IBM Connections is no more, long live Connections!

The below is my private opinion and in no way reflects the opinion of either my company or the customers I work with…

So anyone who has anything to do with IBM connections will have already heard this and must be fully aware but yes, the sale of the IBM Collaboration portfolio (including IBM Connections) was finalized by the first of this month. This means that from now on IBM Connections is…. Connections.

For the moment that seems to be the name at least. I’m not sure if this name will change going forward but for now HCL is marketing it at their site as Connections, keeping the name that helped make it big.

These are exciting times, but also trying times. Truth is that for the last few years IBM did not focus on the whole Collaboration portfolio. ‘Social’ was no longer the hype everyone was talking about and budgets and interests shifted quickly to other topics like blockchain, cloud, mobile, analytics and AI. IBM Connections seemed to catch the brunt of budget cuts which caused it to more or less go into a waiting pattern. Development only picked up again after the potential sale of IBM Connections became a reality and well frankly…. Were more cosmetic than structural in most cases.

So, is all this too late?

No! The thing is that IBM Connections has been an incredibly strong and versatile product from the beginning and is still a leading platform in its role as Enterprise Social Network. Leading the way of Collaboration platforms long before other vendors even caught on to it and still by far one of the best products out there for any organization who wants to have a strong Enterprise Social Network and knowledge management platform (see this great post by Bernd Siewert about the positioning of it among other tools like MS Teams). So it definitely has a very bright future potential but it all depends of course on where HCL takes it from here on. The fact alone that they bought it and are willing to invest in it shows that they are committed but that isn’t enough to get it to where it needs to be…

And then there was the announcement…

Their first big announcement as to the future of Connections was… As of July 1st 2020 the current Connections Cloud will cease to exists.

Wow…. Ok, so HCL starts with cutting out part of the offering and potentially angering part of their customer base. Granted, it doesn’t say you can’t do cloud, but it does mean that HCL is not taking over the IBM cloud offering and instead referring those customers not able or willing to host their own on-prem, or private cloud instance to partner-led cloud initiatives.

I’m excited! Excited to see a company ready to invest in the new chapter of this great product. Excited to see many of the good people involved with Connections at IBM (often frustrated themselves with the lack of investment they faced) getting a totally new chance at HCL. And I’m even more excited to see them start off with taking a bold move like killing the Connections Cloud which in my opinion was unfortunately doomed from the beginning due to certain implementation choices made by IBM.

Going forward

Cutting out Connections Cloud with its separate development base is freeing HCL up to focus on the product itself and on reinventing it in a way that will make it better and future-proof, not just a slightly improved version of what was already there. It also proofs that they are prepared to take risks and bold (potentially unpopular) decisions. Which, quite frankly, is exactly what is needed right now. After too long a period of stagnation at IBM it is time to move forward on this product, cut out what’s not working and reinvent what needs to be done.

Am I scared? You bet I am! This is scary stuff and there is a chance it might all blow up in our face. But I believe that this is the only way to take Connections into the future of collaborative working and getting out of that waiting pattern this great product was stuck in for too long now. No product became great by keeping to what it was. Innovation is revolution and revolution takes guts. HCL just showed us it has some of that.

So, for the first time in a while… I’m really excited… and scared…. and well… I can’t wait to see where this will go. Good or bad, we’re moving again and that’s the best way to get to the future!