Tuesday, October 25, 2016

IBM Announces a New Category: IBM Watson Work

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In today's press release, IBM announced a new category called IBM Watson Work. In that category there are two new offerings that will be available: IBM Watson Work Services and IBM Watson Workspace. IBM Watson Workspace uses cognitive analytics to help users communicate with their teams and focus on key business outcomes. Teams now have a single space to manage all their work conversations and avoid information overload with smart summaries that highlight the most relevant actions and decisions so team members stay aligned and prioritize daily tasks quicker. This is what you may heard before as Project Toscana.

IBM Watson Workspace is built on a platform that we call IBM Watson Work Services. Watson Work Services provides a set of APIs built to help developers build apps that understand conversations and interpret user needs and intent using natural methods of communication. Developers can use these to infuse Watson Work capabilities into existing work applications and products or accelerate differentiation when building new apps.

Here's an excerpt from the press release:
Businesses today need to apply cognitive-powered productivity applications and services to digital content, conversations, and workflows to empower their employees with the ability to find, connect and work with the right experts; speed access to relevant content and insights; and provide the time and space to work simply and together.
  • IBM Watson Workspace learns how an individual works and interacts, and consolidates multiple work conversations from various communications channels into a single space. Using Watson, the technology is able highlight the most urgent action items, point to the right content needed at the time, and automate everyday tasks so employees can focus on key business outcomes. 
  • IBM Watson Work Services are a set of cognitive APIs –Action Identification, Moment Identification, and Summarization – given to developers through the offering’s website so they can infuse cognitive capabilities into existing work products and applications such as IBM Watson Workspace, third party applications, and when building new applications. The technology uses natural language classifiers that are pre-trained to identify key ‘actions, questions, decisions, and commitments in a conversation. It can analyze and disambiguate context to facilitate fulfillment of the next action. For example, if someone says: "Great point –let's schedule a meeting to discuss further," the system can identify 'schedule a meeting' as an action, and help the person find the best time to continue the conversation.

One of the cognitive capabilities available today in the preview is called "Moments". You know how painful it is to catch up when you've been away from work on vacation, out for a meeting or just lunch. You come back to a mess of information, and the time you spend catching up, is time that you are falling behind. No more! With Moments, Watson gives you summaries of conversations (think of it like Cliff Notes!) and at a glance you can see what was talked about, who was engaged, the content that was shared, etc. In seconds, you are caught up and aligned with your team.

Today, Inhi Cho, GM for IBM Collaboration Solutions, takes the stage at 4pm PT to share more about this announcement and it will be live streamed! And I get the opportunity to walk the audience through the flow. If you want to watch the live stream today, head out at 4PM PT to: https://ibmgo.com/wow16/session/NhtQjL5BRJGM4FJqC

IBM Watson Workspace (aka WW aka "dubdub" as the cool kids would say) is currently invite-only.  All IBM World of Watson attendees have access to IBM Watson Workspace. They can just log in with their IBM ID/password that they used to register for the conference. Those attendees can invite as many people as they wish, and those in turn can also invite others. So if you don't have an invite yet, find someone that attended the conference so they can hook you up.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Live Streaming Schedule for IBM World of Watson

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We are just one week away and I've been getting some questions on the live streaming schedule for IBM World of Watson 2016 (WoW). I'm happy to share that the most important keynotes will be live streamed via IBMGo.

Of course, one you can't miss is on Tuesday @ 4pm PT. Inhi Cho Suh will be sharing some cool updates on what's going on with Project Toscana (among other announcements related to the Future of Work). Here's the details as quoted from Marco Tempest, who will be joining us for the keynote:

Another highlight, like I had mentioned earlier, will be Ginni Rometty on Wednesday at 1pm PT.

To see more and sign up, go here: https://ibmgo.com/wow16/schedule pick your favorite sessions and add them to your calendar.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

World of Watson 2016 is Just Around the Corner

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We are now 31 days away from World of Watson!

So what's going to happen at World of Watson? First, let's start with Imagine DragonsGrammy award-winning rockers and Las Vegas hometown heroes Imagine Dragons will perform exclusively for World of Watson attendees. Following their multi-platinum debut album ‘Night Visions,’ the alt-rock group has been playing sold out arenas all over the world. Their sophomore album ‘Smoke + Mirrors’ debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, and their music videos have amassed over 1 billion views on YouTube.

Next, of course, there's the sessions. A can't miss session will be on Wednesday with IBM CEO, Ginni Rometty.

