Users See Potential in Lotus Apps, but Rollouts May Wait

ORLANDO -- At its Lotusphere 2007 conference last week, IBM detailed upcoming software tools designed to enable corporate users to collaborate more efficiently by better tying together different streams of internal information.

Users interviewed at the conference generally agreed that the promised additions to IBM’s Lotus product line could help improve their collaboration processes. But some said it might be a while before their organizations take advantage of the new tools.

For example, an IT administrator at an East Coast utility said its business units use different applications and systems, posing collaboration challenges. Processes could be improved by using some of the new features coming in Version 8 of IBM’s Notes and Domino applications, said the administrator, who asked to remain anonymous.

New Capabilities

Key features in IBMs new collaboration tools
•  Notes 8: Includes word processing, spreadsheet and presentation tools that support the OpenDocument Format.•  Domino 8: Lets users run applications written for earlier versions of Notes without having to make any changes.•  Connections: Enables companies to set up professional networks of employees for sharing information.•  Quickr: Supports content sharing via wikis, blogs, content libraries, RSS feeds and links to desktop applications.

The Notes 8 client is based on the Eclipse open-source development framework and will look like a native application on Windows, Macintosh and Linux desktops, according to IBM. The IT administrator said that should make the software “system-independent” while also making it easier for end users to access data.

But he added that his company’s 20,000 users probably won’t see the new tools for several years. The utility is still upgrading its systems to Version 7 of Notes and Domino and won’t be ready for another upgrade right away.

Two Lotus Tools Debut

In addition to announcing plans to release Notes and Domino 8 for public beta-testing next month, IBM introduced two new Lotus products: an information-sharing tool called Connections, and a collaborative content-sharing program called Quickr.

Hugh Roddick, director of application development at Health Canada’s client service center in Ottawa, said the various IBM tools could eventually offer major usability improvements to the government agency’s 13,600 users.

Currently, many of the users are forced to rely on paper-based communication or “cobbled-together” electronic tools, Roddick said.

Health Canada has been testing Notes and Domino 8 for several months, and Roddick said the integration of new functionality, such as document-editing tools, into Notes will let users run fewer applications at one time.

Roddick added that Connections could allow Health Canada’s in-house knowledge to be cataloged in a central place. And Quickr could enable users to run searches against 5,000 or so Notes document storage repositories, he said.

“One of the problems we’re trying to solve is that there’s too much information,” Roddick said. “You’ve got all this corporate information, but it’s in little silos.”

But Geert Van de Steen, a Notes and Domino consultant at TechTeam A.N.E. NV in Zwijnaarde, Belgium, said his customers “would laugh at me” if he suggested they deploy IBM’s new tools. “We are professionals,” he said. “We don’t need these fancy things.”

Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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