I've been reading lots of literature about Communication-Enabled Business Processes, or CEBPs over the last few weeks. Most of it seems to revolve around the notion that CEBPs are nothing but voice-enabled business processes; that all you need to do to enable a business process with communications services is add voice to it. Other ideas around CEBPs call for taking the basic premise of eliminating human latency to the extreme and to actually measure how much a business process can be accelerated through communications enablement in actual minutes. I think both notions fail to present the full dimension of what CEBPs are and why we need them.
I agree that the main purpose of turning a regular business process into a CEBP is to deal with human latency. However, there are business processes in which human intervention is an intrinsic feature and, as a result, expected to be part of the process. I'm talking about processes where human decision-making must be rooted on reflection and careful evaluation of pros and cons, reflection that will invariable manifest itself as latency in the overall business process. I wouldn't mind, for instance, having my doctor taking enough time to evaluate the best treatment options for me or a fund manager taking time to go over a company's books and strategy before investing my money in it. What I would like is for both, my doctor and my broker, to be able to access all the contextual information they need to support the thought process and to have the tools to eliminate latency from their own decision-making process.
I think in these cases the goal behind communication-enabling business processes should be to prevent the process from slowing down as opposed to accelerating it just because faster is better. Doing this requires more than voice, chat and video. It requires a healthy combination of real-time and asynchronous communications and collaboration services to reduce not only human latency where needed but to enhance the context to support decision-making.
I think work styles have a lot to do with the perception that CEBPs are all about voice and reducing human latency. Traditional work styles tend to hover towards extremes: you're either sending email (the most asynchronous way of communication aside from snail mail and fax) or you get on the phone with that person if you can't walk into his or her office. And so, if these are your parameters, that's what you're going to try to optimize. When, on the other hand, you're used to live in a multimodal environment in which chat, voice, a blog post, an entry on a Wiki or a tweet can get you the information you need and when knowing the person who gave you the answer is just there without you having to talk directly to him or her, that's when you realize email and voice alone are way too extreme. Then you learn that just having access to the context in which that person operates can be enough.
Why am I talking about this? Well, this is how we define CEBPs in the Sametime world. We view Sametime as more than just real-time communications--hence the "UC²" thing. We do have the real-time communication capabilities that our competitors have and we also provide the asynchronous and context-based means to provide a better way to do CEBPs through Sametime Advanced and with the help of our sister products and I think we need to talk more about this. I know I should probably write this in a white paper at some point (and I will) but I thought it necessary to rant about it a bit here just to get it off my chest..
Just saw a very nice article from the folks over at ITJungle, reviewing the new Sametime 8.5. The hat trick:
Sametime developers will fly out of their seats when they learn about
the new support for representational state transfer, or REST-based Web
2.0 APIs. Put into standard English, the new REST-based API--in concert
with the new no-download browser-based client that's used throughout
version 8.5--will allows developers to use standard AJAX tools to embed
Sametime into Web applications and Web portals.
Today Gartner published their First Take on Sametime 8.5 and had some great things to say about our new capabilities. Unfortunately, we don't have the rights yet to publish the entire report here, check out gartner.com to purchase and read the details.
"In case you haven't noticed, IBM Lotus not only didn't go away, it's here with a vengeance. LotusLive.com claims 18 million users, the 8.5 release of Notes/Domino is a winner in storage savings, Lotus Connections beats other social software platforms on many dimensions, and Sametime's pushing the envelope on real-time collaboration at global scale."
Come join us, and our hosts, the LotusUserGroup.org, for a pre-Lotusphere 2010 live webcast reviewing Sametime 8.5's newest capabilities, and the real business value they provide. To learn more, visit the registration page is here. Registration is required, but membership to the LotusUserGroup is free!
If you've read the Sametime 8.5 Requirements, you may have noticed that Windows is the only platform listed under the Connect client. As much as it pains me to say this - especially as a long-time Mac user - we've had to hold the Mac & Linux clients. This is simply a point-in-time statement and we intend to release them both in 2010. In the meantime, if you need Mac support in order to deploy Sametime 8.5, please contact me. There is a beta (which I've been using for months) that we will make available in select situations. Alternatively, you can take advantage of the new zero-download browser client, demo'd here.
