Connect 2017: The Really Good

February 28, 2017

[Note: I was going to create one post on Connect 2017, but have decided it would be better to break it into sections. This is Part One.]

This was the first year I have attended Connect that I did not attend any sessions that dealt with IBM Notes and IBM Domino. Well, other than the forced sessions, such as the Opening General Session and the Technical Session. It’s not that I don’t want to know what’s coming, it’s that in my current role, I am focusing primarily on IBM Connections. So, if you were expecting something from me on IBM Notes and IBM Domino, this is not the place.

But, I will say this: Last year my team upgraded our Domino 8.5.3 environment to Domino 9.0.1 Social Edition, removed 95% of the IBM Notes clients in the environment by moving users to iNotes, and the remaining 5% of the clients are running IBM Notes 9. Applications? What can be moved to other platforms is nearly complete. What wasn’t moved in the first phase, will be moved, probably this year. Unlike a lot of places, we are using IBM Domino for (strictly) mail. And it’s all on-premises.

That said, I was very impressed with Connect 2017 as a person with an IBM Connections focus.

The Really Good:

  • Catching up with my friends in the IBM stack. This is arguably one of of the few conferences where I can see and talk with most of the people I consider “friend” in this space. Because it is the one large, international conference for all things IBM Notes/Domino, Sametime, Connections, and so on, it will attract the most people from around the world. Regardless of the name or location, they will be at this event. This year, it did not disappoint in this regard. Most of the people were here and it was a great week to talk to them in person.
  • If you haven’t, or don’t, travel internationally, this is the place to talk to your non-USA friends about world views. Sure, it’s a technology conference, however since I have known a lot of these people for quite some time, I do not hesitate to ask about Brexit, the current political climate in their home countries, or in the USA. It is a great way to experience the world from other perspectives. And as I respect them and their views, it broadens my view of the USA and the world.
  • There was a plethora of Connections sessions from which to choose. In fact, on Wednesday, I was double and triple booked during certain time slots. This caused me a lot of stress. Too many sessions, too little time. And no repeats.
  • Wednesday was the best day of the week. Many of the Customer Stories were presented on this day and they were excellent. There is nothing like seeing how other people overcame obstacles, integrated other business applications into Connections, on boarded new Connections users, and increased adoption, to get your enthusiasm to increase. There was furious note taking happening. Also, I introduced myself to several speakers, hoping to parlay the introduction into a more informative conversation in the next several months.
  • Also on Wednesday, there was an onslaught of Connections Pink sessions (see point #1, above). It helped that I was privy to a special meeting with Jason Gary, so I was able to miss several of those sessions, as I heard everything I hoped to hear, directly from him.
  • The Product Showcase was primarily focused on IBM Connections Business Partners and IBM Connections 3rd party applications and extensions. It was perfectly suited to someone like me. After working with Connections for several years, it’s nice to go into the Product Showcase knowing exactly what you want to learn more about as it pertains to your installation and culture. I think I was an “easy sell” to several vendors.
  • While there was a lot of walking within Moscone Center, it was primarily confined to the second floor.
  • The Opening General Session was a nice mix of customer stories, demos, music, and more. It seemed to flow very nicely from one thing to the next. I know that many were ecstatic that IBM Notes and IBM Domino were mentioned, especially concerning IBM’s continued support of the platform. For the nuts and bolts of that support, you had to attend several sessions dedicated to the roadmaps. I was missing from those sessions.
  • The featured speaker, Dr. Sheena Iyengar, author of The Art of Choosing, was an excellent choice. Appearing toward the end of the of Opening General Session, she wove what we had seen and heard, specifically Watson, Watson Workspace, and cognitive, into our current lives and choices. It was enthralling.
  • The Technical Keynote, hosted by Ed Brill, was just what we needed to see and hear. Chris Crummey led the demonstrations and, as expected, did an exceptional job using “real world” examples using real people and real situations, not some made up company with made up problems.
  • The Closing General Session, as usual, recapped the week. However, as is IBM’s custom, their featured speaker, Eric  Whitacre, a classical music composer, was outstanding. Ever since I witnessed Benjamin Zander in Orlando, I absolutely love music themed Closing General Sessions. I suppose it reminds me what I already know, I need to see more orchestras. While I love rock (the harder and more angry, the better), it is classical music that affects me emotionally. I think we all should seek out art that affects the emotions. Eric’s story was spectacular. But, as the session closed, there was no announcement of Connect 2018. No dates, no location. What 2018 will bring for this conference seems to be . . . unknown.

