LotusLive: a cloud-based social network for businesses

January 22nd, 2009 | by Chan Chi-Loong

Cloud computing and social media are big themes this year.

Every major software vendor – from Microsoft to Google – is talking it up and jumping on the bandwagon. IBM Lotus just unveiled LotusLive Monday 19th Jan at this year’s Lotusphere 2009 in Orlando, Florida.

Basically, it’s a cloud-based social network platform hosted by IBM and sold as SaaS (software as a service). It extends to the extranet Lotus capabilities (which were mostly intranet focused) and is a reaction to the trends that applications are going online and social.

My first impression from an end user perspective is that it is a sort of a Facebook for business use. From a business perspective, it is an enterprise set of extranet tools that ties in with backend Lotus systems.

Whether it succeeds or not depends on several factors. They announced three partnerships with Skype, Salesforce.com and LinkedIn, which showcase how LotusLive can federate and share information with other external networks.

Still, how strong LotusLive will be or grow depends on how open it is and the strength of its partnerships (as always). And providing tools and platform does not mean the community will follow; in fact, it is the opposite, according to some analysts and fellow journalists — a shoutout to Chee Seng (Network World Asia) and Tango (Economic Times) from HK here — that I talked to.

Zeus Kerravala, VP of research on unified comms from Yankee, challenged that social networks are driven by end users from the bottom up rather than from top-down directives telling them what to use during the press conference.

His comments was that IBM can’t ignore consumer social networks like FaceBook and MySpace because these “consumer” networks are increasingly used for business.

End users also talk more about community than tools.

Guy Alvarez, research director at Practicing Law Institute (PLI), a North American only non-profit organization, shared his tips for organizations looking to get on board social networking. He was invited as a guest speaker and customer reference for the Social Networking keynote today.

His tips?

  1. Have a plan.
  2. Have a good partner who can advise you.
  3. Be ready to change.

Still, tools are necessary to help build the communities. Seems like the future is going to be interesting as vendors slug it out in this space.

Here’s a quote by Ravi Shekhar, research manager at Springboard Research, that sums things up when I asked him for his thoughts: “It’s a world you wouldn’t know what would happen tomorrow.”

I was at Lotusphere 2009 to cover stories for Digital Life, which should be out in February.

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6 Comments

  1. Chi-Loong says:

    Yup.

    If you’re given the tools to build a social community, that does not mean that the community will suddenly just appear.

    Still, enterprises will view LotusLive in different light. Might make sense to an enterprise if you already have a Lotus-heavy backend, as it will have many synergies with the Notes or Domino or Quickr server that you already own.

    Whether users will take advantage of these integrated tools you’re offering, however, is a different question altogether. Would I prefer to use a platform like Facebook or to use LotusLive that ties in nicely with my corporate Lotus mail is the question.

    Can corporates “force” or encourage end users to adopt a platform? There might have less impact than they think, according to some analysts I spoke to. We’ll see.

  2. debswee says:

    Hmm with regards to Facebook, we’re essentially talking about first-mover advantage here, aren’t we? And while collaborations with Skype and LinkedIn dispel the notion of SNS as walled gardens, the fundamental social element still seems missing, no?

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