Unity – Lockheed-Martin’s implementation of a social computing platform

June 28, 2008

Enterprise 2.0 Conference, Boston, June 9-12 2008

One of the biggest hits of the conference was a presentation of Unity; a social computing platform developed by Lockheed-Martin (LM).

“Enterprise 2.0 at Lockheed Martin is sparking a knowledge management revolution enabling the business to more effectively compete, win, and perform. At its core, a social computing platform empowers knowledge workers by lowering the barriers to create, share, and find information. The platform evolved from collaborative tools and now includes Web 2.0 tools such as social bookmarking, blogs, wikis, discussion groups, weekly activity reporting, and personal/team spaces. This session will communicate what the platform is, demonstrate the components, and share some case studies and lessons learned from the E2.0 implementation at Lockheed Martin.”

Before Unity was developed, the state of collaboration within Lockheed-Martin consisted of the usual set of office productivity tools: email, meetings, basic messaging and office documents mailed as attachments.

The goal of Unity was to bring social collaboration to the enterprise to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of their business processes. The key points of the product strategy were:

1) Provide a user experience employees would love, address “what was in it for me”, and balance security concerns (need to know vs. the need to share information).

2) Develop a social computing framework around a standardized platform: integrating wikis, RSS, blogs, social bookmarking, and document sharing.

3) Provide support for discussion forums, status and activity reporting, and suggestion tools.

4) Capture patterns of usage and gain insight into the adoption of the framework within the enterprise.

5) Maintain a consistent user experience.

6) Ensure that all information could be feed-enabled, and integrated into the framework.

Unity was built using Google [enterprise] Search Appliance (GSA), Microsoft’s Windows Sharepoint Services (WSS) and Newsgator’s Enterprise Server.

Unity has a backend database that collects all relationships, feeds into “spaces.” There are two types of spaces: personal spaces and team spaces. Each space can have wikis, blogs, discussion forums, shared documents, and social bookmarks. Both types of spaces can be networked, and can relate to each other.

Activity streams let people record and tag their activities. An employee can easily view relevant activity streams and be plugged into what other employees are doing. An employee can subscribe to activities streams so that they can follow tasks, activities and people of interest to them. Each activity generates an RSS feed that can be consumed by Newsgator or a portal.

Activity reports show the tasks, activities, and people that have been met with over the last six months. You can look at the activity report of an individual to see what they are doing. This can make it easier to find and engage the right people. The activity report is a good vehicle for transferring knowledge and information. The activity reports can be integrated into a branded “UReport” tool (UReport is a custom .net application).

How did the Unity team quantify the return on investment (ROI) for the dedication of resources and purchase of software? Some of the points of the ROI justification were:

Productivity savings of users rapidly finding/locating appropriate information and resources.

Customer’s interest in using Unity to collaborate with ML.

Project bidding process, especially those proposals that involved knowledge management.

The Unity development team put together a “collaboration playbook” that demonstrates how use of wikis, blogs, and other collaboration components. They also developed a set of best practices. For example, as a team member, you should ask questions on a group page not just call and ask someone or send an email; this helps to capture information for everyone to see and use. The playbook described which communication type made sense for different collaboration activities: blog posts, wikis, email, virtual conferences or in-person meetings.

Lockheed-Martin built the basic Unity platform in 2007, and then ran a beta pilot of it over the course of the year. After the initial release, it took just six months for a second version to address the information security and legal issues. Unity was rolled out in to a number of divisions in early 2008. Currently, there are 4,000 personal spaces; the number is growing 10% every three weeks.

The most successful approach to ‘selling’ unity within the company was to emphasize the value of the team spaces. Project/program Managers that blogged in the team space really helped the engineers see the value of Unity and get them engaged. People who already have to collaborate between groups were good champions. The Unity team used a project management blog to keep colleagues up to date about what the development team was doing.

Lockheed-Martin wants to roll out Unity across the entire company in the third and fourth quarters [of 2008].