Now, to keep the lawyers AND the finance folks happy, I am required to add this disclaimer anytime I make statements about future releases:
"The information on the new product is intended to outline our general product direction and it should not be relied on in making a purchasing decision. The information on the new product is for informational purposes only and may not be incorporated into any contract. The information on the new product is not a commitment, promise, or legal obligation to deliver any material, code or functionality. The development, release, and timing of any features or functionality described for our products remains at our sole discretion."
Known problems are documented in the form of individual technotes in the Support knowledge base at http://www.ibm.com/software/lotus/support. As problems are discovered and resolved, the IBM Support team updates the knowledge base. By searching the knowledge base, you can quickly find work-arounds or solutions to problems.
Thanks for all the positive feedback on the Sametime 8.5 Meetings demo! It seems I've tapped some latent demand. Yes, we will be making these available on IBM.com as soon we clear the posting requirements. In the meantime, IBM'ers can download them from our internal Connections site (see my Files area). When the rest of them are done, we'll bundle them up and post a collection publicly.
I'm working on the slides for the session I'm going to present at Lotusphere 2010. The session title is JMP201 IBM Lotus Sametime for Web 2.0. The session is really about the Sametime platform and the Sametime SDK with an emphasis on the significance of the Sametime Proxy 8.5 Toolkit.
The more I learn about the Proxy and the Proxy Toolkit the more I like it. I honestly think it represents the easiest way to enable Web applications for unified communications services. It's amazing how easy to use the toolkit is. The footprint it imposes on a Web page is minimal and yet it's gentle enough to be fully customizable.
I like the fact that it has an encapsulation layer that makes it backward compatible with the STLinks and Sametime Connect Web toolkits. I also like the fact that, if it detects that the Sametime Connect Client is running on the same desktop as the Web page, all requests go to the Connect Client through the Connect Web toolkit, which broadens the integration picture from Web pages all the way to custom applications through the Sametime Helper toolkit. The possibilities are endless. I like that.
There are going to be several sessions about the Proxy 8.5 Toolkit at Lotusphere 2010. Make sure to check them out if you're interested in learning more. Check out John's December 2 posting for more details.
For years, Lotus Notes has included a basic version of Sametime. It provides simple presence and text chat within the Notes / Domino environment. For online meetings, voice, video, file transfers, screen captures, mobile clients, browser clients, the gateway for public IM federation, etc, etc, etc, users needed a license to Sametime Standard or Advanced. Yet, for some reason, we never had an easy upgrade path in place. Now, we do.
Buried in the Sametime 8.5 Announcement Letter are these new part numbers:
Lotus Sametime Standard Extension from Sametime Limited Entitlement (D0CCALL) (D0CC9LL)
Lotus Sametime Advanced Extension from Sametime Limited Entitlement (D0CCBLL)
They let Notes users 'extend' their Notes licenses with Sametime Standard or Advanced capabilities at a discounted price. While the part numbers are in the Sametime 8.5 Announcement, they
can be used for Sametime Standard 8.0.x or Advanced 8.0.x as well. (Just to be clear, these are just for Notes users and you can only extend the number of Notes licenses you have on active maintenance. For users without Notes, you need a regular Standard or Advanced license.)
But, there you go Notes customers, upgrade to Sametime Standard or Advanced today!
* December 16, 2009 update: Corrected Standard Extension part number.
On behalf of the entire Sametime team, I am pleased to announce that Sametime 8.5 will be available for download on December 22nd. Happy Holidays!
IBM Lotus Sametime 8.5
represents the next generation of unified communications and collaboration
software. As you can see, we've packed in quite a bit into this release:
A new online meeting experience that is integrated into the IBM Lotus Sametime Connect
client. Join a meeting with a single click. Easily invite others by dragging
their names from the contact list. Accept meeting invitations with a single
click. Upload meeting materials via simple drag and drop.