Wednesday was “Pink Day” at Connect, and in response to that, here is a photo of Jason Gary for your enjoyment or amusement:

img_2303

I think that Jason must use the same bespoke tailor as Mat Newman.


“I went to IBM Connect and saw Verse . . . “ – Part II

February 12, 2016

Apparently, the lack of a overarching message concerning, among other things, IBM Verse is being recognized by more than one tech writer.

IBM’s assets in the collaboration and communications market really have not received as much attention as they should have. To be in a presentation where products such as Verse (IBM’s cloud-based e-mail solution and, as we learned, future on-premises upgrade to Domino) were referred to as having a ‘secret sauce’ seemed a missed opportunity.

More >

So, there are a few people out there, attempting to spread the word concerning IBM Verse and other solutions in the IBM portfolio and come away wondering why IBM is missing their opportunity. And the window is shutting. The Connect conference is done and put away, which means that free publicity like this will dry up as it waits for something / anything out of Armonk regarding the announcements and demonstrations.

“Momentum” is more like “fits and starts” or “wait and see.”

That is not what this product deserves or needs.

 


“I went to IBM Connect and saw Verse . . . “

February 10, 2016

This is a very positive article, but one that concerns me. It should raise flags within IBM, if they follow their products in the news.

I attended IBM Connect last week, where I checked out one of the most interesting products you’ve likely never heard of — a new email offering called “IBM Verse.” While there was a lot of discussion about how it better integrated social networking, what really intrigued me was the idea of putting cognitive computing inside an email client.

. . . I’ll close with my product of the week, which has to be IBM Verse, the fascinating email product that focuses on the user. If I don’t tell you about it, you’ll likely never hear of it.

More >


Outside Looking In: GURUpalooza and Ask The Product Managers

February 4, 2016

Through the wonders of technology, I was able to attend this year’s GURUpalooza and Ask the Product Managers at Connect 2016. I think it was an excellent use of Periscope and it also allowed me to better understand both sessions. After watching both, I have some opinions from this year’s editions.

First, and easiest, Ask The Product Managers.

Unlike earlier conferences, the combining of “Ask the Developers” with “Ask the Project Managers” eliminated the finger pointing between the two groups. That is, you attend either of the sessions only to hear one group say “ask the other group.” It was maddening.

Why is this still a thing?

It is readily apparent that nothing that is said by attendees is written down or “taken back.” This is extremely obvious when David Hablewitz runs down questions from previous year’s sessions (and by “previous years,” I mean several years. David seems to keep a running list.)  Audience members may feel better, after asking their question, but nothing ever gets done. It only gets people upset.

If I’m wrong, please comment where this is not true.

This is only one hour, at the end of the conference. Why is this not an ongoing, continuous feedback loop? There is a place for this, for example IdeaJam, but I believe that while the Developers/Admins/users of IBM products continue to add Ideas, IBM does not give it the attention that it deserves. And, again, there is no closure to the Ideas. Or responses from IBM.

The sheer number of IBMers on the stage is staggering. Taking fifteen minutes to go through introductions is a waste of time. Assuming that IBM has the right people on stage, just start the session and let the appropriate people answer the questions. Prior to answering the question, the individual could introduce themselves.

But, really, why is this session still on the agenda?

GURUpalooza

Many of these people I describe as friend. A lot of these people, I have known for many years. And, those on stage, have known each other for a long time. You immediately get the sense that they are all very comfortable with each other.

Which means that there are, and will probably continue to be, many things said that only those on stage (and a few in the audience) will understand.

As I sat in my chair, 1,000+ miles away watching the Periscope video, I became a bit uneasy with the number of “inside” references bandied about by the group. Why? To those not familiar with the people on stage, it seemed to me to build a small barrier between the guru’s and the audience. This is definitely not the intent, it was the impression that I got. Lord knows, they have sweat and bled to bring you the best technical track in any conference, and, being at the end of the conference, deserve some relief and laughs, However, not at the expense of “alienating” (poor word choice, I am certain) most members of the audience.

