What is Lotus Connections about in 2009 – Interview with Stefan Pfeiffer of IBM

Last week there was another Enterprise 2.0 related event in Germany – the DMS EXPO. Martin and Thorsten Zoernert discussed the event and the open question to be addressed by the upcoming Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT already here and here (unfortunately only in German!). One of the featured speaker at the conference of DMS EXPO was Stefan Pfeiffer, the German market manager for the IBM Lotus-brand. He is an well-known market expert on the topics of ECM/DMS as well as E20 – as he is in this business already quite a while. As IBM is a sponsor of our event I thought it might be of interest in having a short interview with him about Lotus Connections, the views on the German E2.0 market and his expectations for our event. And as we did this quite interactive on Facebook – I am happy to share his answers here with you also publicly.

Stefan Pfeiffer

1) Stefan – please introduce yourself. Who are you and what are you doing?

Good question. I am very often asking myself, who I am and what I am doing. I am the Market Manager for the Lotus-Brand of IBM in Germany bringing our offerings to the German market. And as a former journalist I am actively blogging on IBM Blue Blog, on EULUC and on my private blog, using Twitter and social networks, not only for business purposes, but for private use, too.

2) What’s behind the so-called “Lotus-Brand of IBM”?

The IBM Software Group is divided in several brands like WebSphere, Tivoli, Rational. Information Management and Lotus. The Lotus brand is the division within IBM focussing on Collaboration, Enterprise 2.0, Unified Communication and Portals. It is the successor of the former Lotus Development, which has been acquired years ago.

3) What’s the relevance of Lotus Connections within the German market strategy of IBM?

Lotus Connections as Enterprise 2.0 platform plays an important role for the German market mainly as an integrated platform for secure internal use of Web 2.0 functionality within the Enterprise. It is offering all relevant Web 2.0 functions tightly integrated on one platform, which gives us a lot of advantages in comparison to island solutions. With LotusLive Connections – our new SaaS offering – we are now extending this beyond the Enterprise making Web 2.0 collaboration possible between companies in a secure environment – for an extremely attractive price. Both offerings will drive Enterprise 2.0 acceptance and we – at IBM – call this “Smarter Work” or “Smarter Collaboration”.

4) What’s the difference between the collaboration approach of the Lotus Notes and Lotus Connections offerings?

Our social software is complimentary to the traditional Lotus Notes environment. Lotus Notes is more than E-mail and as Matt Cain from Gartner stated in the report “The Future of E-Mail”. As an Ecplise based collaboration platform it is going beyond the traditional inbox – offering unique access to all information you need for your daily work, from E-Mail to SAP processes and Web 2.0 functionality. And with Lotus Connections we are offering exactly this Web 2.0 functionality, seemingless integrated into the Notes Desktop with Social Software-services like Profiles, Tagging, Bookmarking, Wikis and Blogs – within the Notes-environment and beyond. And this is very important: Lotus Connections can be used together with Lotus Notes, but is running in the same way completely independant from Notes, e.g. in Microsoft-environments with Outlook, Office or Sharepoint. Customers are using in SAP Portals. It is running on Linux and Mac. Lotus Connections is a true Enterprise 2.0-platform.

5) So briefly – Lotus Connection is a “social add-on toolset” on top of Notes and other commercial offerings. How standardized is this toolset?

I would not say it is an add-on toolset. It is a platform, which integrates into Desktop applications, into E-Mail and Portals – and so directly into the user interface of the end users. E.g. with a right mouse click they do have access to functions that they know from their Web 2.0 experience. They do have access to their social network within their Enterprise, to blogs and wikis, to bookmarks, they can share files and they can organize collaborative activities.

Compare it with the Web 2.0: You don’t have separated tools and interfaces like Delicious, Slideshare, Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, Wikipedia etc. You do have one integrated easy to use platform and interface. As far as I can see it is the only Enterprise 2.0-platform which has all these features integrated and cross-linked – and not separated. One self explaining example of the value of the integrated platform: Tagging is used in every module and through a tag cloud you can find activities, profiles, blog and wiki entries, activities, bookmarks. The Activity module is another function, why Connections is unique in its value proposition and why it is a standard platform, not a collection of separated tools.

6) What is your view on the adoption of Enterprise 2.0 in Germany? Where are we right now?

We are at the beginning of the curve in adopting what we call Enterprise 2.0 in Germany. It is a process and still will take some time. The crucial point is that we do need to explain the value and ROI in particular in these economic hard times. We loose potential interest and customers, if we only talk technology and bits & bytes. This is at least my experience, when presenting outside our own small Web 2.0 scene or blogosphere. For the normal customers we do need references, use cases, practical examples, where companies and government learn how they can benefit. And I believe that this is our major task, not only in Germany.

7) What are the key references of Lotus Connections that give an example for significant gain of value and ROI?

There are a bunch of references. Rheinmetall is one using Lotus Connections for collaborative processes. Our German Lotus User Group is another one using Lotus Connections as platform for their activities on www.euluc.com. They use nearly all functions from blogs to profiles to communities to organize the User Group. Developer Works is an example, where we at IBM connect our developer network worldwide and allow them to interlock, discuss and exchange ideas. And of course there are a lot more examples.

8 ) Do you see any industries that have advantages in realizing the gain of value of an Enterprise 2.0 initiative in comparison towards others?

As far as I can see it is not really industry dependant. It depends on the mission of the enterprise or the government. If collaboration, communication and networking is a major task, Enterprise 2.0 concepts provide value. If project teams have to work collaboratively together, e.g. in different time zones, Enterprise 2.0 tools promise better collaboration and processes. If communication, interaction and the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ is important, Enterprise 2.0 is a must. I personally believe Enterprise 2.0 is really independant from industries, but I can see a lot of value for Government in communicating with the citiziens, but it seems that we are still far away in this ‘industry’. And in my personal opinion I do have much broader definition of Enterprise 2.0 going beyond the traditional Web 2.0 functions. E.g. I believe Unified Communication belongs to Enterprise 2.0. The overall goal should be, that employees, partners, customers can interact and work smarter together – with the focus on together.

9 ) Where do you see the key challenges for realizing these values and returns?

The key challenges are not technological challenges. The challenges are organizational and cultural. The company needs to have the willingness and management support to introduce Enterprise 2.0 functions. You need to have quick wins to convince users – and in particular management. So select good use cases, which can be realized in a short time frame. Get management support. Get professional help for your project, so it will be a success. Select departments and users, which are Web 2.0 friendly and who appreciate better collaboration and communication in their job role.

10) Last but not least – what are your expectations and desires for the upcoming Enterprise 2.0 SUMMIT?

Good questions. Re-emphasize the importance of the concept Enterprise 2.0. I do have the feeling that E 2.0 has gone under cover the last months. A small group of E 2.0 enthusiasts is enjoying itself in blogging, tweets and internal discussions. This doesn’t really matter. We need to raise the awareness of the Enterprise 2.0 concept in particular in these economic difficult times. We need to address decision makers, that E 2.0 is a no-brainer.