Key Offerings and Announcements at IBM Connect

Last week, Blue Hill Research attended IBM Connect, IBM’s conference dedicated to collaboration and work. This show was known as Lotusphere until 2013 and now serves as a show that presents updates to IBM Connections, IBM Smarter Workforce, and relevant IBM Watson services and products designed to accelerate and enhance work performance. Although this show did not focus on new announcements, it did provide clarity on the future roadmap of IBM across the IBM Watson Work portfolio.

In the General Sessions, the standout presentation came from Dr. Sheena Iyengar, professor at Columbia, who provided the key insight that too much choice creates more errors and less consistency because humans have a limited capacity to process. One example brought up was that trying to do three things at once increased error rate 3x and led to a functional eight point IQ loss, on average. In other words, people are serial-taskers, not multi-taskers. This context was a core message for IBM as it presented its vision around Watson Talent, Watson Workspace, Watson Work Services, and Box Relay.

Although Notes and Domino support is guaranteed until 2021, IBM is looking at the current trends of message-based and API-based collaboration. There are four key areas that Blue Hill noted at this event.

1) Connections Pink, which will be a new delivery solution for Connections capabilities in which practically every service will be a modular microservice API that will be embeddable and available with the goal of supporting real-time updates. This solution will be provided through a Docker deployment and will allow administrators to support cloud and on-premises versions. IBM has committed to update both cloud and on-premises versions on a regular basis. Blue Hill believes that this flexibility of data gravity and services will provide an advantage compared to the vast majority of current social solutions on the enterprise market that lack one of these two categories.

2) Watson Workspace, which is still an invitation-only solution, provides a messaging-based collaboration environment that both integrates with commercial data sources and provides a prioritized view of messages, called “Moments,” to show questions, tasks, and other prioritized messages. The promise for this product is in combining the Workspace inputs with Watson Work Services APIs and bots to provide greater context.

This product is designed as an interoffice messaging solution from a user input perspective.

IBM Workspace

Workspace’s differentiation with the differentiation coming from the analysis and prioritization of all messages based on both native and custom extensions and the aforementioned Work Services API and data integrations. At this show, a number of IBM partners, including Zoom and Cisco, showed their integrations with Workspace to support improved collaboration. And Blue Hill believes that there is a massive opportunity for developers to create more customized Workspaces through Watson Work Services.

3) Watson Work Services are a set of APIs that support a wide array of machine learning, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence functions. IBM is providing access to these services via their Watson Work Developer Cloud with the goal of opening up access on a test basis for developers. Because these services are available through Javascript and GraphQL, the learning curve to use Work Services is relatively low. Based on this, Blue Hill believes that, if nothing else, developers should be using Watson Work Services APIs as an introduction to accessing machine learning, natural language processing, and other analytic capabilities on an as-a-service basis. Although pricing has not been determined for Work Services at production scale, Blue Hill expects that this pricing will be based on other microservices and API-based usage billing.

4) Box Relay, a joint IBM/Box offering, has the ability to quickly create workflow-based applications across a wide variety of business use cases. This product, expected to release in the second half of 2017, provides IBM with a strong opportunity to bring cognitive, document management, and workflow management capabilities together into a single integrated toolkit. As this occurs, Blue Hill expects that Docusign will be brought in from an authentication and authorization perspective and that this product should be a strong standalone offering. In addition, Blue Hill believes that this capability could potentially be the basis of a strong Global Business Services practice to support custom enterprise collaboration workflows across a wide variety of industries and departments.

Overall, Blue Hill saw that IBM’s roadmap, both based on proof of concepts and existing capabilities, shows a strong understanding of the changes necessary to provide enterprise collaboration solutions at scale in the future. As they do so, IBM will need to make a significant effort with existing Lotus/Connections customers to bring them along and to continue their progression from platform administrators and developers to microservices-savvy developers and integrators. Done right, this could be a strong win-win that provides the Collaborations base with a bridge to the API economy.

About Hyoun Park

Hyoun Park is the Chief Research Officer of Blue Hill Research where he oversees day-to-day research operations, delivery and methodology focused on vendor and technology selection. In addition, Park covers analytics and enterprise mobility technologies as a noted advisor, social influencer, and practitioner. Park has been named as a top 10 Big Data, analytics, and mobility influencer including quotes in USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, and a wide variety of industry media sources. Over the past 20 years, Park has been on the cutting edge of web, social, cloud, and mobile technologies in both startup and enterprise roles. Park holds a Masters of Business Administration from Boston University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Women's and Gender Studies from Amherst College.
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