In late August I posted about the imminent release of Version 4 of IBM Connections, a suite of applications that supports team collaboration, enterprise community formation, and social sharing in a business context. In early September IBM released Version 4, and it’s now available for installation, analysis, adoption, and use. In the video above, Luis from IBM steps through the highlights of what’s been added.
Here’s what I think is most interesting in IBM Connections 4:
1. There’s a lot of little tweaks and adjustments across the various applications in IBM Connections. On their own merit no single adjustment is worth writing about, but from an overall sense, it’s always good to see an emphasis on improving usability from version-to-version. On the Home Page, the Updates Tab has been replaced with an Updates view. In Files, owners and editors can lock and unlock files, to prevent them being overwritten by other people while they are being actively edited. The wikis you are involved in can be viewed by the level of your involvement—whether you own the wiki, contribute to it, or merely follow it. And so on—there’s quite a long list of changes that fit under this banner.
2. Some of the new capabilities in Connections are more significant. The communities application has been enhanced to support project teams, rather than its main prior focus on communities of practice or interest. In terms of specific capabilities, there’s an enhanced calendar for scheduling meetings (which is much more important to project teams), a mechanism for inviting external people onto the team, and a community-centric activity stream so team members can keep each other appraised of progress and roadblocks. On the Home Page, the Activity Stream is for action, not just for reference. If you are delegated a task, you’ll see it in your activity stream, but from there you can also check it as complete—without leaving the stream. Previously you would have had to click over to the task and mark it complete; now you can do it mid-stream. And the newly introduced Connections Mail integrates a user’s email inbox into the Connections screen, allowing people to live in Connections but keep an eye on what’s happening with their email and calendar as well.
3. The other big push in Connections 4 is to further integrate it into the places where people work today. People can respond by email to a forum topic, and it will be created as a response in the appropriate place in Connections. Meetings and events from Connections can be displayed in your existing calendar, to show what’s coming up and highlight any conflicting appointments. People can drag files into an activity while in Windows Explorer.