Next week is the first big IT conference of the year for me, IBM Connect. It used to be called Lotusphere but since the Lotus name is going away, so must the Lotusphere name. Such is the changing fortunes of technology brands. No matter what it is called, this is the conference for IBM Customers and Partners engaged in social enterprise (or social business in IBM parlance), web commerce, and lots of other end-user facing IT activities.
There are three major focuses of the conference this year. First, is this concept that IBM has been promoting called The Smarter Workforce. In a nutshell, the smarter workforce is about engaging employees more deeply through social collaboration and social learning. The new Kenexa acquisition will figure heavily in the implementation of a smarter workforce so I expect to hear a lot about this new addition to the IBM portfolio.
The second theme is Smarter Commerce. IBM has been talking about Smarter Commerce for awhile. The idea behind it is to better engage customers with a more compelling user experience including social features. Smarter commerce is, in theory, an excellent expression of the positive impact of social and mobile on customer engagement. I’m looking forward to seeing it in action and understanding more about how it moves the needle on revenue or growth.
Finally, there is the interestingly named Lotusphere Technical Program. This means two things. One, that the Lotus name is not quite dead yet. It’s an interesting moment of ambivalence. Second, and more importantly, IBM is showing that it has a commitment to the technical professional. While a lot of attention is being (rightly) paid to the non-IT buyer and user, it’s good to see that the IT technical professional is not being ignored. Even in the era of cloud software, someone has to understand REST APIs, web page creation, and how to write Java.
I’m also hoping that there will be more of a unified message for the IBM social platforms. They have so many solutions that it’s hard to keep track of all of their offerings and their relationships to one another. I consistently hear confusion from even IT professionals as to which IBM products they should consider for a particular need. You can only imagine the confusion amongst the new breed of emerging non-IT buyer. This is the one case where a “Marchitecture” diagram is appreciated.
Finally, I’ll be hunting for software that exemplifies the new breed of business application, one informed by social processes, cloud access, and consumer mobile user experience. These companies will not necessarily be small startup ISVs but they will be innovative with deep ties to the knowledge workers that use their applications. Those are the companies that I want to see. To me, that’s what will define smarter.