This year’s IBM Connect 2017 conference in San Francisco was fast paced unlike any other show before – from the moment we got out of the plane on Saturday, until the following Friday, there was not a single moment to recover. It needed a 12 hour flight, some sleep and another two days to reflect on the new location, many news, updates, messages and learnings.

Other than the last Connect conferences, 2017 felt like many pieces of a larger puzzle are finally coming together and forming the beginning of an exciting new journey:

Open, Seamless, Cognitive

Where cognitive – the infusing of digital smartness, context and assistive technology – should be obvious, to me the real game changer is “open”:

After years of outstanding backward compatibility and freedom of choice, IBM’s “new open” seems to go way beyond and aim for vendor agnostic solutions that embrace the diversity of the many possible building blocks enterprises can and do chose from – from backend systems and core processes, through communication and collaboration, including social, to whatever is the new black today and tomorrow.

Finally, IBM isn’t just “once again adding ‘whatever’ to the mix”, but is creating solutions that bring a multitude of things together across a more and more fragmented digital world: people, information, systems, solutions, knowledge, bits, bytes, events, files, documents, processes, and more.

Surprisingly, the term “digital transformation” was not mentioned even once from what I recall – whereas at least to me, everything IBM said and showed is a huge step towards tackling many of the challenges and leveraging the opportunities that come with it. From IoT (Internet of Things), through IFTTT, to Slack and Office 365, IBM demonstrated a new openness across the board.

.@Inhicho excited & encouraged us at yesterday’s #IBMConnect CGS. “This week marks the beginning of the next phase of our digital journey.”

— IBM Connect (@IBMConnect) February 24, 2017

Feature packs and the future of IBM Notes and Domino

In the previous months, IBM’s announcement of switching from fix to feature packs felt like reducing value and commitment – Connect 2017 made clear that it’s the exact opposite: With feature packs, IBM is aiming for faster delivery through quarterly updates, and the next two already contain substantial improvements – the biggest ones being around the long awaited move to Java 1.8 and the ability to store views outside of NSFs.

On IBM Domino Applications

IBM is moving fast to help customers modernize their application landscapes through Analytics, new APIs, new partnerships and above mentioned fast delivery of updates through feature packs.

  • Analytics is being delivered through our very own panagenda ApplicationInsights, which provides insights into usage, design complexity, design similarity and code findings and will be made available to customers on active maintenance in Q2 – more on this topic in this space tomorrow.
  • New and extended REST APIs will allow customers and business partners to build modern applications on any platform of choice, integrating IBM Domino as backend around directory, user management, mail contacts, mail file search, calendar, freebusy and polling databases for changes – yet another reminder of IBM’s “new open”.
  • Last but not least, continuous updates through the before mentioned feature packs will ensure that applications run smoothly and are easy to maintain.

IBM also highlighted three business partners and their solutions to aid with modernizing Domino applications – in alphabetical order: DarwinoSapho and We4IT aveedo.

The power of PINK

The future of IBM Connections, codenamed PINK, was yet another demonstration of how IBM seems to be changing towards modern, (almost ;-)) agile, flexible and open: Websphere, DB2 and the lot are replaced with Swift, React.js, MongoDB, Redis, Ngnx and Docker. On premises and cloud will have the same code base. Whether components run on premises or in the cloud can be freely chosen from and mixed, including the transition from one to the other operational model.

Different viewpoints?

Out of the many who attended IBM Connect, physically or virtually, different conclusions can be observed. For some, IBM has yet to deliver where others already have colorful products. For others, IBM once again mostly showed bits and pieces but not an enough cohesive story. And then there are many summaries to be read that see light at the end of the tunnel. My personal conclusion of Connect 2017 is that IBM, instead of continuously lagging behind, is finally paving its own road. It’s not a smooth ride just yet, but after quite some time it feels like IBM is starting to take us all on a new – and as I find promising and exciting – journey.

If IBM continues to think, act and bring to life PINK, open, seamless, connecting, bridging, vendor agnostic, enabling, empowering, infusing then I believe in a lightning bright future. I deliberately left out cognitive, as that’s one of the given parts of the road ahead.

The next Connect conference

Dates, location and format of next year’s Connect were not announced, but are being discussed. From a European perspective I would wish for IBM Connect to be moved back to the east coast, thinking of Boston or Washington. Generally speaking, I sincerely hope that Connect is not folded into one of the larger conferences, and that next year’s location once again is at a location where expo and accommodation are in the same hotel.

In line with all of the above I believe that 2017 could be the turning point for Connect to truly grow from here on, into the one conference centered around implementing and developing the future of communication and collaboration.

Open, seamless, cognitive.