So I made the trek from Singapore to Orlando for Lotusphere the week of January 15th and it proved well worth the time and effort. It was actually one of the best events of its kind I’ve attended in years — and I’ve attended loads. IBM expanded the focus well beyond the “legacy” Lotus brand. In fact, this was a social business event from start to finish, with IBM linking its much broader social computing portfolio to business process improvement and value creation.

The focus and scope has clearly grown beyond the current event branding. But putting event naming issues aside for the moment, below are some key takeaways:

  • Evolving into a social business applies to all organizations — any process that relies on people will fundamentally change. IBM made a solid case that business transformation is not only possible but mandatory. A social business excels at discovering and sharing new ideas — fundamentally changing how people work and therefore how companies operate. Companies not embracing this change will get left behind.
  • IBM’s vision for social business — business process disruption is inevitable. Focusing heavily on a process-centric view, IBM downplayed tools and technology. Per IBM, social business is the intersection of social technologies and front-office business processes — as significant to top-line revenue growth over the next decade as SOA has been to back-office business processes and bottom-line cost savings over the last decade.
  • IBM’s positioning as a social business enabler – it takes a platform. Social initiatives impact a cross-section of IT functions, including collaboration, structured and unstructured data management, analytics, application integration, process management, and enterprise content management. Instead of pushing the Lotus platform specifically, though, IBM is seeking to surround, augment, and extend existing IT infrastructure and solutions. This includes Notes/Domino but also Microsoft Outlook and other email/calendaring systems. Support for OpenSocial standards is key here.
  • The more serious you are about enterprise transformation, the more you need an enterprise solution provider. Transformative process improvement is not for the faint of heart. Consumer-oriented applications (e.g., Facebook), cloud-based solutions (e.g., Google), and open source and freemium tools are only part of a broader portfolio. For instance, information governance and enterprise security will remain critical issues, particularly in highly regulated industries like banking and healthcare.
  • IBM’s approach to enabling social businesses — a simple message but lots of “stuff.” Beyond existing Lotus tools like Sametime and Quickr, IBM laid out an extensive portfolio of social business capabilities in Orlando, including:
    • IBM SmartCloud for Social Business — rebranded LotusLive, the cloud-based successor to Notes/Domino.
    • IBM Connections social software platform to enable collaboration and augment traditional email/calendaring.
    • Social analytics for integrating blogs, wikis, and activity streams as well as traditional email and calendaring — in addition to Watson, of course.
    • Enterprise Content Management for organizations to manage process exceptions, unstructured data, and case management as part of a broader social strategy.