LOTUSPHERE - Users see promise in new collaboration apps

With an emphasis on more closely tying together existing information streams inside companies, IBM kicked off its Lotusphere 2007 conference Monday by offering some 7,000 IT users and professionals a wide range of first-looks at its latest collaboration tools.

Pointing to the company's new Lotus Connections enterprise social networking application, a Lotus Quickr collaborative content-sharing program and a host of features in the upcoming version 8 of Lotus Notes and Domino, Lotus executives said they're offering business users the tools needed to collaborate more efficiently.

Users on hand for Lotusphere generally agreed -- but said it might be a while before they take advantage of the various new tools.

Hugh Roddick, director of application development for Health Canada's client service center in Ottawa, Canada, said some of the new products will eventually offer his 13,600 in-house users -- many of them remotely-located health professionals who provide health care services in remote parts of Canada -- major usability improvements. Many of those users are forced to rely on paper-based communications or "cobbled-together" electronic means, he said.

Health Canada, which provides a wide range of government health services, has been beta testing the Notes and Domino 8 versions for the last several months and the additional applications announced today -- including Connections and Quickr -- will be important future tools, he said. Connections, for example, will allow Health Canada's in-house expertise to be catalogued in a central place and searchable by all users, while Quickr will allow some 5,000 Notes workbook document storage repositories to be searchable by other in-house users.

"What's really nice is that we're going to be able to integrate it all together," Roddick said. "We need tools that can manage that information in a way that can make our employees more productive. One of the problems we're trying to solve is that there is too much information. You've got all this corporate information, but it's in little silos."