Monday, June 24, 2024

IBM Touts Blackberry Integration

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IBM expects to redefine what it means to be “at work” this year. As messaging becomes unified and collaboration applications are delivered to mobile devices, even the most complex applications will always be with us. IBM foresees an end to rigidity in software, hierarchies, and business structures — a process that starts with BlackBerry integration.

That was the message at the Wireless Enterprise Symposium where IBM (NYSE: IBM) showed new love for the BlackBerry.

The company made several announcements related to the BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0. Its Lotus Symphony word processor, Lotus Sametime IM software, and Lotus Connections enterprise social networking software are all now natively supported by the BlackBerry software.

IBM plans to add support for more packages later this year. LotusLive Meetings, a cloud service delivering integrated audio and Web conferencing, will soon be supported on the BlackBerry platform.

IBM demonstrated its Mobile Ally software, due to be released soon. The product was jointly developed with SAP and runs natively on BlackBerry. It connects IBM’s Lotus Notes with SAP Business Suite to deliver faster decision making. “Today if you’re a client of SAP and someone has a lead or travel request, it’s typically managed in a system of screens,” said Bob Picciano, general manager of IBM Lotus. “When you integrate that into the Lotus portfolio, all of the information is presented in context — the status of the company travel budget, the company’s travel policy — and you don’t need to go to other applications to make a decision.”

It’s all about management theory.

Picciano said that collaboration software allows organizations to move beyond hierarchical or models, creating groups organized like a soccer team or jazz combo. This has long been a tenet of management theory, at least since Peter Drucker’s book Post-Capitalist Society in 1993. “Peter Drucker is a huge source of inspiration for how I look at management challenges,” acknowledged Picciano.

The search for alternative management structures often leads theorists to examine teams in sports and music. “One set of collaborative roles for creative conversations involves a social structure between the speakers and a reader that can be compared to that of basketball players and coach. For example, a group of younger engineers might chose a dialogue document for conveying not only the discussion results but also the process to a senior engineer, because they can expect to get key advice, sometimes based on tacit knowledge, from that engineer,” wrote Manabu Ueda, visiting scientist at MIT on loan from Fujitsu in a paper published in 1998.

While sports metaphors emphasize teaching and training, musical metaphors emphasize individuality and production. “Another possible social structure to encourage among participants is that of jazz players and their fans. Membership in a task team constituted by interdisciplinary professionals gives full play to each player’s individuality while working with other players cooperatively, as in a jazz improvisation. In addition, the fans’ feedback may also make them into more creative artists. Thus, the utility of dialogue documents depends on how speakers and readers enact social structures,” Ueda wrote.

When Ueda and Drucker wrote their theories, they could only imagine collaboration on paper and face to face. Technology makes it easier to conceive of and implement radical change. Today, we can replace the org chart at least partially with the kind of social networking software IBM is announcing. “Organizations will begin managing their workforces primarily through the use of human networks. Employee skills and interests will be easily catalogued, helping employers find the perfect fit for projects and assignments,” said the company in a statement.

New business structures are made possible by new software structures and interconnections. Each app integrates with other apps and none stand alone. “There was a time when we thought of collaboration as an application,” said Picciano. “But we found its true benefits when we put collaboration capabilities inside other applications.”

In a world of mashups, any software function is potentially a module in another piece of software or in a SaaS service (and the same can be said for hardware). Picciano said that any application can become a widget that is placed in a mashup. A sales spreadsheet could incorporate the CRM database and a telepresence console with click to call as well as an RSS news feed with the latest press releases from the client. “Mashups are increasingly being adopted by IT and by tech-savvy business consumers,” he said.

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