IBM today pulled back the curtain on a new version of its Connections software that will make even bigger use of social networks and the cloud to boost collaboration and help companies integrate Big Data into their business processes.
When IBM Connections 4.5 ships in March, it will blur the distinctions between business software and social networking. It will offer cloud-enabled functionality like blogging and a new Communities module that will help teams brainstorm and access information. Connections 4.5 will also offer tighter Microsoft Outlook integration. Users will be able to access their social data, including profiles, files and communities, from within the Microsoft Outlook client.
Connections Content Manager enables workers to "access, analyze and act on wide ranges of data types in the context of their work to improve decision-making and business results" via embedded document management capabilities, according to IBM.
It's all an effort to take social media's knack for frictionless content discovery, sharing and communications, and leverage it to increase productivity and profits for IBM customers.
In a video that accompanied the announcement, Alistair Rennie, general manager of IBM's Social Business division, noted that once-novel concepts like e-commerce and online banking have become commonplace. Likewise, social media is becoming a foregone conclusion in the business context.
Picking up the Social Pace
"I think social business is moving at an even faster pace. We've seen the rate of adoption and the incredible change in the consumer world, and I think that's happening at the same pace inside businesses today," said Rennie.
Rennie adds that businesses are getting serious about social media. Shifting from "liking" to leading, forward-looking organizations are becoming "purposeful" in their use of social media. He adds that leaders are already reaping social software's benefits, including "flattening their organization, connecting expertise everywhere and applying it directly to what they do in their business."
Connections 4.5 builds on IBM's continued social enterprise push. Last month the company rolled out IBM Docs. Available as on-premise software and as a cloud service, Docs offers in-browser editing and collaboration of documents, spreadsheets and presentations.
The company also plans to ship IBM Notes and Domino Social Edition 9 in March 2013. Billed as the "industry's first truly social email client," the new edition will extend support to a wide range of mobile platforms, including Apple iOS 6, Android, Windows Phone and BlackBerry 10.
The IT giant also previewed new Web-based social software for human resources (HR) professionals. Dubbed Employee Experience Suite, the offering leverages technology from IBM's $1.3 billion acquisition of Kenexa, a cloud-based human capital management (HCM) specialist, late last year.
According to IBM, Employee Experience Suite will enable social and mobile interactions, allowing HR workers to attract tablet, motivate and educate workforces and empower their fellow employees. "For example, employees can use social networking, e-meeting and instant messaging capabilities to access applications and interactive rich media such as videos, resulting in improved collaboration and greater teaming across globally distributed teams," explained IBM.