Lotusphere 2011 Recap – Be Social. Do Business

Be Social. Do Business.

That was the mantra of Lotusphere 2011. Social Business was the big theme of this year’s Lotusphere. Everything revolved around the Social Interactivity of employees, customers, vendors and how it all impacts the world from a business standpoint. They talked about the major shifts in computing that caused huge disruptions in the ways people worked. Mainframes, Departmental Computing, PC’s, the Internet and now Social Networking. Lotus seems very poised to jump on this wave and ride it to the next level.

And Lotus SHOULD be poised, Lotus has always been about Social. Groupware, the term coined to explain software like Notes years ago, meant working in groups and collaborating and sharing. That’s not much different than the social networking of today. People just finally get it now, and it’s easier than ever to get people using these types of tools.

Alistaire Rennie stated that business today needed to be Engaged, Transparent, Nimble and Successful. Engage with your customers, be transparent about your company, even with it’s faults, and be quick to respond and take action when the social universe demands it. Do these things and it will make your company more successful. According to their statistics, companies that outperform their competition are 57% more likely to be heavily into social media use within their organization.

This year, there weren’t any HUGE announcements on the stage for the OGS. Sametime will get native clients on mobile devices like Android and iPhone, which is very cool. Shared Calendars will finally be a part of NotesNext. LotusLive Symphony is being released. It will give you online collaborative documents a la Google Docs. From all accounts, the Lotus online capabilities are better than Google’s at this point too. So the space should get interesting. And Activity Streams are coming to NotesNext and other products.

They didn’t show a TON on Activity Streams, but I think this will be one of the most important pieces being added to the IBM products. You’ll be able to tailor your streams of information to show you updates from internal social networks, external social networks, email, teamrooms and more. And based on business analytics being baked in, you’ll be able to cull down the stream to just the things that are really important to you. This has me the most excited because live in so many worlds that being able to get the right information in near real time will be a huge help for me.

Like I said, huge announcements were hard to find, but the thing I liked is that they are committed to more versions of all the core Lotus products. Notes, Quickr, Sametime and Connections are all slated to get new ‘Next’ versions, so to me it’s nice to have all of our main tools being worked on and updated without having to take the eye of the ball so to speak.

That said, for everyone I talked to here at Lotusphere, customers, vendors and reporters alike, they all pretty much hated the format of the Opening General Session. Too much time in customer panels, talking generically about social business instead of specifics of their Lotus Software usage. People at Lotusphere want demos in the opening session. They want fire and pizazz, not chit chat. I think that people would have been better if there was some big news released, but without that, all they had for excitement were the demos which were too short compared to the panel discussions.

As a blogger, I got to be part of some panel discussions later on in the week, and those were so much better. Real world use-cases with some fairly in-depth information of how companies were actually using the products to make their businesses perform better. I’ll write more on that in a later blog post.

For me, I’ve moved from developer and admin to Pointy Haired Boss in recent years, so I DID see some of the value in having business leaders get on stage and tell their stories, but they need to limit that a bit in the opening session. You have Keynotes all week long where that works a little better. The majority of the crowd are geeks. They want to see the tech, be wowed by the future, see Lotus be aggressive in marketing efforts, see new innovations. That’s what the opening session should be. Start out the week with excitement and a bang, and it will set the tone for the rest of the week much higher.

Overall the conference was as good technically as I’ve ever seen it. So many times there were two or three sessions at once that I really wanted to be a part of. Unfortunately there’s not enough time to hit them all, but the ones I made it too were such high quality this year. I have to commend the track managers for what they were able to accomplish.

This was my 14th Lotusphere, and like every year, it was like coming to a family reunion with family you actually like. IBM is really in a good position in the marketplace right now, which means I think that Lotusphere 2012 will be even better. Hope to see you there again next year!