IBM Connect 2014: Recasting Mail and Connections
While there were some interesting announcements at IBM Connect 2014, a couple things that stood out to me were the rebranding of IBM’s collaboration capabilities under Connections and the new social email capabilities of Mail Next. These announcements show IBM simplifying its product strategy/branding and being forward thinking at the same time.
The New IBM Connections
IBM announced that it would bring all of its email plus full unified communications and collaboration offerings under the Connections umbrella, which was previously focused on enterprise social networking. Having followed IBM for years, this makes absolute sense to me. We’ve come to a point where we can no longer piecemeal collaboration capabilities into separate buckets. That is not how business buyers really want to procure it or how people need them to get work done. Also, with the emergence of cloud collaboration and office suites such as Office 365 and Google Apps, it behooved IBM to bring forward a more complete solution that encompassed more of its capabilities.
So Connections will now include, the Notes/Domino email platform, Docs office productivity apps and Sametime tools for IM, audio/video communications and Web meetings. This will coincide with the native ESN features of Connections such as profiles and discussion forums. Pricing and licensing terms were not announced but customers will be able to buy the entire suite or bundle the specific capabilities they want. This is definitely a competitive move against Office 365, Google Apps and the myriad of cloud suites ranging from content to social networking.
IBM will be upgrading its email client software and rebranding it Mail Next. It will include new automatic message prioritization and task management capabilities. Mail Next will have social integration bringing the inbox metaphor into social networking.
While news of the demise of email has been the rallying cry in enterprise social networking circles, users still spend a lot of time in their inbox. I believe there is a digital space that includes email and social capabilities that can come down into the flow of how people work and be a natural extension.
We’ve become such extremists in the tech industry, declaring the death of this and the rise of that, that we forget one thing that has remained true; throughout the generations of technology, nothing ever really goes away. Technologies just get layered on top of each other throughout the years. What’s been missing is a natural way to integrate them that fits the natural flow of how people use them, but I digress. Let’s get back to IBM.
With IBM having a full inventory of social collaboration and communications capabilities, it’s a good move to recast email into a necessary social business capability. Email has never gone away, those messaging capabilities fit perfectly into any social collaboration environment. The clear message though, is that an interface is needed to bring together messaging and social capabilities, that brings business context and relevance to users.