The birth of social media and (in particular) enterprise social technologies means that we are now in the "third age" of data, software and computing devices at a wider level.
This is the view of IBM's Mike Rhodin, the firm's senior VP of software solutions. Speaking at the Connect 2013 Lotusphere conference this January, Rhodin explained that we have so far existed with three identifiable ages of technology.
# 1 - Machines that basically counted things -- and these typified all the first wave of electronically enabled computing devices i.e. a computer was a data workhorse or some embedded system that could digitise upon demand and perform its basic function.
# 2 - Machines that could compute and analyse -- i.e. the laptops, tablets and smartphones (and of course the desktops too) that we know today.
# 3 -Machines built for social and mobile futures -- this a new era of machines is enabled for social platforms that future workers will not demand but, instead, "assume" exist. Here, systems are "taught not programmed" as they also evolve a degree of cognitive learning abilities.
Rhodin made these comments to preface the announcement of IBM's new cloud based services intended to accelerate the adoption of social business.
IBM contends that it is doing nothing less than "revolutionizing" (Z left in deliberately) what we might perhaps call front-office processes with the application of cognitive computing and advanced analytics.
From emerging idea to fundamental platform
The firm says that social business has now transitioned from being an emerging idea to a fundamental platform that clients everywhere are using to change the way they engage with their customers.
Following its acquisition of Kenexa in December 2012, the firm has this week announced a new web-based social networking environment in the form of the IBM Employee Experience Suite. This product is targeted at HR managers to "attract, empower and motivate talent" as the firm puts it. It features social networking, e-meeting and instant messaging capabilities.
NOTE: While this doesn't sound like anything new on the face of it, IBM spent $1.3 billion on Kenexa so deeper inspection here will indeed reveal an intelligent applicant tracking system along with a selection of other sophisticated tools.
"The combination of Kenexa and IBM shows great promise to change how HR attracts, retains and trains talent," said Ross Grossman, vice president, human resources, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. "In biotechnology, competition for top talent is fierce. We're excited about the potential to better attract talented people who fit our company culture and can really impact our business performance."
Connecting to social big data
Also coming from the news bag this week are details of the next version of the IBM Connections social networking platform. The new software is intended to enable users to analyse big data from inside and outside an organisation, including Facebook, Twitter, audio and video.
"Available in March 2013, IBM Connections 4.5 will include embedded document management capabilities so that members of a network can access, analyse and act on wide ranges of data types in the context of their work to improve decision-making and business results. IBM Connections' Content Manager feature will allow teams and communities to harness an organisation's collective intelligence to solve business problems and drive profit," said the company, in a press statement.
IBM Connections will now also include enhanced integration of social capabilities in the Microsoft Outlook client. This should allow users to access their social data (such as profiles, files and communities) directly in Microsoft Outlook.
In December, IBM expanded its social business platform to include social document editing on-premises and in the cloud. The company recently released IBM Docs, available on-premises and as part of the IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. This is intended to allow browser users to simultaneously collaborate on word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents -- provided they themselves have the multi-tasking brainpower to spare of course.
IBM also announced that it expects to ship IBM Notes and Domino Social Edition 9 in March 2013.
IBM Notes and Domino 9 will be what IBM is keen to label as the industry's "first truly social email client" as it delivers a social experience to users.
Interestingly, this is the first 'major' release of this product in the last five years. Also interestingly, readers will notice that the product is no longer called Lotus Notes as it is now simply known as IBM Notes. Whether these facts (and the newly cloud powered connectivity and collaboration elements) will be enough to counters its critics who dislike its presentation and usability is another question.
What is certain here is that IBM has gathered together a strategically developed (and strategically purchased too of course) set of social technologies to the envy of many others.
With a comfortable position on the Magic Quadrant and the key influencer index of every analyst firm worth its salt, IBM's social technology proposition is gaining an increasing share of voice.
Could a twenty year legacy in collaboration software be enough for IBM to cross the chasm and shoot up inside the tornado?