As I get ready to leave Florida tomorrow I realise that I haven’t blogged since Connect began (for me) on Friday 29th. This was our 21st IBM Orlando conference and like everyone else I was prepared to see it go forever or merge with Las Vegas. That hasn’t happened and I hope after the last two years it won’t.
My Connect starts early on Saturday with meetings of The Penumbra Group an organisation of Business Partners who work with IBM social software. We joined Penumbra in 1996 after starting Turtle and realising we were isolated as a small BP in a small corner of a small country, it allowed us to talk openly to and partner with others in a similar situation around the world. Thanks to Penumbra we met some of the smartest people doing what we do and many of them are now my closest friends. We start our meetings talking about our businesses and what struck me this year was how technologically diverse everyone has become. There’s no such thing as working with a single technology anymore, it’s about integration, coexistance and enhancement. That’s a positive theme I saw repeated throughout the conference.
Monday morning saw a new format Opening General Session. It’s a hard balance to get right with an audience of CIOs, analysts, press, customers, sales people and BPs – at least one or two sections will be boring for someone. This year IBM gave very clear information in advance on how the OGS would work, an opening hour of strategy and review followed by an hours break and then another hour of demo and customer stories. I’ll be honest, I doubted how many would return after the break but it’s a testament to how well judged the format was that just about everyone came back. It was fast paced, well structured and interesting (actually good customer stories).
Looking back 10 years the OGS used to be about underlying technology, we’d hear about changes to Domino view indexes or a new Sametime feature but we’re not there anymore – the underlying architecture and how to discussions are saved for breakout sessions, the OGS is about VISION and I say that with no sarcasm at all. What I want from IBM in the OGS is what I got – a clear vision of where the technology is going, where my customers need to be, and what and when IBM plan to deliver along that path.
The less said of the opening speaker the better – a shouty millenial who actually mouthed along to the videos from his youtube channel as they played and I suspect plans to patent the word EXPONENTIAL. He was no Brian Cox or Neil DeGrasse Tyson but at least he wasn’t around for long and the follow on speakers were all great.
There were lots of good news items and great demos of ongoing developments such as the personal assistant features in the mobile application and the evolution of the Verse UI as well as Project Toscana which is a new persistent chat client that will integrate with Verse, with Connections and with other shared data. Connections itself is being redesigned to ensure you are being shown the most useful information for whatever you are doing in an appealing and clear layout (I realise that sounds a bit vague but once there are good screenshots I”ll share them). Of course there was also the big news I was beginning to wonder if we’d hear ..
IBM Verse on premise built on top of Domino and due this year
.. I have many customers who aren’t ready to move to the Cloud yet but weren’t sure where Domino was headed or if they should be moving “to Verse” or something else. IBM is committed to the Domino server (which still beats any other mail server into a cocked hat) with a new UI and deeper integration with Connections, *cough*Sametime*cough*, IBM Docs etc. If you’re on a Domino platform it’s still a critical part of IBM’s server strategy and underpins many of the “futures” we were being shown. There was also an announcement of Outlook running on top of Domino later this year so that gives you a lot of choices of client to access your servers Notes, iNotes, Traveler, Verse (desktop and mobile), Connections Mail and Outlook.
By the time the OGS drew to a close the nervous cynicism of Sunday had become tentatively excited optimism. For me that’s down to two things, seeing IBM clearly showing they understand what their customers need and are working to deliver it (as opposed to telling customers what they need) and a much looser , more inclusive attitude.
I had lots of discussions with friends, customers, other BPs and IBMers throughout the week and the general feel was consistently that a community was being rebuilt, that there are people within IBM who recognise the benefits from creating closer relationships with partners and customers. There were clear signals that IBM were listening and adjusting their strategy. Less mention of “cloud or nothing” and more “this is where we want to take you but we’re not forcing you down a particular path”. Yes if I’m being cynical I could point out that the detail of how this would all be accomplished was scarce but I can wait for them to share that so long as the final destination is where I want to be.
Under the heading of “pulling the community together” I’d like to say thank you to Amanda Bauman @ IBM who worked so hard to bring “Swolphin Lotusphere” to “Hilton Connect” , even organising a craft beer night , a Karaoke night and getting the Nerd Girls Sparks session on the agenda.
I used to say that I’d leave Florida each year feeling energised, excited, happy and determined to learn new things. That was definitely true this year. I love the Hilton location, by far over the Swan/Dolphin (those outdoor firepits for late night chats are much better than the rotunda) and the bar was nicely laid out (if horrifically expensive and that comes from a girl who buys drinks in London bars).
My Connect Words For 2016
Nothing is confirmed yet but I hope to see everyone at the end of January 2017 at the Hilton Orlando..
It’s been real 🙂