Thoughts on IBM Verse launch plus tons of resource links

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IBM officially announced via a live event and webcast IBM Verse, formerly IBM Mail Next, as a new way to interact with your email using advanced analytics and a new user interface. There was a lot of anticipation and marketing put into the launch.  Here are some of my thoughts and what the press thought.

IBM Verse sign up
We can start with the IBM posting from the Social Software blog entry defining the design principles that inspired the work and the new personas they built to go along with it.  There are quite a few new personas than what we saw with IBM Domino 9 Social Edition.

The multitasker, who is burdened by multiple application context switches
  • The prioritizer, who needs to focus on her really important work instead of the hundreds of emails sitting in their inbox
  • The sharer, who wants to share his knowledge more frequently, but doesn't want to switch to another app to do it
  • The searcher, who wants to search messages, files, and other content very quickly
  • and more
 I found it interesting that the workers defined previously did not carry over to show how they would work more effectively in IBM Verse from even the Social Edition. They also have some very high stats of some of the work a person does on a daily basis. Like the number of emails received. I do buy into how often we check our phones and email though.  We are now conditioned.

Alan Lepofsky, of Constellation Research (and formerly Lotus/IBM), brought his thoughts to the web hours before the live event launched. He has apparently been working with IBM on this as an advisor for some time so he has back story to the product design.
One of the most significant things about IBM Verse is the level of attention it has within IBM. Full disclosure, I have been advising IBM on Verse for over a year now, so I have seen this first hand. The resources being put into Verse, from design and development to sales and marketing far exceeds anything I have seen from IBM related to collaboration in a long long time.

While IBM Verse offers a vastly improved experience over existing IBM products, it is not yet a major leap forward in changing the way people work. It is not "best of breed" in any of the areas mentioned above. But what it does do is bring many of them together. IBM Verse's first release competently accomplishes its initial goal of improving people's email experience.

It is interesting to read how he likes the goal accomplishment but feels it is missing leading in some key areas compared to other solutions. He then adds on his vision of the complete solution.
I hope future releases of IBM Verse will seamlessly blend the plethora of tools people use including email, chat, text, and video conferencing with collaboration features like task management, social networking, file sharing and document co-authoring, as well as the core business applications people use to get their jobs done. A tool that combines these features and wraps it with a layer of assistance (powered by analytics) to help people focus on what they should, and should not, be doing is what is needed to change the way people work. 

IBM spent a lot of marketing and energy the past couple years telling us to get out of the inbox and make it all social.  They are now stepping back into the inbox to make that life better. They still push the social angle but feel you miss important data in your email and should be making that more accessible to yourself and others.

Techcrunch posted an article, by Ron Miller (no relation) and he makes a broad statement about IBM Verse early in the article that sums his opinion up. Which is before he has actually played with the product much against his own mail.
IBM’s answer is to throw some design sense at the problem, and mix it with analytics and intelligence and when you’re done, you have a smarter and more usable email tool, and it seems to work to some extent, but it doesn’t really address the fundamental underlying issues with email, no matter how pretty or well designed it is.

I do not fault that, this is meant to be an opinion piece and he sticks to that. He even admits email is not going away and it is how we work with and evolve it's usage in the enterprise.

The Wall Street Journal looks at the fredmuim model that IBM Verse will use as a distribution method.  Comparing it to Google is interesting since Google Apps are no longer free and I do not see this as Gmail. They did have one tidbit missed by other articles in that IBM Verse for the free model is not currently looking at advertising to subsidize it. There are no pricing examples yet for the paid model. They lost points trying to bring up Notes as not having a web interface and this is new.  We all know how long iNotes, DWA and now iNotes again has been around. And they interview Alan, from above, at the end of the article for a few more thoughts.

Ed Brill, former IBM Notes and Domino super evangelist, then IBM mobile and now VP of Social Business Transformation, highlights the event itself and his view of watching the project behind the scenes take shape.He also brings up the Design Thinking process they undertook to get to this point. Which ends with IBM Verse making sharing of data even easier from inside your email.
social is not an either/or with email. Email is part of the fabric of social. Personal communication begets interpersonal communication begets human to human begets social.

I still believe email is very social, just in a different way. It is more presonal and often misued for sure. But it has definitely been social since inception. Reaching out to anyone is a social step no matter what the medium.

CRN went with the IBM Business Partner approach for the article and had quite a few quotes of how partners do not feel IBM Verse will help sell more seats or get migrations. Even going so far as to suggest this could be written into existing platforms. That is a failure.
But IBM partners said the company has an uphill battle to crack the corporate email space that has been led by services such as Microsoft Exchange and Google App's email platform.

One large government partner, who asked not to be identified, said he was skeptical that IBM Verse would be able get much traction in the enterprise space.

Given how mature the market is and how late IBM is to the party, it would be hard for anyone to find success," said Thomas Vetterani, vice president, strategy and messaging at CompuCom, a Dallas-based IBM partner. "The war and battle is over for the inbox market."

I am not sure this is totally true as we still see many companies bouncing around between platforms for odd reasons.

Information Week had one interesting point in their IBM Verse article:
IBM Notes (formerly Lotus Notes) and Domino gave up messaging market leadership to Microsoft Outlook and Exchange more than a decade ago. But IBM remains a leader in social collaboration tools with its IBM Connections Suite. IBM Verse is a stab at snatching more messaging and collaboration deployments as the market heads into the cloud.

Their theory is that IBM is hoping this enterprise type tool will make them a key contender in email migrations to cloud solutions. Coupled with the leading IBM Connections they then can outpace the other providers like Office365.  I actually think that makes sense.  Information Week also quotes Alan, form above, who says that IBM will price this similar to Office 365 and Google Apps for Enterprises. That is the first estimate we have seen posted anywhere as pricing has not been discussed.

EWeek does a fine job of some interviews and stats. Once again confirming we check our email constantly. But if that is where the information lives that we act on in workflow and daily business why is this a bad thing? That may be the exact medium that drives what you need to do.  There is no files to share as everything is linked to workflow actions, approvals and more.  Without leaving your email. Sound familiar?

Other articles on IBM Verse with no commentary, just launch info included:
  • Mashable
  • PC Magazine
  • ZDNet digs into how fun Watson will be for IBM Verse and a simple launch article
  • Engadget at least mentioned it to get some hits
  • CMSWire
  • I am simply ignoring all the sites that just put out three paragraphs to get traffic. No content or commentary.

You can also see the livestream of the NewWayToWork hastag on Twitter and the Spredfast aggregator I talked about in this blog posting.