IBM Connect 2013: IBM Gets Smarter about Software, Services and Partners
By Jim Lundy
At IBM Connect 2013, the IBM Software Group demonstrated that it has begun to execute a transformation strategy away from its former Lotus brand to focus on social business, a smarter workforce (a code name for social HCM) and cognitive computing (IBM calls it Watson). IBM is getting smarter about how it goes to market with its products, and at IBM Connect 2013 the new strategy was manifested in its messaging about software, services and partners.
This post is a summary of what we saw at Connect 2013. (The event was called Lotusphere for most of the last 20 years, but IBM has retired the Lotus brand and with it, many of the perceptions tied to Lotus Notes.) We will publish a separate Aragon Research First Cut on some of their announcements, such as Connections and IBM Docs.
IBM Gets Serious about Social Business at IBM Connect
While some analysts have been skeptical about IBM’s success in social software, it was pretty clear at IBM Connect 2013 that IBM is deadly serious about its social offerings. There was no shortage of customers talking about their deployments of IBM Connections, including enterprises like Bosch, CEMEX and Fluor. The number of customer presentations reinforced Aragon’s research on social software: IBM is executing, and this week they let their customers do a lot of the talking about it.
The other takeaway is that the different software teams within IBM Software Group are working together. IBM Content Manager can now be integrated with Connections, and IBM WebSphere can now be made more social with social widget integrations.
IBM Focuses on a Smarter Workforce
There were many first-time attendees at IBM Connect 2013, and we suspect it was due to a push by IBM’s new subsidiary Kenexa, which IBM purchased in 2012 (see Aragon Research First Cut “IBM Shifts into HCM Software and Buys Kenexa for $1.26 Billion,” August 31, 2012). The move to buy Kenexa reinforces IBM’s renewed focus on enterprise software (vs. middleware). We noted that while IBM Connect was going on, the Kenexa team was at a learning event in the UK, demonstrating and talking about learning software and solutions. This market focus is refreshing to see from IBM.
IBM also indicated that it would be doing more in areas such as social learning with additional (unannounced) products that enable collaboration around a video file. This solution is built off a prototype that was shown at last year’s Lotusphere by Dr. Jeffrey Burns of Boston Children’s Hospital.
IBM Global Services Flexes its HCM Muscle
IBM Global Services was at IBM Connect in force, onstage in the main keynote on Day 2. What we like about the approach we have seen so far is that IBM Software Group is leveraging the IBM Global Business Services HR practice area for its Corporate Smarter Workforce campaign. Both groups were in meetings together, and the power of the two business units working together in customer accounts makes them a formidable force.
IBM Gets Smarter about Partners
The show floor in the basement of the Dolphin Hotel has always been where Lotus partners demonstrated their wares. IBM Connect 2013 had a completely reinvigorated set of partners, and we saw very engaged customers flooding the show area. While there were many long-time IBM Business Partners there, we saw new partners such as social marketing provider Shoutlet, and other large vendors such as Blackberry (formerly RIM) and Polycom.
One area that got some focus – but not enough, in our opinion – was Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing business unit. Mike Rhodin did talk about their Watson solution focused on Healthcare, but to a large extent, IBM isn’t talking as much about Watson as they are just going out and engaging large enterprises for beta tests. (Editor’s Note: we discuss cognitive computing in our Aragon Research Technology Arc for 2013, publishing this week).
Our bottom line is that in the 20th year of Lotusphere, IBM renamed its event to IBM Connect and got a buzz going, partly by doubling down on the products and services that they offer. A motivated workforce is key, and it is clear that the IBM team is as motivated to help customers as we have seen.