IBM buys XCC to add a digital workplace layer to IBM Connections

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Today, IBM announced its acquisition of TIMETOACT GROUP’s XCC product, a “digital workplace hub” which is built on top of its collaboration product, IBM Connections. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

XCC – a quick win for IBM

As I outlined in my recent blog, IBM is working hard on revamping Connections. Most of the work is going on under the hood, through a much-needed re-architecting of the technology. But while this will give Connections a new lease of life – making it much easier to flex and adapt to different contexts and use cases – it’s a slow burn, and doesn’t do much in the short term for IBM sales teams trying to win new business. But that is where I believe this acquisition comes in.

A new approach is needed

Since its launch in 2007, the focus for IBM Connections has been on enterprise social collaboration: connecting people and enabling them to work together more effectively across an organisation (particularly across very big organisations). As the enterprise social networking (ESN) trend grew, IBM was well-placed to capitalise on this, and the unexpected growth of the Connections product (with a million deployed seats in the first year) showed that it did so very effectively.

However, over the last couple of years, it’s been harder to sell this broad and nebulous concept; organisations have realised that there’s more to collaboration success than just letting loose a new social technology, and have moved on to the next hype technology (*ahem Slack*). The remaining opportunities for social collaboration tools are much more focused and targeted; they address specific use cases of concern to specific parts of a business. The most common of these is undoubtedly the intranet (or “social intranet” or “digital workplace”), driven by Internal Communications teams with goals around more effective delivery of communications, and improving exec-employee engagement, for example. Until now, however, this has been a difficult sell for IBM – while the company might have all the pieces (collaboration, content management, portal, integration etc.), putting them together is not easy and it’s not cheap.

Finally, a packaged intranet solution for IBM Connections

The acquisition of XCC (described as Web Content and Custom Apps for IBM Connections) provides IBM with a ready-made solution for the digital workplace use case; it’s already built on IBM Connections, and uses the wiki pages feature for content creation so that you have a single search index across both formal (i.e. comms-managed) and informal (i.e. peer-created or social) content. There’s even support for custom apps that are delivered through the intranet as well. It’s a very neat, compact solution, and will help IBM to compete with other players in the social space who have already transitioned to the intranet space. It makes a lot of sense, and hopefully will provide a framework for IBM to develop similar packaged offerings for other use cases (social learning, for example). It’s also nice to see IBM visibly maintaining momentum in this area.

The product – which is being rebranded as IBM Connections Engagement Center – will be available via IBM channels from Q3.

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