Last week at Lotusphere IBM made a number of announcements of enhancements and expansion of its Lotus suite of products for collaboration and communication. But what caught my eye most was an announcement by Research In Motion of a Lotus Connections client for Blackberry.
Introduced at last year’s Lotusphere event, Connections is a social networking application for the enterprise. It allows an organization to deliver a capability to build internal communities, enables users to create their own profiles, and tag profiles of others, create blogs, share bookmarks, and organize social networks. The Connections BlackBerry client, similar to RIM’s earlier Facebook client for BlackBerry, allows mobile users to access and manage their social networks while outside of the office.
Thus far one of the limiting factors in social networking in the enterprise has been the lack of tools to support mobile workers. Nemertes has consistently found a tremendous growth in mobile workers over the last few years. In a benchmark on the virtual workforce we released in early 2007 we noted that enterprises were increasing the number of mobile device deployments by 421%. Tools such as the Connections for BlackBerry client will extend the collaboration capabilities of the knowledge worker beyond the confines of their desktop or laptop computer. The emergence of mobility tools for collaboration further underscores the need for an enterprise-wide mobility strategy to plan for how to leverage emerging tools and technologies to improve the effectiveness of the mobile workforce.
The main drawback is that for now, only the BlackBerry platform is supported. Those who have bough iPhones, or who have Windows Mobile or Symbian-based mobile devices will need to rely on web-based interfaces, with a more kludgy user experience until such time as clients for additional hand-held operating systems are available.
Still, this move represents a first step toward integrating of the mobile client with enterprise collaboration platforms. We’ve already seen a number of efforts to enable integration between VOIP systems and mobile phones (e.g. Cisco and Avaya’s acquistions of Orative and Traverse Networks respectively, and numerous offerings based on FirstHand’s mobile client), now we’re finally starting to see mobile apps move up stack, enabling not only integration with telephony platforms, but also with enterprise collaboration and social computing systems. Microsoft already enables development of mobile views into SharePoint Services via the use of predefined templates and form development tools, is a SharePoint mobile client much further away?