I've put together a list so you can see what's being covered by the IBM Collaboration Solutions team. One that stands out to me is the title for Inhi's keynote on Tuesday at 1p.  She's promising magic and I'm not going to miss it!

We will also be sharing an update on Project Toscana. The teams are all heads down and hard at work on Project Toscana. As you can see below, I'll be leading a session on the Platform and APIs and will be sharing how you can start using them right at the conference. Rishi Vaish and Rob Ingram will also be sharing the latest with Project Toscana.

The Value of Cognitive SaaS Solutions
Lou Sassano, Bob McCandless
Mon @ 11a
Breakers F
Teaming in the Cognitive Era
Rob Ingram, Luis Benitez
Mon @ 11a
Collaborative Analytics: The Next Frontier for Social and Collaboration Systems
Marie Wallace, Kevin Lawrence
Mon @ 1p
Breakers E
Find Content Experts Using Cognitive Collaboration
Scott Rogers, Francois Nasser
Mon @ 3p
Breakers F
Watson at WorkTrends and Directions
Inhi Cho
Tues @ 1p
Work Smart, Play More: Teaming in the Cognitive Era
Rishi Vaish, Rob Ingram
Tues @ 3p
Breakers E
The Future of Work with Watson: Build Tomorrow’s Workplace Today with the Magic of Cognitive
Inhi Cho
Tues @ 4p
South Seas Ballroom
Work Smart with IBM and Box: Cognitive Content at Work
René Schimmer, Nisha Phatak (Box)
Weds @ 8a
Breakers E
The Cognitive Way: Business Communication and Engagement with IBM and Cisco
Ed Brill, Chris Crummey
Weds @ 11a
Breakers E
Dev@: Cognitive Team Collaboration with IBM "Toscana" APIs and SDK
Luis Benitez, Miguel Estrada, Joe Russo
Weds @ 4p
Breakers E
Work Smart with IBM and Actiance: Cognitive Content Governance at Work
René Schimmer, Heidi Ambler
Thurs @ 9a
Breakers F

Haven't registered yet? You still have time. Go register here. See you there!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Office of the Future: Automation and Innovation in the Virtual Workplace

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The workplace is changing. Although the physical office can still be a place of productivity and collaboration, companies are empowering the individual worker by providing all the tools necessary to be a valuable member of the organization from any corner of the globe. Today’s workforce is becoming increasingly flexible, mobile, and even global in nature — virtual collaboration is at the center of the workplace and shaping the way businesses operate now and for the foreseeable future.

The strong influence mobility has had on the workplace can be found at the epicenter of this shift. As smartphones and tablets have become rooted in our personal lives, workers have found these devices to be beneficial in facilitating their work responsibilities as well. As a result, many employers have embraced the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend to foster collaboration among employees outside the office. The introduction of mobile devices in the workplace has deeply affected the way people work as they increasingly rely on their personal smartphone and tablet for email, note-taking, and video conferencing. Since BYOD policies have allowed workers the flexibility to conduct regular business from even the most far-reaching areas around the world, the need to confine work between the four walls of an office has decreased, depending on the company, driving further adoption among telecommuters.

The same factors that are driving companies to downsize their physical office spaces has resulted in the rise of temporary contractors as an alternative to full-time employees, thereby creating the need for secure collaboration apps with functionality spanning across corporate firewalls. Advances in mobility and Internet-based technologies have enabled employers to connect with individuals willing to work on a short-term basis without needing to be located within the same time zone. By breaking down the geographic boundaries that have historically limited organizations to a select pool of qualified candidates, mobile devices and collaboration apps now allow independent employees to hit the ground running and remain connected to their working groups from anywhere in the world. The opportunity for employers and hiring managers is compelling, as the potential size of talent pools multiplies significantly. In fact, a recent study surveying more than 33,000 workers in 26 countries found that contractors are more engaged and more innovative than regular employees.

In the office of the future, the evolution of technology allows the workplace to become increasingly virtualized. Within a virtualized environment, cloud is the most important ingredient to help businesses automate processes, simplify content, and facilitate workflows by providing a centralized, secure infrastructure for collaborative solutions. In addition, in past years there were only a select few enterprise-ready devices with applications for business collaboration – most notably, BlackBerry devices. Now, there are a wide array of devices offering improved functionalities to drive productivity and reduce the need for multiple machines.

