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Lotus Refreshes Its Collaboration Tools

Collaboration by any other name is still collaboration, as Lotus' Al Zollar hopes to show with the dynamic workplace model he's championing and the update of Lotus' collaboration tools
Beyond the fact that they both believe strongly in the notion of contextual collaboration, Al Zollar (top photo) and Ray Ozzie couldn't live in more different collaboration universes. As general manager of IBM Lotus Software, Zollar champions a vision of deep integration in which Lotus collaboration technologies are embedded and tied to a variety of enterprise applications. That contrasts with the peer-to-peer model Ozzie has created with Groove Networks Inc., the collaboration vendor he founded in 1997. (Ozzie also was the creator of Lotus' venerable Notes E-mail client.)

Al ZollarZollar's focus at Lotus is furthering development of the "dynamic workplace," in which services and tools are built around the employee. In that model, presence awareness--the ability to immediately determine whether a person is online and available--provides people with ubiquitous access to one another no matter where they are or what they're doing, much the way employees stand up in an office and look to see whether a co-worker is at his or her desk.

Lotus is moving closer to this reality with the latest refresh of all of its collaboration tools--the Domino application-development environment, Notes E-mail and collaboration client, Sametime instant messaging and Net-meeting application, and QuickPlace online workspace tool. The new suite will introduce stronger integration with IBM's WebSphere suite and DB2 relational database to ease the development of collaborative apps. The goal, says Zollar, is "to help our customers put collaboration where it's most useful."

Ray OzzieBut Zollar readily admits there's only so much a vendor's technology can do. "At the end of the day, cultural issues within the company are driven by management," he says.

That's where Zollar sees a lot of companies falling into a trap. Vendors are doing a good job of creating collaborative applications and embedding them in their own proprietary technologies, he says, but many customers still fail to view collaboration as a unified enterprise initiative and instead will make 15 decisions on collaborative applications that are poorly integrated and cost way too much. "Those companies," he says, "are ready for us."

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