IBM has unveiled version 4 of its IBM Connections social software platform. The company said the new version uses more sophisticated analytics capabilities and real-time data monitoring, and adds other features to extend its usefulness.
Connections provides collaboration, communication and communities between employees, and outside to clients or vendors, and is available in either on-premise or cloud-based versions. The platform, which IBM said is being used by more than 60 percent of Fortune 100 companies, integrates activity streams, calendaring, wikis and blogs.
Activity Stream Content
The new version of Connections provides several new capabilities. An activity stream offers a more consolidated and customizable view of the social connections, such as instantly available status and content updates. Users can now utilize content directly inside the Activity Stream without switching between applications.
There is also a broader support of devices, including geo-location tagging. IBM gave the use case example of an insurance agent out in the field who can take a photo, tag it with geo-location data, and then upload that photo along with the data to Connections, for use throughout the network.
A new e-mail capability offers a simplified access to e-mail within the environment. The landing page can now feature content from any outside source, which can be utilized alongside the company's own content, e-mail and calendar. Content can include Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, weather data, videos, Web pages or log files.
Connections' expanded analytics includes a view of what's trending at a given time, so that users can see the most popular topics being discussed.
Suzanne Livingston, senior product manager for IBM Social Business, told us that the new version expands on the analytics layer that was introduced in version 3, with additional business intelligence. She also pointed out that Connections is supporting OpenSocial and Activity Streams standards, enabling better integration with third-party applications and systems, such as SAP, custom applications or external content.
"There's a tremendous amount of data being shared inside and outside Connections," she said, such as the type of information, trends, status updates, all of which can provide insight to businesses about what its employees, customers, and vendors are actually doing and saying.
Livingston said that Connections has moved from "a set of business applications to a truly social business platform that third parties can extend using open standards."
IBM said that its business partner network, currently consisting of more than 39,000 business partners, is integrating gamification, video, compliance, project management and mobility capabilities into Connections. It cited the examples of Actiance's compliance capabilities, SugarCRM's sales support, and Bunchball's gamification.
For three years running, industry research firm IDC has ranked IBM as first in worldwide market share for social software. In June, IDC said that, based on 2011 revenue, IBM's market share grew faster than its competitors and almost twice as fast as the overall market.