IBM and Ariba Ink Partnership for LotusLive — A New Level of Network Collaboration

This morning, Ariba and IBM announced a partnership to integrate LotusLive into Ariba Discovery, Ariba's free supplier discovery tool (and supplier directory / marketing / lead generation service). While on the surface, this relationship has all the makings of a Barney deal -- for example, why isn't there a bigger collaboration involving other IBM groups, including the BPO organization, and why didn't the integration stretch into other Ariba products? -- the geek in me actually really likes this announcement based on some research I've done the past couple of hours on LotusLive. At first glance, it's a slick toolset for collaboration (IBM just showed it on stage at Ariba LIVE). Knowing what IBM has done internally with its social networking Beehive initiative, it's clear they're probably the most forward thinking large B2B oriented technology company when it comes to pushing social collaboration.

Before exploring LotusLive further, let's first tackle the announcement. According to the press release, IBM and Ariba "have signed an agreement designed to help fuel better commerce by matching business-to-business buyers and sellers of goods and services in the cloud-using state-of-the-art collaboration and social networking technologies ... Ariba plans to integrate its cloud solution, the Ariba Commerce Cloud, with IBM LotusLive to help buyers and sellers communicate and share information more fluidly and effectively, leading to faster, more confident business decisions for organizations of all sizes."

What is LotusLive? Channel Web offers a good summary in an article from last year. According to their coverage, "LotusLive Engage combines four major elements that its rivals, Microsoft Online Services, Google Apps and Cisco's WebEx, do not: social networking for businesses, dedicated storage, hosted meetings and real-time collaboration tools. While the others each have individual pieces, Lotus has combined them into a single offering that, it appears, makes good business sense. The basic architecture of LotusLive Engage allows for both intranet and extranet group collaboration, which we see as particularly useful in organizations that need hand-in-hand collaboration with third-party contractors, for example, while keeping those contractors at an arm's length from corporate systems and data."

For screen shots of LotusLive check out this post by the blog Leadership by Numbers. All in all, it appears to be a neat package, yet as a non-user I need to do some more homework first. Interestingly, I think the only other provider with a similar vision for integrating supplier management and discovery with collaboration and social contexts is Cisco, which explains their recent large investment in supplier information management provider Aravo.

What will LotusLive mean for Ariba Discovery and network customers? My guess is that it will help buyers and suppliers share information, collaborate and build relationships. But until Ariba integrates LotusLive (or similar capabilities) into the rest of the network experience -- not to mention the broader Ariba suite and Ariba Exchange -- this will remain only a targeted experiment. Still, in the interim, it should create value for the limited users on Ariba Discovery that goes far beyond the general PR hype that any IBM/Ariba deal should generate.

- Jason Busch

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