IBM today moved to take social networking in the enterprise to a higher level with the release of IBM Connections 5, an instance of its social networking software that can run on premise or in the cloud.
Jeff Schick, vice president of social software for IBM, says the latest version of IBM Connections allows IT organizations to effectively unify their internal and external collaboration using a single instance of software, while still retaining control over who gets to see particular files and documents.
Instead of maintaining different types of portals for internal and external users, IBM Connections 5 can, for example, be used to invite a user via email to view a specific file on the IBM Connections 5 platform. Because of the governance controls provided by IBM, however, that user will not have access to data anywhere else on the IBM Connections 5 social networking platform, says Schick.
In effect, IBM is creating a social networking platform for the enterprise that can be easily federated across different groups of users and particular application scenarios. Schick says that not only are those scenarios easier to integrate with backend business processes, they also provide end users with a consumer-grade experience that allows them to perform actions such as previewing files before actually deciding to download them.
As part of that consumer-grade experience, Schick also notes that customers are now free to customize the look and feel of IBM Connections.
Schick says that IBM Connections 5 also includes support for differential synchronization, which means only the changes to a file are replicated any time a document or other piece of content is updated. Those capabilities, which reduce both storage and network bandwidth requirements, are now available on both the on-premise and cloud versions of IBM Connections 5.
Ultimately, any exercise in social networking in the enterprise needs to be tied to business processes to succeed. Otherwise, social networking just winds up being an alternative to email that instead of actually making the organization more productive, only changes the medium through which people communicate.
There have been a lot of missteps when it comes to deploying social networking across the enterprise that have more to do with process than the actual technology. But the more integrated social networking becomes with business processes, the clearer it becomes that there remains a lot of untapped potential for finally changing the way people work for the better.