and I think [there were] two things that really stood out. The first is that everything converges in one user experience and that’s really powerful, I think, for the enterprise, particularly the idea that it sits on top of and connects older applications that are frankly more difficult to deal with because their UIs are getting really dated.”
He cited the last presentation of the day, by a Boston doctor who used the technology to help children in a developing country, as the most striking example of what can be accomplished with social business.
“The second thing (is) the idea that connectivity changes the way you do everything, and the fact that we can take this new kind of connectivity and we can solve real problems [with] the application of community, content and collaboration. Call it the ‘three Cs’ of social business. And for me, that’s exactly what you saw. The idea that you can connect doctors anywhere in a real-time environment and you can also capture what they know and make it available in a broad way, so that dctors in a totally different location could learn, interact and build a community around solving real problems for people that really have an impact.
“If there was nothing else, that’s the most clear definition of what business needs to learn.”