IBM’s Bluehouse is a set of business applications designed to organize your work. It’s software that enables teams to collaborate online and get work done.
At its core is a Web meeting application. But Bluehouse does a lot more than simply allow you to hold an online conference or meeting. Bluehouse aims to help you get prepared for online meetings or conferences, and helps you follow-up after the meeting.
Bluehouse includes the ability to store files, so that all your files relating to a project or team objective are available in one place. It organizes all your contacts needed for that project or piece of work. There is even a chart feature, to help you visualize your data. And it offers something called “Activities” which appears to be the framework under which you keep track of comments from team members, files and otherwise organize a variety of information sources that you need to conduct your work.
Bluehouse includes an instant messenger feature built in, and it will offer social networking features so you can connect with others.
Recently I spoke with Sean Poulley, who is Vice President of online collaboration services for IBM. Sean laid out the vision for Bluehouse, which is in managed Beta today but goes into open Beta this fall.
Bluehouse started from an internal IBM sandbox where certain tools are available inside the IBM firewall to employees. They’ve taken these tools and made them available as a product. Sean says a sizable team is working on Bluehouse because of the attractive potential and significant demand they see for such an offering.
Sean says, “Nobody works just within their company anymore. Yet, interacting with people outside your company is so difficult.” IBM’s mission is to simplify the process of working with people outside of your company.
“Beyond boundaries” you have email, phone and web conferencing traditionally. Bluehouse can be used for online meetings. But Bluehouse expands and goes beyond the definition of a meeting.
According to Sean, “Think of how many times people go to a meeting, but do no prep and no followup. Many activities make up the overall project. Bluehouse tools help you manage project activities beyond the definition of just holding a meeting. It encompass what you do before the meeting, what you do during the meeting, and what you do after the meeting.”
Bluehouse helps you manage the “continuum of work” — a set of tools that actually help you do the work, whether it’s in a meeting or before or after. “Meetings are important, but there’s work before and after,” says Sean.
Originally, small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) were the intended target market for Bluehouse. But IBM has come to realize that enterprises (those with 1,000 employees or more) also need similar functionality.
Pricing has not yet been finalized, as Bluehouse is still in managed Beta. However, IBM intends to offer subscription based pricing on a per-user basis. You will be able to purchase as an individual or as a company.
The promise of an application like Bluehouse is that it might just be able to get you out from under email. While email is good, it’s not the best way to manage your work. For someone like me, who works primarily with people outside my company, the dependence on email is huge. Yet, email is not an efficient way to work. It’s difficult to find what you need. You have to jump all around on your computer to locate related files
See also Bill Ives’ article from a few months ago about IBM’s Lotus Connections, a social software suite that includes blogs and bookmarking.