I am here at Lotusphere 2010 in Orlando, sitting in the press room. John Fontana from Network World just walked in and and asked me what I thought of the event so far. My reply:
“Well I am not saying Lotus has all its ducks in a row, but at least it has plenty of them now.”
The Lotus portfolio is now looking both increasingly broad, and compelling at scale.
Lotus Connections (“Enterprise Facebook) has deployments at companies like HSBC numbering in the hundreds of thousands of seats.
The week before Lotusphere IBM announced Panasonic was signing a 300k seat deal with Panasonic for Lotus Live mail. The tech press went bonkers and headlines like Biggest Cloud EVER swiftly followed.
But rather than dwell on products, it probably makes more sense to think in terms of capabilities, services, and what IBM calls The Collaboration Agenda.
One of the big problems for IBM in recent years has been finding a home for technology that comes out of its research labs – social media and networking was no exception. Back in the olden days IBM invested too much in pure research, which often wouldn’t make its way into product. Over the last few years however IBM became so obsessed with the bottom line that it sometimes seemed pure research would be squeezed out altogether in favor of investments by clients- that is, if a client wasn’t prepared to pony up to pay for IBM Research, it wasn’t going to happen.
One area of IBM Research however that kept doing interesting work was social networking at the Thomas Watson labs. After yet another impressive demo by Carol Jones, of dogear for enterprise social bookmarking, say, the question was always the same: “when will be this be a product”. Often the answer was disappointingly vague. IBM has improved at pulling IBM Research technology into the Lotus portfolio – the lag between invention and delivery to market (innovation) is shrinking.
News from IBM today is about bringing customers front and center into the discussion about taking capability to market. IBM today announced Lotus Live Labs. Reminiscent of Google Mail Labs the idea is that IBM now has an online sandbox for new cool stuff. For customers that want to get the very latest bits, they will be able to try things out at Labs. What this means is that IBM will have a much more effective feedback loop about what works and what does not.
Web 2.0 is not about angle brackets, its about initiatives like Labs, that bring users into the design process, and platforms that get smarter the more people use them. IBM seems to be learning the right lessons.
It strikes me that IBM’s willingness to move ahead with Labs is also part of a Good Enough revolution. IBM may not be adopting the notion of the perpetual beta, but experimentation with customer feedback is goodness.
The new hipster phrase for this stuff is Continuous Deployment. IBM is putting the labs to work.
note IBM is a client. We’re doing a fair bit with Lotus Late. IBM paid for my travel and expenses for Lotusphere.