New zero-download, browser-based chat and meeting clients that extend
the desktop experience to wherever the user is working.
A new standards-based audio and video infrastructure that enables more seamless interoperability
with third party audio and video conferencing systems.
New audio and video codecs that provide higher quality native voice and
video services for a more compelling collaborative experience out-of-the-box.
New Web 2.0 APIs that let developers embed Sametime capabilities into Web sites
and applications so users switch context less.
A new, browser-based Apple iPhone chat client, support for the Blackberry
Storm, and an improved mobile client for Microsoft® Windows® Mobile devices.
New social views that make it easier to find the people you collaborate
with the most.
Deeper integration with Microsoft and Lotus products
A new System Console that centralizes infrastructure configuration, deployment,
management, and policy management for all Sametime services.
We'll be exploring all of these capabilities in the new year... but Sametime 8.5 is really about simplicity. Simplicity promotes adoption and adoption creates return on investment. Ask yourself these questions: How often do you loose the first ten minutes of a meeting providing instructions on how to log into the web conference? Have you invested in video conferencing systems that sit unused because no one knows they're there or how to use them? Do you want to deliver unified communications services into the applications your employees already use? Do you have a mix of communication and collaboration systems that are difficult to use, isolated and underutilized? If so, Sametime 8.5's unified user experience and open integration can help make UC simple for users, leverage those existing investments and drive real business value.
As we approach the end of the year, I receive many recommendation requests for tools that can help manage Sametime license compliance. One such tool is the Permessa IM License Auditor.
"In a few quick steps, Permessa IM License Auditor produces fast,
accurate counts of the Lotus Sametime users across an entire enterprise
or for selected servers. You'll know true accurate license counts for
known users, active users and more. The report also displays counts by
client application and version number for detailed license tracking.
The result is that you can be ready for a license audit or true-up with
three simple steps."
As an added bonus, Permessa provides the Auditor under a "free 45-day license with unlimited renewals"... so it's essentially free. Try it and let us know how useful you find it.
I know I promised some photos from VoiceCon San Francisco 2009, but I've been traveling to Singapore and am just getting around to catching up on a few things before the US Thanksgiving holidays.
First of all a big thank you to the VoiceCon team, especially Fred Knight, who as always rolls out the red carpet for us. I have to say, from my vantage point in the IBM Booth staffing the Sametime demoes, the traffic was good and the quality of attendees even better than I would have hoped with the continuing slowness in the US and California economy.
And as you know, this was also the first time VoiceCon was co-located with Enterprise 2.0 San Francisco. It was a recognition that collaboration is spanning both real-time and social collaboration, and that Enterprises need to consider both within a broader collaboration agenda. IBM was a key sponsor for both events.
In addition to our usual booth, keynote and other speakers, one of the neat things we did this time was set up a "Sweet Tweets" bar at the IBM Booth. Visitors were encouraged to stop by, pick up some sweets, and then tweet (#sweettweets or #IBM and #voicecon) about the IBM booth. Behind the bar was a large display showing a real-time feed of the twitter stream. My favorites were the gummy bananas - almost like banana-flavored Peeps. Here's a picture from my iPhone: Here's a few more photos: It was pretty much impossible to maintain a healthy eating habit with all this delicious stuff around:
There was a lot of traffic not just for the sweets, though...
IBM sells its own virtual meeting tool, Sametime 3D, which allows
businesses to share ideas and collaborate in a 3D world, and the
company is currently testing a more advanced version of the product.
[IBM CTO, Northeast Europe] told CNN that he recently held a meeting with 12 technical leaders from
across Europe and Asia. While that would typically involve flying
everyone to a central location, he said the meeting was held using the
new Sametime 3D.
"Not only did we save travel time, but because the environment was so engaging, a lot more ideas came through," he said.
Not everyone of course will want a full virtual world environment for realtime collaboration, but it's good to know the option it there, and the business value tangible, for those situations that warrant a richer visual environment than traditional online meetings or rich text / audio / video chat. And it further shows the power of Sametime as a collaborative platform.