IBM has added a new social networking visualisation and analysis tool called Atlas to Lotus Connections, the company's social software suite for large enterprises that packages together technologies such as blogs, bookmarks and profiles.
IBM hopes that Atlas will help users map their relationships with other employees using Connections, but analysts wonder if overall social network adoption needs to improve first before Atlas will become useful.
"As you start expanding your professional network across the organisation, there's a lot of value in providing visualisation for it to help [users] find more people," says Chris Lamb, IBM's social software product manager.
Lamb says one of the primary tools within Atlas behaves much like a social map you'd see on the consumer social networks like Facebook or LinkedIn, where the user can see the degrees of separation between himself and another colleague who might be working on relevant projects. Ideally, after the user examines Atlas, they can seek out those relevant people and collaborate with them.
Oliver Young, a Forrester analyst who researches Web 2.0 in the enterprise, says Atlas could have real business value for connecting employees in disparate departments. He said the tool would further distinguish Connections from consumer social networks.
"While consumer social mapping clearly piques a lot of users' interest, there is really nothing mission critical about it," he says. "In a business, these sorts of relationships, information flows and bottle necks can result in a gain or a loss of major efficiencies."
But Young says the adoption of social networks within large enterprises has been sluggish, perhaps making the addition of Atlas, for the moment, a moot point. "Few firms have implemented a large scale social network like Lotus Connections," he says.
Connections – which includes a bookmarking, blog, profile, communities and activities feature – is priced at US$110 per user. IBM would not comment on how many companies have signed up for Connections.