With cloud becoming a key enabler of the virtual office and open to all organizations, small-and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have benefited greatly from cloud by operating with the same top-notch software as their larger peers. In the early 2000s, collaboration tools were catered to companies running software on-premises, namely large organizations with significant IT budgets and footprints. Now, in large part because of the prevalence of the cloud, SMBs are getting more value from cloud-based vendors. In fact, Jim Deters, founder of Galvanize, famously said, “Two guys in a Starbucks can have access to the same computing power as a Fortune 500 company.” As more collaboration apps have evolved to cater towards the burgeoning cloud-first mentality among corporates, SMBs now are back in the game and able to leverage the same apps that enterprises are utilizing to drive their own process efficiencies. Since SMBs can procure first-class collaboration, the IT playing field continues to equalize across the size spectrum, thereby allowing smaller organizations to focus on their core competencies. As a result, large enterprises are forced to find new ways to innovate and remain nimble to thwart off potential competitive threats from smaller and more agile businesses.

Cognitive computing also offers a significant advantage that many have not yet tapped. Collaboration apps such as instant messaging are fundamental in helping employees sync up with each other but can also have a downside: creating too many interruptions.

Can cognitive help reduce the interruptions? Today’s workers are interrupted every three minutes on average, and it takes about 23 minutes to refocus, causing a potentially endless loop of being unproductive. To address this pain point, for example, IBM is facilitating the development of information-empowered workforces by infusing cognitive into its collaboration tools to help people work together in more intuitive ways. One of the ways to achieve this is to streamline and collapse all the apps into one collaboration solution so workers can address the action items that matter in an efficient manner.

A frequently overlooked source of interruption is unnecessary noise arising from workers’ email inboxes. Take a practical example: end users often receive multiple emails a day containing the same question. Adopting a system that can understand the question and offer the same answer to the same question automatically would reduce the amount of time a worker would spend on addressing redundant messages so they can focus on the important tasks. With society producing vast amounts of data – too much for the human brain to handle – the key to harnessing its full potential is to build cognitive-infused tools. A growing consortium of businesses recognizing the potential of untapped data has driven a major increase in the use of analytics within the workplace. Widely used to predict everything from supply chain cycles to customer buying habits, analytics are even powering tools and apps to help workers understand priorities of their tasks by reducing noise. Automation, however, when abused, can actually make workers counterproductive by creating excessive noise. As more and more capabilities become automated, there is a surge in the quantum of notifications. Automation needs to be properly managed; therefore, we need to think about it as a form of machine intelligence to keep the information moving seamlessly.

In truth, the virtualized workspace is not a one-size fits all solution. Employers need to customize environments and policies for their teams by leveraging free trials and capabilities to assess what does and what does not work for their organization. Another thing to keep in mind is resisting the urge to adopt too many apps, which may end up making employees counterproductive and create too many silos of information. A good rule of thumb in choosing a beneficial collaboration solution is to keep in mind and evaluate how one app mixes the collaboration ingredients, or the “Cs”: context, content, conversation, colleagues, and commitments.

There is a lot of promise in the concept of information-driven workforces. Companies that are able to leverage analytics are one step closer to successfully building a more collaborative and informed workforce. We are in the midst of great advances in making our workforce more connected, and collaboration tools have been at the core of this technological and cultural transformation. The next step is bringing analytics to the table to serve a dual purpose: help free up individual workers to dedicate time to more pressing and demanding work streams, as well as drive enhanced productivity within the team by identifying optimal division of labor and assessing project status and improvements. All the data is there – it is simply a matter of being able to leverage it.  

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

GSX Provides Real-Time Monitoring for IBM Connections

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IBM Connections allows customer to choose how they want to run and get values from the platform. For example, there are organizations that would choose to run in cloud for a "hands-free" environment. No need to worry about outages, upgrades, etc.

Other organizations would need the flexibility and customizability that an on-premises deployment would provide. For those of you who have decided to run IBM Connections on-premises you might want to check out this partner offering.

GSX for IBM Connections provides a powerful way to monitor critical components of the platform. Some of the capabilities you'll have:

  • Proactive notifications to get instantly alerted based on pre-defined thresholds
  • End-to-end performance monitoring include databases, application servers and more
  • Responsive time of end user experience
  • One real-time dashboard to see at a glance the status of all services and performance metrics

Here's a quick 3 minute demo to give you a better idea of what the solution can do at a glance:

For a more detailed demo, check this 11 minute version out: https://youtu.be/yZv1YBi2g9o . To learn more about GSX, visit http://www.gsx.com/products/gsx-for-ibm-connections . And this is just timely there's an upcoming webinar on September 1st, 2016. Go this link and reserve your seat now.