The other thing I noticed, because I’ve been around a while, is that basically the same people are the stage. I get it that Connect is the conference for IBM social software and to draw people in you need speakers that have been around for a while, have name recognition, have the power to draw people to the conference. What I am saying is, in a nutshell, are there individuals that are behind the scenes, that are the next generation of speakers? The ones that are going to take up the reins and blaze new trails on the shoulders of the giants? While it can take years to form the name recognition and drawing power of those on the GURUpalooza stage, are there people spending the time to become the new giants? Do we see them or hear them at the user group conferences? Thankfully, there are plenty of places for them to show their stuff.

It’s my opinion that while the administrators keep the lights on and provide a solid foundation for these technologies, it is the developers that actually have the power to show the relevance of that foundation. You have to have both, but the developers will drive demand, provide life to the products, and get others interested in careers using the products. Are there developer proteges out there, waiting for their time in the limelight? A succession plan, if you will.

You could ask me if I am doing the same thing on the Administration side. To that question, I can answer “yes.” As we experienced admins move up in roles and responsibilities, we are bringing in individuals whom we are training in the art of administration, so that they may take the reins in a few years. It only makes good business sense; you have to keep the mail routing and the enterprise social network rocking. Will they speak at conferences? I don’t know; it’s up to them. But they are getting ready to dominate administration tasks and for that, the developers and users should be happy.


IBM ConnectED 2015: A Few Problems

December 12, 2014

Connected2015_logo

After giving this topic some thought, and soliciting some comments, it isn’t news that IBM has a few image problems with ConnectED. One could make the argument that these problems started a couple of years ago. As it is, this being the last (IMHO) conference for this particular IBM software group in Orlando, here are a few problems with ConnectED 2015:

  1. If you change the name of something, you will instantly lose a percentage of the customers you had attending. Remember all that goodwill, identity, and buzz you had for Lotusphere? Perhaps even Connect? It’s gone. You blew it all on a name change. “Wait! But we have refocused the conference and it needed a new name!” No, you’ve just destroyed years of goodwill and instant recognition. It’s gone, forever. Was it worth it for a (silly) name change? I could point out that a name change was needed when IBM did away with the Lotus name. Fine. But then two subsequent name changes? Oh, and “Connect” is not a unique conference name. Try Googling it; you best be specific with your search.
  2. Many past attendees have not heard the message that this year will be “more technical” and are assuming the quality and  content will be roughly what it was in years past. But, a lot of them have been disappointed in years past, so they aren’t coming. Just saying it will be doesn’t make it so. Even if you repeat it to yourself hundreds of times. So, I say, prove it to me. Wait, what? There aren’t any “more technical” sessions listed on the website months in advance of the renamed conference? So, I have to take you at your word? How do I create a case to my manager that it is worth (roughly) $3,000US to attend when I have nothing on which to base my claim? Now that the agenda is available, the focus seems to be Connections (no surprise there). However, this could still be a tough sell for those companies that do not run Connections.
  3. Those who are in the know enough to have heard it will be “more technical” are also the ones to realize that IBM often do not deliver what they promise and/or what you expect, so they may not trust IBM that it will be more technical. They don’t trust IBM’s presenters will be subject matter experts. They are skeptical as to whether the technical content will be relevant to them (could be non-ICS content in an attempt to get atendees to use Cognos, or could be ICS products that customers are not using and don’t care about – CCM, anyone?). Remember the past few years? While I certainly see where IBM is heading, there are quite a few companies out there, quite possibly the majority, that see zero value in “social” or cloud.

ConnectED 2015 is less value for the same money, which is very upsetting.  What do I mean? Fewer days, same price. Fewer sessions (because of fewer days), same price. This is very troubling.

In years past, previous attendees would be getting hammered with phone calls and e-mails leading up to the conference. This year? Silence from both mediums. I think that the funny thing about this is that IBM believes that everyone that they need to reach are on Twitter, watch PlanetLotus, are on LinkedIN, etc. That is definitely not the case. E-mail is still, I am guessing, the Number One method of effectively communicating with everyone.

I believe, that of the problems, the money issue and complete lack of messaging and marketing have aided IBM in creating an event for about 1,000-1,500 attendees. Only those “in the know” will be aware of the changes; those that are on Twitter or regularly read PlanetLotus.

In my opinion, this is the last year for the conference in this location at this time. Look for something later in the year, hosted in Las Vegas, as a part of much larger IBM conference. Which should mean “more value for your money” if you are an IBM customer.

By the way, I am planning to be there for the opening weekend. I will not be an attendee.


