About three months ago, my role within the IBM organization morphed from being focused on driving social business adoption internally, to an IT leadership role where I now also own the responsibility to deploy the social business platform. In our case, we are well underway with a major initiative to move all of IBM's email and collaboration to IBM Verse and Connections Cloud. Attendees at Social Connections 8 in Boston got to hear this story first (and my slides are on Slideshare), but even now just six weeks later, there is a lot more progress to report.

This is a significant project and a great opportunity. For years, IBMers have occasionally felt like the proverbial "shoemaker's children" who got to use our technology well after it is established, sometimes years after release. For IBM Verse, a push all the way from the top levels of the organization changed that equation. The objective I've been given is to run hard at getting Verse deployed to all of IBM in 2015, as both a way of establishing a great reference story and providing IBMers with innovative new capabilities as they are released to market. That means we set a very aggressive schedule, which at velocity will endeavor to board about in the range of 10,000 to 15,000 employees per week into the cloud mail environment (my competitive spirit lingers long after it was my job, and I have read that Microsoft only did about 1500 a day).

We had 3000 people in an initial pilot group of cloud mail users that was created in 2014. Once Verse shipped in early April, we finished preparations over the next few weeks - work around security, organizational change management and documentation, helpdesk readiness, and several other areas. We announced an early adopter program, allowing anyone opting in to jump the queue and be among the first to experience Verse. 40,000 chose to do so. We created a Connections community and filled it up with videos, presentations, how-tos, and a set of forums to discuss the Verse rollout journey.

In late April, we started rolling out in earnest for IBMers in North America, knowing that there were still many unknowns. We are using Agile as as a methodology and a mindset at IBM, and the direction was to push hard, fail fast, and adjust. That meant pain for some of the IBMers that we initially deployed to the service. A few components weren't quite ready for the volume and scale -- which was precisely why we were running at them. Over a 40 day period, we were able to make adjustments to the boarding and deployment architecture such that we sit here today on the cusp of full velocity conversion. Our geography teams are ramping up as well, and this week while I am in Australia we will begin early deployment here. Other countries are committed to 1000+ users this week as well.

I want to share a series of blogs about our learnings and innovation on this deployment. Clearly, in the 90 days I've been in this job, things have been way to busy to stop and write up what has happened. We do retrospectives regularly, and internally I've been writing in our Verse community about the project status. Still the public nature of writing here gives me a chance to reflect on what we are doing right, and perhaps learn from others who have transitioned their mail and social environments to cloud. At the start of the project I did a series of benchmarking calls with friends who have had this experience (and thank you to those who know who you are), but expanding my network of peers is always a good thing.

It's fun to be back in the technology as well as the adoption around email, collaboration, and social. My first real job was doing cc:Mail administration at US Robotics over two decades ago. There I also deployed Lotus Organizer and Notes, and this is what lead me to a career at Lotus and then IBM. I've come full circle, though with a much bigger scope and fancier title. At least this time, I'm not spending weekends doing chkstat/reclaims.

We still have a lot of work ahead - even with 20,000 IBMers now using IBM Verse and mail in the cloud, that means we are only part of the way there. In Q3, we will kick off a formal effort to transition our premises IBM Connections environment to Connections Cloud. Some 20% of IBM has been using Connections Cloud for collaboration, and 100% for e-meetings, so a lot of the plumbing is there. Verse makes the integration with Connections Cloud a requirement and a benefit, so we want to move the whole workload there over the next 12 months. And of course there will be new features and innovations in both Verse and Connections, which will mark a major improvement for IBMers - innovation available when ready, not waiting for a rollout.

In coming blogs, some topics I would like to write about include user experience/acceptance, change management, cloud deployment challenges (yes we have some like everyone else), integration, and all the other things that go along with this project. If you have topics you'd like to hear about, please let me know in the comments. Of course if you are in Australia, we can chat about it later this week - at INFORM 2015, where I will be speaking on this topic on Thursday morning.

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  1. 1  Eric Mack http://www.NotesOnProductivity.com |

    Thanks for sharing this, Ed. I've been most curious to see how this progresses both from a user training/adoption perspective and from an overall impact on productivity. I'm most interested in worker productivity and how that is being measured to support any future ROI evaluations. Keep up the good work.


  1. 2  Tinus Riyanto  |

    Ed, could you elaborate more on how you push the user adaption. Since this is a top down decision I imagine many IBM personnel are grumbling since they are being forced to adapt to a new way to work. Any experience on how you ease their transition or attract bold people to sign up on this ?

    By the way, when is ASEAN due ? My local IBM friends have been trying to get into Verse since the launch date :D

  1. 3  Ed Brill http://www.edbrill.com |

    @2 Tinus, actually, I don't hear much grumbling. We have a couple of pretty nice carrots (incentives), which I discuss in the presentation that I linked:

    - Better external collaboration

    - Access to new features immediately (no more rollouts or deployments) plus all the innovation of Verse

    - Get out of "mail jail" (mailbox quotas of the premises-based email environment)

    An IBMer moving to the cloud for mail can continue to do everything they do today in Notes with no change, just the plus of the new mailbox quota. So we are encountering some resistance, but not much because the go-to destination offers so many benefits over where we've been.

  1. 4  Ed Brill http://www.edbrill.com |

    Oh and ASEAN is starting now and will continue through Q3 and Q4.

  1. 5  Alin  |

    how do you deal with the archives of the users when you move to cloud?

  1. 6  Luis Benitez http://www.lbenitez.com |

    @Alin, in my personal experience, I still have my archives and my Notes client continues to work just like it did when my mail was hosted on prem. The only difference is that when I launch the Notes client, the mail is now hosted in our cloud as opposed to inside IBM firewall. In other words, from an end user perspective it's just like my mail server changed. Everything else continues to be pretty much the same. Now with Verse, I find myself launching the Notes app maybe once a week. Hope this helps.

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