While we strive to create a unified user experience for our Sametime users, on the back-end there are a lot of moving parts required to make a unified communications deployment running smoothly. To make it easier for Sametime administrators and developers to monitor what's going on and take pro-active steps to keep everything running at its best, Jim Dewan, a Lotus Services Fulfillment Specialist, developed a great free tool called Watchit (you can download the tool and a full article describing it from IBM developerWorks Lotus library here).
This article describes (and provides) a simple lightweight proactive
tool to assist administrators in better understanding the Lotus
Sametime user experience to reduce outages, respond to issues more
quickly, and improve the customer experience. In addition to monitoring
capabilities, this tool can assist in debug collection and take the
burden off users for problem recreates and data collection. By
combining network validation with Lotus Sametime IM, user awareness,
user login, and username look-up validation, never before has such a
complete picture of the user experience been available. By reducing outages, calls to the Help Desk, and anticipating problems, you can save money and improve user satisfaction with your Sametime deployments.
Since the article was first published, we've made some new additions to it, the result of stress tests with some of our own clients' major deployments. Additional improvements include:
LDAP monitoring plug-in: test bind and search requests to back-end LDAP servers to ensure connectivity and performance thresholds are met
Heartbeat plug-in: contact Watchit instance to ensure it is running
Exclude hosts to be network alerted on, or add maintance windows: it's important to exclude network validation of ports or hosts when those servers are down for maintenance
e-mail alerting: in addition to IM alerting, you can also set up e-mail alerts for off-hour notifications or paging
When implementing unified communications and collaboration tools, you have many choices and implementation alternatives, ranging from in-house deployment to cloud-based pay-as-you-go solutions. As you are faced with the challenge of identifying and selecting the tools and an approach that best meets your business goals, solution and financial requirements, having a trusted adviser is more important than ever.
To help in that advisory role, IBM has just announced IBM Converged Communications Services for unified communications as a service (UCaaS) . This new strategy and assessment service provides skilled IBM Global Technology Services (GTS) Integrated Communications Services (ICS) consultants and architects, along with our vendor-neutral approach, to help clients understand and compare unified communications solution alternatives, prioritize them based on impact to their environment, and determine the best fit solution. Using our cloud computing and UC expertise, ICS can help you develop the scope, requirements and strategy for adopting UCaaS to reduce costs, improve collaboration and enhance productivity. Our experts can provide a road map to help clients achieve a smooth, reliable migration to a new UCaaS environment.
Visit the link above for more information. And as always, your comments are greatly appreciated.
IBM and IBM Business Partner Citent will be hosting 2 live seminars on Unified Communications and Sametime, Tuesday Oct 5 at the IBM San Jose offices (4400 North First Street, Room 1032 Garnet, San Jose CA 95134) and Wednesday Oct 6 at the IBM San Francisco offices (425 Market Street, room 20-240, San Francisco CA 94105). Both seminars will be from 10am to 1pm, and review the features and benefits of Lotus Sametime.
Qualified attendees will receive a half-day Advanced Collaboration Assesment by CITENT’s team of Collaboration Consultants. Please RSVP to Kennedy Cato at email@example.com or call (714) 436-6100, or visit www.citent.com for more information. If you're in the neighborhood, please RSVP and stop by!
This week has been all about UC product names. Should they be long? Should they be short? Do they mean anything to end users? Should UC products be named to appeal to IT, to end users, to CFOs, to grandmothers?
I think names matter and I think they should mean something to end users. UC is personal; it's what we use to interact with people we rarely get to see in person and it has become the preferred medium through which we stay in touch with other people. Given that no one is allowed to get on a plane anymore--not that many of us even want to--our textual, aural and visual impression of each other is what sustains our relationships with the people we work with every day and, for those who get to endure the road warrior lifestyle, it's the way we reaffirm our bonds with family and friends when we're away. So, names should matter because, increasingly, our UC interfaces are all we got to remind us that we're, after all, social animals.
That brings me to our name: Sametime.
I decided earlier this week to do quick analysis on our name and this is what I concluded:
It rolls off your tongue with ease in pretty much every language, not just in English.