Connect 2014: Some Additional Highlights

February 14, 2014

Some highlights/announcement from Connect 2014:

IBM will consolidate the collaboration applications under one name, “Connections.” Example, Sametime will be rebranded Connections Chat (the instant messaging portion) and Connections Meetings (the meetings portion). Based on what I heard from the Product Managers in this area during “Ask the Product Managers,” it will be some time before they start using the new branding. It will take you and I much longer.

From PCWorld, comes this:

This means that the Connections bundle will include the Notes/Domino email platform, Docs office productivity apps and Sametime tools for IM, audio/video communications and Web meetings.

As those products get updated this year, they will be rebranded with the Connections name and offered as part that suite, whose core ESN software lets users create employee profiles, blogs, wikis, discussion forums and the like, as well as share, co-edit and comment on files and documents.

“Those products work together today. They’re fully integrated, but now the branding will provide clarity and focus and highlight all these integrated capabilities,” said Kramer Reeves, IBM Messaging and Collaboration Solutions director.

Consolidating these integrated products under a single brand umbrella will help IBM show prospective customers what it has to offer against competing suites like Microsoft’s Office 365 and Google’s Apps, as well as against vendors with narrower offerings, like Box and Dropbox in cloud storage and Jive Software in ESN.

More >

 For Connections, the following were announced:

  • File Sync which lets you synchronize files between your Connections Files repository, your desktop, and your mobile devices. You can pick and choose which files you would like to sync and differential sync is automatic to save bandwidth and time. File Sync with mobile devices is available today in SmartCloud. This is very much needed and will keep users in Connections instead of using competing products. It received a rousing round of approval from the delegates in the OGS.
  • Coming in Connections 4.5 IFR2, Ephox EditLive. A demo can be seen here, along with additional information.
  • Focus on user engagement. You’ll be able to personalize your activity stream and navigation bar and filter for content that is most important to you right now based on what you’re working on.
  • Search your activity stream, set up your real-time notification center and mark favorite content.
  • File galleries in Communities where you can preview files before choosing to download them and where you can manage, organize and share files visually.
  • Community folders which can be shared onto the overview page and browsed
  • @mentions everywhere
  • Secure external file sharing from a single internal instance of Connections installed on premises. External people will see only the information they were given access to, they won’t see public profiles and public communities. (Secure external file sharing is a feature of SmartCloud Connections today)

Coming in Traveler this year:

  • Ability to sync the trash folder with the server
  • Response indicators in inbox (reply and forward icons)
  • Sending S/MIME encrypted mail
  • Sametime awareness in the inbox
  • Integration with Connections services (Files, Communities, Activities)
  • Enhanced Support on Windows Phone for Calendaring, ToDos
  • DLP enhancements
  • Certificate-based authentication
  • New native Notes Traveler for iOS which allows cross-app integration and more features
  • Redesigned Android Traveler app

Coming in Sametime (oops, I mean Connections Chat, Connections Meetings):

  • Implementing additional on-premises Sametime 9 functionality in SmartCloud
  • Sharepoint 2013 integration
  • Chat logging for persistent chat rooms
  • More continuous video streams, video recording, optimized Citrix VDI support, content sharing with video, intelligent cascading MCUs
  • Mapping meeting management features to Connections
  • Integration with IBM Docs
  • Mobile API’s
  • Windows phone and tablet support
  • Ability to receive incoming calls via the mobile softphone

Of course, MailNext was announced. Screen shots and my thoughts can be found here.


Connect 2014: Domino Onboarding Manager

February 13, 2014

A feature in an imminent release of Domino was kinda/sorta announced at the Opening General Session. It was at the “What’s New in Domino” session where more information was shared. However, slides are not available for that session on the Connect site. Pity.

Not to worry, dear readers. You download have a rather small PDF of Domino Onboarding Manager right here (see below).

What is Domino OnBoarding Manager?

A tool which can migrate users/groups from Active Directory to Domino and emails/calendars/contacts from Exchange/Outlook to Domino/Notes.

FINALLY . . . we have a tool that will assist in the migration of Exchange/Outlook users to Notes/Domino. Perfect for those organizations that need to migrate recent acquisitions into their Domino environment. Perfect for anyone else that needs to perform a migration. Perfect for allaying the naysayers concerning the future of Notes and Domino.

Enjoy. DominoOnboardingManager presentation