Well-worth your time checking out the demo (just follow the link below). If you are using SharePoint but are considering Lotus Connections for blogs, communities, social networking, etc., this type of integration could help people understand what the resulting user experience would be like.
Good Enough For “SharePoint Shops”?
Despite this plug-in, I still believe IBM has made a fundamental and perhaps unrecoverable competitive mistake by not being radically more aggressive regarding SharePoint integration. The window for IBM to have entrenched itself in "SharePoint shops" for social computing is just about closed in my opinion given that Microsoft will begin talking about the next version in greater detail later this year. With notable improvements anticipated regarding profiles, blogs, wikis, etc - organizations that are already committed to SharePoint are going to view Lotus Connections skeptically (exception: organizations that also have a strategic WebSphere commitment that is greater than their commitment to SharePoint and those making a strategic commitment to the Lotus stack in general).
IBM was faced with taking one of two directions and decided to focus on improving the functional gaps and platform capabilities within Connections (e.g., usability, communities, wiki) rather than dramatically improving its integration with SharePoint (adopting a "surround and extend" tactic). Given Microsoft's weak position in terms of social computing at the time, I would have chosen "the road least traveled" and prioritized deep integration with SharePoint (e.g., Connections Web Parts, SSO and directory, replacement (as much as possible) of the SharePoint User Profile / MySite function, BDC integration, etc.). I would have made Connections the best third-party application people could buy (vs. Confluence, NewsGator, Telligent, etc) to augment SharePoint in an area where it was very deficient.
I would have prioritized insanely great integration and gone forward with a less-complete IBM-centric platform to convince organizations, in an overwhelming fashion, that they should not view SharePoint as a social computing platform – and, that there was no need to because Connections was a complimentary extension to their investment in that Microsoft platform. Having insanely great integration with SharePoint would have made up for the functional gaps (in my opinion). A well executed “surround and extend" strategy would have relegated SharePoint to more basic content and workspace-centric collaboration scenarios. Having insanely great integration would have bought IBM time to backfill on the functional capabilities.
Can IBM "Crack The Code" For Getting Into SharePoint Shops?
If IBM can alleviate the cost concerns I consistently here from customers looking at the platform, then Connections can continue to thrive overall. But probably not in IT organizations that self-identify themselves as “SharePoint shops”. Something dramatic needs to be done - and soon. But I don't see that sense of urgency from the IBM camp. Of course, one can argue that the road to social computing solutions might be best pursued by not going through IT organizations but through the business side - but that's another discussion and blog post.
I find customers looking to leverage SharePoint investments are not so interested in learning about Connections as they are in learning more about vendors that have complimentary underpinnings (e.g., Telligent is .NET friendly) or specific integration (e.g., NewsGator, Atlassian). For shops that are willing to move farther away from SharePoint, then Jive comes up (influenced in part because they have a SaaS option that avoids the Java question in SharePoint-centric shops) more frequently than IBM (unless they have that WebSphere centricity). The expectation is that at some point, market forces will compell Jive to improve its SharePoint integration. I think that's a pretty credible assumption.
Don't get me wrong - Connections has improved (a lot) since its initial release. The next release will include several innovative features - but the chasm between Connections and SharePoint will be noticeably closed (in the eyes of SharePoint shops) with the eventual (perhaps still a year away) release of SharePoint 2010. Plug-ins alone are not going to cut it...
Socialize Me: Demo: Lotus Connections Plugin for Sharepoint
Earlier this week, the Lotus development team released the beta version of the new Lotus Connections plugin for Microsoft Sharepoint. You may remember that I mentioned this was coming when I did my recap of Lotusphere ealier this year. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you are probably familiar with the integration capabilities of Lotus Connections into Microsoft Sharepoint.
As soon as the plugin was available, and I got some free time, I installed it into a test system to give it a test drive. The installation was pretty straightforward. Basically, you run a wizard that asks you for two parameters: 1) the URL for the Connections Profiles service, and 2) the URL for your Sharepoint site (which was automatically detected for me). Clicking Next a couple more times and 2-3 minutes later the plugin was installed!
The new plugin provides 3 capabilities out of the box:
- Adds the Lotus Connections person card EVERYWHERE a name appears
- Adds a tag cloud web part to surface the global Lotus Connections tag cloud in Sharepoint
- Adds Profiles search mechanism as an additional search engine in Sharepoint
To see these capabilities in action, check out this quick demo that I just recorded.