It's a good-looking word. It has four consonants and four vowels. This makes it well balanced and easy to read equally in vowel-driven as well as consonant-driven languages. From a aesthetical standpoint, it's pretty harmonious with an "a" and an "e" flanking the length, an "e" at the center and an "i" safely tucked in next to the "t". It conveys a visual impression of a calm, relaxed, smiling entity, in my opinion.
It's structurally sound. Some people spell it "SameTime" with a capital "T" and it just looks weird.
It tells you it's all about communication; it's all concurrent, it's all happening simultaneously and it's all happening to us, at the same time, and it does so in a very human way.
It's a verb as well as a noun. And that's true not just at IBM. Neil Davies, Senior Messaging Specialist at Prudential UK once said that "...Sametime is now a verb at Prudential UK." Saying "Sametime me later..." rolls off your tongue with ease and it suggests multi-modality, concurrency, etc.. "Lync me later..." may sound too explicit in certain settings and it even may give people the wrong impression.
Online transactions continue to grow at a rapid pace. Today,eight out of 10
consumers shop online at least twice a week, while ABI Research expects that mobile online shopping is expected to triple annually
and rise to $119 billion by 2015. Businesses today
are struggling to find ways to create a more simplified Web presence
to address the changing era of today's consumer marketplace.
Today, at four events held around the globe and also live on the Web via LiveStream (the NYC event can be watched live starting at 12:30 E.S.T. today, September 16, 2010), IBM is unveiling new software designed to help organizations reinvent the way they interact with consumers over the Web and through mobile devices. Visit us here to learn more about the IBM Customer Experience Suite core offerings and add-on modules.
Why should you care (the $64,000 question, right)? This is important for Unified Communications because more and more, customers are looking to interact in real time with their favorite Brands and retailers, and with their friends and family to share their Brand and shopping experiences. Unified Communications isn't just about improving worker-to-worker interactions and productivity, but can (and should) also be used to enhance your customer (and partner and vendor) relationships as well. Because of this, Sametime is included as a component you can include in the IBM Customer Experience Suite.
That was one of the ideas behind the Sametime Web Proxy APIs and Web Proxy Server: to be able to easily surface Sametime communications capabilities within portal, web, packaged and other applications -- including customer-facing applications. If you participated in Lotusphere 2010, Marlon Machado gave a session on just this (JMP201).
If you're looking to improve customer relationships, whether business-to-consumer, government-to-consumer, or other external relationships, I encourage you to visit some of the links above to learn more.
A very timely article from Zeus Kerravala of Yankee Group, "UC Vendors Must Step Up Interoperability" (link to TechTarget). It's a nice independent validation of the strategy IBM believes is right for not only our clients, but is critical for the continued growth of the unified communications marketplace. A few key quotes:
IBM has been among the more collaborative UC vendors, as well. In fact, the value proposition of its Sametime Unified Telephony (SUT) is built around multivendor solutions. IBM has also been very aggressive in pushing its Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC2) offering into its developer and user community as evidence of the big UC move it made with its annual Lotusphere conference.
The same cannot be said for the two mindshare leaders, Cisco and Microsoft.
You can get a look at more details on how IBM supports a robust developer community in the Lotus domain of IBM developerWorks, and a robust Lotus channel in IBM PartnerWorld. With over 400 Business Partners (and growing) who integrate with Sametime, we can proudly point to our leadership in moving integration and interoperability forward for unified communications.
Make sure to mark these dates on your calendar: Jan 30 to Feb. 3, 2011. That is when IBM will be holding Lotusphere 2011. Delivered by some of IBM's best and brightest, both business leaders and technical subject matter experts, and by IBM Business Partners and by our customers, sessions will cover a range of topics, from strategy to technology to business solutions. Spend three, four or five days with a community of bright minds and we assure you, you'll depart with at least one 'learning' to apply to your business. And as always, we'll have a very strong Unified Communications presence.
The IBM Austin Innovation Center will host a Smarter Planet event tomorrow. The theme of the event is "Showcasing IBM Industry Solutions and Smarter Planet Strategy". Sametime partners UnifiedEdge and Amatra Technologies are going to demonstrate their solutions for government and higher education. The festivities start at 1:00 PM CDT.
