Tools & Technologies

Thoughts on IBM Connections Mail (“Mail Next”)

(thanks to @joebaxter for the photo)

At IBM Connect 2014 today, IBM announced “Mail Next,” to be branded under the IBM Connections family. It was positioned as a re-think of email. Mail Next was introduced in the Opening General Session, and then there was a very well attended full hour session later in the day; mail is still clearly a hot topic for many.

I’m attending IBM Connect 2014 as an analyst, so with my analyst hat on at the end of the day:

1. It looked attractive, clean, beautiful, fluid. Nice eye candy.

2. I didn’t like the emphasis on people across the top. The interface counts the number of recent / outstanding email messages from people, and displays a picture of the person and a count of the number of messages. I think “people” is the wrong aggregation point; it should be conversations. That is, if I have 10 messages from Bob and 8 messages from Jill, and they are about the same conversation / topic, I see the number 10 against Bob and separately the number 8 against Jill. If this was flipped on its head, I would see a single icon for the conversation, and a number between 10 and 18. Given the social analytics capabilities / prowess IBM has acquired in recent years, I would like to the focus on what I’m working on – conversations I’m involved with and interactions I’m part of – not the individual person as a discrete point.

3. When looking at an email message, you can click somewhere to get a visualization of the people involved in the message, and the degrees of separation / distance between them based on some method of analysis. The visualization looks pretty, but I feel that the greater opportunity would be to use the social analytics capabilities that IBM has acquired in recent years to auto-compute who else should be involved in the discussion / interaction / thread, but is not. That is, seeing a pretty picture of who is talking is lovely, but the real value would be to visualize who – based on their interests and expertise – should also be involved in the discussion.

4. From what I picked up, my understanding is that the worlds of email traffic / conversations are logically and physically separate from the “social” conversations and interactions happening in IBM Connections. Mail Next gives you email messages, tasks, and meetings within email. Connections Next gives you @mentions in Connections, events in Connections, tasks in Activities in Connections, etc. In other words, they are still separate (although you can move an email thread out of Mail Next and into a Connections discussion forum). I think the greater opportunity is to integrate the two currently separate worlds, bringing them together in an integrated / unified interface, using social analytics to figure out what is happening / current / important / essential / world changing.

5. Finally, and I realize that I can’t play with this yet because it’s not released, I’m concerned that while beautiful, it won’t be functional for handling lots of messages and tons of tasks. The beauty may get in the way of “getting through email” and “getting it all done.” If I have 300 tasks to work on, how do I work with / see / handle / prioritize / classify / categorize all of these in a way that makes sense and helps me move forward effectively.

6. I look forward to learning more in the coming days, and seeing how IBM brings Mail Next to market over the coming months / quarters / halves.

Categories: Tools & Technologies

8 replies »

  1. I think this UI will be useful for people that get 5 mails a day, any more than that and it won’t be useful. For me, any UI where you have to hover the mouse over something to get useful information is broken, I think this UI is broken. Hopefully IBM will prove me wrong,.

  2. I like your bit “sceptic” and practical view. Always good to not just “accept” new things as being better! However I am curious on your statements that this new way of working (mail integrated in social/tasks/business apps to get work done) would not be very practical if you have >200 tasks… If I would have 200+ tasks today (with email, social, business apps etc at hand) I would not be able to organise that at all anyway! I agree on some details that can/should be reconsidered to make it more easy, however integration of my tasks in 1 single UI/platform would definitely help me to be more efficient, effective & productive on tasks at hand.

  3. I read with interest your comments about a face with a number showing the amount of unread messages from that person. IBM has in recent years tried to differentiate itself from its competitors by pushing for people centricity rather than that of its rivals whom IBM claimed had a document centric solutions.

    I like your idea about using some of the smart tools IBM has for analytics to recommend other people who should be part of a conversation. This makes a great deal of sense. I have been doing some work for a medium-size business and have found it difficult to know who needs to be kept informed based on decisions that need to be made. What you are suggesting would have probably have saved time and also lead to better decisions and therefore even better outcomes.

  4. What about a feature to display who probably is NOT interested into a discussion thread? Could save this person a lot of time…