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In search of IBM Verse

Bob Brown | Feb. 5, 2016
The smart new cloud-based messaging system that you've possibly never heard of makes its presence felt at IBM Connect.

Scott Souder, program director and project manager for IBM Verse, assured attendees of this session that “this product is taking off… As time continues to move forward I expect the hockey stick for Verse to be like what we saw when Notes and Domino took off in its early years.”

Verse is also getting smarter and more extensible, Souder said. Without violating end users' privacy, "from a systemic perspective we've gathered a bunch of junk about you just by how you interact, how you share stuff, with whom you share stuff, we know when you're in a meeting... thematically what you're going to see as we go on with Verse is we're going to continue to pry that can open a little bit and take more and more advantage of stuff that the system has gleaned about you," he says.

Despite Verse's much ballyhooed analytics, user interface and faceted search, IBM hasn't exactly been bombarding the market with case studies, though it has identified early adopters here and there, including global advertising company Havas. Anecdotally, the customers I spoke to at IBM Connect were all at the Verse window shopping stage at best, and Verse never came up during a 1-hour panel session featuring 5 IBM customers who spoke about their social adoption strategies.

IBM won't share any real numbers about Verse adoption other than, that is, IBM's own migration to it. IBM is by far the biggest Verse shop, with most of its nearly half a million employees having the messaging system available to them now.

IBM GOES ALL-IN ON VERSE

Ed Brill, VP of social business cloud services, has been documenting IBM's Verse rollout on his blog and gave a live update during an IBM Connect break-out session. That session attracted a standing-room-audience of 150-plus people, including what appeared to be many from Brill's extended team.

The latest on IBM's deployment is that the massive Notes shop is pretty much making Verse available to everyone, and has encouraged adoption through a social/community-oriented engagement approach rather than by just having IT shove the product down employees' throats. Some 40,000 IBMers volunteered to be early adopters. Even CEO Ginni Rometty started using it in August, according to Brill. While Verse has been rolled out to most everyone else, only about 25% are actually using it at least once a day, proving that old email habits can be hard to break, Brill said.

ibm verse 
IBM's Ed Brill shared a graph depicting Verse's rollout to nearly half a million IBMers over the past year. Credit: Bob Brown/NetworkWorld

While Brill acknowledged that early on that some internally referred to the Curse of Verse, he said kinks have been worked out in using, deploying and supporting it. The company has gone all the way from a "pretty painful" 11-step process to convert people from premises-based to cloud-based messaging to a much more palatable one-button process, with Japan leading the way on that. By last fall, a few months after IBM began its migration to Verse, it was switching over 25,000 people a week, Brill said.

In the end, Verse wasn’t that hard to find at IBM Connect if you knew where to look and who to ask. It will be interesting to see if at next year’s show Verse will be hard to avoid.

 

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