IBM Expands Social Business Capabilities

IBM on Monday announced new capabilities for its Connections business social network platform.

    The functions will let users do the following:

  • Customize communities by role or function through new page layouts, movable widgets and rich content, so line-of-business users can create their own communities;
  • Manage files more easily with personal subfolders that let users preview files prior to downloading and more easily migrate information from Connections to their desktops; and
  • Remain productive on the go with polls and surveys for mobile devices that let users securely edit documents, presentations and spreadsheets from Android or iOS devices; admins get enhanced controls so they can secure apps with application-level passwords instead of other credentials.

The tools are offered in Connections 5.5, the newest release of the platform, said Luis Benitez, manager of IBM collaboration solutions.

“The most value comes from company social collaboration tools when they are linked to business processes and applications,” pointed out Rebecca Wettemann, vice president of research atNucleus Research.

“We see more and more players, like Microsoft and Oracle, embedding social collaboration capabilities into their enterprise applications, which makes them inherently stickier and more structured,” she told CRM Buyer.

Features for Users and Developers

The IBM Connections platform includes a portal site called “Homepage”; a microblogging capability; “Profiles,” a social networking service primarily used to find colleagues within an organization; “Ideation,” which lets users crowdsource ideas; a blogging and a social bookmarking services; a media gallery; and wikis.

The platform uses open standards such as ATOM and RSS to integrate with other applications.

It provides a REST-like API for developers. Devs can add widgets, including those from Google Gadgets and custom-developed widgets, to IBM Connections.

The Need for Networking

“Internal networking has become a critical part of how people work and want to work,” remarked Michael Fauscette, chief research officer atG2 Crowd.

“Think of the modern business as a collection of communities or ecosystems,” he told CRM Buyer. “Having the employees engaged in a network strengthens this and helps it function properly.”

The internal network, combined with data and analytics, “also becomes a decision-support system in an Information Age business, helping to bring together people and data in a work context to do something,” Fauscette said.

“Recently, Forrester Research calculated that IBM Connections can achieve ROI in less than one year, and one organization was able to achieve a (US)$26 million ROI in three years,” IBM’s Benitez told CRM Buyer, “so there’s significant value in a social collaboration platform.”

Other Players

IBM “was arguably the first to the market with internal collaboration tools [such as] Lotus Notes,” Wettemann said, but “there are a number of players providing solutions.” That includes Salesforce Chatter, which “enables social collaboration around CRM objects.”

Users gave IBM Connectionsfour stars out of a possible five at G2 Crowd. However, there were only 18 ratings for the platform.

Wrike, Slack and Highfive each got 4.5 stars, with 169, 133 and 42 ratings, respectively.

Skype for Business, Confluence, eXo Platform, and Cisco Jabber got four stars each, with 120, 67, 61 and 36 ratings, respectively.

Salesforce Chatter, Microsoft SharePoint and Jive got 3.5 stars each, with 116, 76 and 69 ratings, respectively.

Beyond Facebook and Twitter

Enterprises for years have integrated Facebook and Twitter into their networks, so why would anyone want to pay to use IBM Connections?

“Twitter and Facebook are OK for some external communication, usually by approved social marketing folks at organizations,” IBM’s Benitez said. “Companies need a secure way to communicate and audit what’s going on.”

Further, enterprise social network tools such as IBM Connections “integrate deeply into the business functions, often by embedding themselves in the actual business process,” observed G2 Crowd’s Fauscette. “That’s not something Twitter or Facebook can do.”

IBM Connections starts at $4 per user per month, Benitez said, and can be used on-premises or in the cloud.

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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