Interesting question, and the first reaction to it will be around traditional applications and suites, but that’s not the issue here as that part of the topic is well understood. It’s the moves by IBM through Lotus Connections contrasting with those by Yahoo, Google and others that interests me. Three days separated the announcement by IBM on their integrated approach to what they head lined as the business case for moving social computing into the enterprise, and the Yahoo announcement of opening the API for 249 million users of Yahoo mail.

Put simply IBM believe that the best route to value in the business will be delivered an integrated set of services, where as Yahoo, and others, from the social computing world clearly think that best of breed integration through Open APIs is the better route. Now if you are the CIO the Lotus offer looks like a good way of getting all the advantages in a manageable way, but there are some new issues to think about. Its not only going to be will users brought up using the Web 2.0 social computing model accept this?
Maybe we are over estimating the user aspect, after all my experience is that users mostly care about getting the job done more than the actual workings of the technology. If that is true then a good quality well integrated set of tools will not just be acceptable, but down right welcome, assuming that the user interface is right. That probably means abandoning the traditional ideas of designing user interfaces and learning from the Web 2.0 sites.
There is another aspect that really concerns me, and should concern the CIO too; will adoption of an integrated suite mean the start of a lock in situation? The obvious answer is no, look at all the open APIs, but the not so obvious thought is around a lock in to a working method that doesn’t become mainstream? Remember what has happened to Lotus Notes over the years?
One of the most innovative and beneficial ways of working to arrive in the PC era, followed by large scale adoption in knowledge worker areas. Even Microsoft praised Notes, and wished that they had come up with it. Where is Lotus Notes on the CIO radar today, even though the same features are still there, enhanced over the years? Yup, there’s the problem, and I sincerely hope that this doesn’t happen again as I really like what IBM are doing to once again put Lotus at the fore front of innovation in this new era of technology.
There is little doubt that we are on the edge of the next generation, and just as with the PC era, the users are making the moves to drive the changes, this drives a requirement for the CIO to act. The issue is how much this should be a strategic action, as in an enterprise wide rollout, versus a local piloting in those hot spots that need something done now. Think strategically, but act local, might be the best advice meaning; there is a case, and a need, to act now in certain areas of the business, but treat this as the opportunity to gain further experience before going for a strategic commitment. Would I try a pre integrated suite? Yes, as it’s got to be a good way to get a fast and proven result in what is still a relatively untried area, but I would also want to see how the most experienced Web 2.0 aware users got on with it too, and would take carefully note on the ‘differences’ they perceive in the working methods.