Value to the enterprise:

At any time an employee can see what others are working on. They can access shared documents and ask questions on shared workspaces or directly to the relevant decision maker or stakeholders.

– There is significant value to the enterprise in tracking and reporting on activity streams.

– Team spaces for process compliance very effective. They got a significant amount of participation and input from a geographically diverse set of users.

– Ease of generating and sharing activity and status reports.

– Being able to search for information and ask relevant questions raises productivity. This leads to improved collaboration and knowledge exchange.


Apple’s WWDC 2008 Keynote Address – iPhone 2.0/3G

June 15, 2008

Apple’s WWDC 2008 Keynote Address – I’m trying not to drink the ‘cool aid’.

The conference keynote was ‘quite the show’!  Yes, Steve/Apple still know how to push a new product.  The keynote was all about the iPhone, and Mobile Me.  Steve mentioned that they will be talking about the Mac and Leopard after lunch.  I am wondering if the iPhone will become (has already become) Apple’s ‘flagship product’.

Yes, the iPhone 2.0 is quite impressive. I have been trying really hard not to ‘drink the cool aid’.  However, it is not that easy.  Apple has packed a considerable amount of features and functionality (major understatement) into a small device.   

 

3G support – AT&T plans to have 3G support in 275 markets by the end of June, and support in the rest of its 350 markets by the end of the year.

Security – The security enhancements look good – IPSec VPN, WAP2 (featuring 802.1X based authentication), data encryption, manageable security policies and remote kill/wiping.  These features should address many/most of the enterprise security concerns. 

Built in GPS (assisted).

Full MS Exchange support; it must have given Steve great pains to do that.  Support for Push Email, Calendar, and Contacts (via Active Sync).  There was no mention of support for Domino (has Microsoft won that battle?)

The Apple iPhone SDK is most impressive. 

  • Full iWork document support – view iWork documents, pages, etc.
  • Complete MS Office Document Support – Word, Excel and PP. Documents can be downloaded as attachments.
  • Bulks delete and move of messages, and saving of images to the photo library.
  • Full set of parental controls.
  • 70 Countries will be supported by the end of the year – Europe, most of Central and South America, parts of Africa, India, Japan, Australia and New Zeland (support in China can’t be far behind).
  • Push notification services for applications via persistent IP connection to the phone (beta in July, GA in Sept 08) – Badges (# of waiting messages), custom alert sounds, and custom text alerts (with activation buttons to launch related applications). The unified push notification services will work over the both the cellular and the Wi-Fi networks; it can scale to many 3-rd party services.
  • Price – $199/$299 – Great pricing!The largest round of applause during the keynote was when Steve announced the iPhone pricing.

 

The customer testimonials were, not surprisingly, very positive and upbeat.  However, they did not, on the whole, seem to be over stating the capabilities of the iPhone.  The statements made by principles from Disney, the Department of Defense, and Genentech gave credibility to the ‘enterprise ready’ claims that Apple was making.  

The user/customer demonstrations were most impressive.  And, given the relatively short amount of time that most customers said that they had been working with the iPhone SDK (weeks to a few months), the demonstrations showed a surprising amount of features and functionality. 

 The demonstration of a LBS/Social application by Loopt was slick.  With Loopt, iPhone users will be able to see if their friends are nearby.  It’s easy to imagine a scenario in which you can use your iPhone to ‘check out’ entertainment venues (bars, restaurants) to see how many of your Facebook friends are there.  If it can do that, the iPhone might even be able to do the impossible-make Twitter useful J

 The gaming (Sega, Pangia Software, Digital Legends Entertainment) demos were really fun. The graphics/display looked better than many of the games on the DS.  I liked the idea of using the motion of the device as part of the controller (ala Wii).  I don’t think that Sega or Nintdeno need to worry too much (total cost of ownership if a fraction of a portable game device).  However, if you already have an iPhone then you will, most likely, not really need/want your GameBoy/DS.

 Six Apart, Typepad – The TypePad blogging client simple, uncluttered, and easy to use.

 Associated Press, Mobile News Network –  Allow real time reporting/posting of news stores from local sources. http://www.apnews.com/

 MLB.com, At Bat – You have to give high marks to to MLB for so quickly integrating nearly real-time video into their box scores. This is going to be a killer app for ‘sports junkies’.

 There were two demos in the medical/educational space.  Modality showed their medical educational software – currently used in curriculums at the medical colleges.  MIMvista demonstrated high-resolution medical imaging software.  The images were just amazing. One can see why there is strong interest in the medical community for the iPhone. The iPhone is going to be a great platform for building rich educational apps for all curriculums.

 Apple has made the development and delivery of custom mobile applications a very high (if not the number one) priority. 

 Application Distribution will come via three modes:

  • iPhone App Store – Users can access App Store from iPhone in 62 Countries
  • Enterprise Application Distribution – Companies will authorize iPhones (to run their application) in their enterprise, and they can create applications that will only run on those phones, and they can distribute those applications via their intranet. Their user then download the applications to their computers, and snyc them to the phones via iTunes ???
  • AdHoc Distribution of iPhone Apps – via expanded developer certification program. Up to 100 phones can be registered to run a set of applications. This will provide an easy method for development testing and small alpha trials. Would be nice to be able to expand the number of users to a few hundred users/phones for beta testing (I suspect that the limit is not hard and fast)

 In summary, it was one of the most impressive and compelling presentations of information technology that is have seen in a long time.  That said, Apple still has more work to do on the iPhone.

 What is missing, but appears to be coming:

  • Safari needs Flash Support. From a number of recent posts on iPhone Blogs, it would appear that Flash suport ‘is coming soon’.
  • Needs Java / JVM support – Sun says that there will be a JVM for the iPhone some time this ‘summer’ (July I suspect).
  • Native data encryption was announced, but no details were given. Note: It does not appear that encryption was available in the beta release

 

What is missing, but could be added (3-rd party application):

  • Dedicated/native iChat/IM applications.
  • Better YouTube search.

 What is missing and should be added:

  • Application delivery channel for the enterprise – TheiTunes sync requirement is justnot going to cut it with enterprise customers (I trust Steve knows that)
  • Multimedia Messaging.
  • Cut and paste of text – That is a really strange omission.
  • IM and SMS Forwarding.
  • Better Bluetooth (including OBEX transfers).
  • Support for Voice Dialing – Speech Recognition will have to be ‘native’ to work well.
  • Text-to-Speech – Should be native.
  • Needs a 32G version.
  • A real (non-toy) camera would be nice.

 All in all, the iPhone is an amazing consumer product.  That said, one of the most interesting things about the iPhone is the business model for application development and distribution.  The App Store provides the store front, the hosting, and the channel for the wireless distribution of 3-rd party applications.  Over time, it will be the 3-rd party applications that add the most value to the iPhone.

Given the price, features, functionality and the availability of 3-rd party applications, I believe that the iPhone will soon become the device of choice for consumers that are in the market for a smart phone.

 As for the question, “is the iPhone really enterprise ready?”  I think that the jury is still out on that question.  There have been a number of articles (from ComputerWorld, ZDNet, Gartner)  stating that that the iPhone remains largely untested from a corporate security standpoint, and that is still doesn’t offer quite the same level of security as either BlackBerry or Windows Mobile devices do.  There have been some unconfirmed reports, from beta testers, that there are still a number of outstanding ‘security concerns’.  It remains to be seen if they will be addressed by the July 11-th release date (only a month away).

Another major issue is the lack of third-party security software, such as antivirus and encryption tools.  Such tools are readily available for BlackBerry and Windows Mobile devices

The iPhone has a relatively small presence and a fairly short history in the enterprise.  It has yet to be widely checked for vulnerabilities by third-party penetration testers.  There needs to be validation of the security of the iPhone by third parties who have tested and validated the security of the iPhone within the enterprise.