There's an interesting article in eWeek titled "Unified Communications Adopted in Parts by Many Companies" (you can find it here). The author touches on a series of interesting findings that validate my view that UC adoption is more effective in the context of enriching business processes to enable people to collaborate or to participate more effectively or, as we like to say, in the context of CEBP.
First, the author quotes Mathias Machowinsky, an analyst with Infonetics, who says UC can mean whatever you want it to mean. This is a good thing because no two companies do things the same way--well, they do but they don't. Case in point: all banks do loan origination but the people and the corporate culture of individual banks influence the way loan origination is actually executed. Those nuances are the reason collaboration and communication services may be needed (or not) to enhance the business process. This falls well in line with our view of CEBP: you don't do CEBP with a closed product; you need a platform flexible enough to allow you to do what you need.
Secondly, Machowinsky recognizes that multi-modality is key and he points out that there is no absolute definition for the most commonly used modes of communication; that each company has different requirements and that choices depend on need. Moreover, that choices are driven by the needs of day-to-day operations. Again, well in line with our vision. I've always said CEBP is driven by line-of-business, not by IT.
Then the author goes into whether UC solutions require a PBX. I say it depends: if there's a PBX in place, a sensible UC solution should leverage that investment and integrate with it to help the customer get the most out of it. From a CEBP perspective, what's needed is the ability to call a person, not a location or a device, in order to minimize or eliminate human latency. So, what matters is the ability to integrate with what's in place and with what people use.
I find it interesting that, in the article, a Chicago-based company decided to adopt Microsoft's UC solution integrated with an Avaya PBX but they still use an external audio conferencing service "...for investor calls where you may have a few thousand people." From a CEBP perspective, scalability and availability are crucial. Once you move from BP to CEBP and your corporate culture internalizes the new modus operandi it's hard to go back. It's like going back to a 2,400 baud modem after experiencing broadband.
Overall, I think it's a good article. It validates some of the principles upon which we've built our CEBP strategy and confirms many of the trends we're seeing in various industries. It's a good read.
Even with the Labor Day holiday making for a shorter work week in many countries, there was still some news coverage we would like to share. Data Quest India published an article on vendor lock-in slowing the adoption of unified communications. IBM is
touted as a vendor providing unified communications solutions that can
interoperate with any mail messaging platform:
IBM entered into UC marketplace in 2006 lining up a number of products including the unified communication middleware platform and IBM Lotus Sametime and services including IBM WebSphere Unified Messaging, IBM Global Technology Services...In the last eight-ten quarters, there has been a significant ramp-up of Sametime, especially in the e-learning space. A lot of customers have been using streaming video and audio conference through Sametime enabling clients to connect and share content reducing travel cost and go-to-market time.
If you have seen other Sametime or IBM Unified Communications in the news that you would like to share, don't hesitate to tweet me with details, or share on our Lotus Knows page on Facebook.
The Orange County Lotus User Group has published it's upcoming activities list, which includes LUG events across California. There are three Sametime-related sessions, so if you're in any of these areas, you won't want to miss these (especially if you're going to miss the upcoming September 14 LUG webcasts we posted about earlier...)
Advanced Collaboration Made Simple with Lotus
Sametime 8.5: Tues, 10/5 at IBM San Jose at 10am
Advanced Collaboration Made Simple with Lotus
Sametime 8.5: Wed, 10/6 at IBM San Francisco at 10am
Advanced Collaboration Made Simple with Lotus
Sametime 8.5: Los Angeles (details announced next week)
Please RSVP for these
events so that the organizers can prepare properly:
Orange County Lotus Users Group Meeting Thursday,
September 16 at 10:00am - 1:00pm Location: IBM (600 Anton Blvd. Room #209, Costa Mesa, CA) FREE Lunch will be provided. So please RSVP by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Join IBM and IBM Business Partner ShoreTel for an informative luncheon and seminar program on
how to drive business value, improve productivity and reduce costs with affordable
and reliable unified communications. Learn how small and midsized businesses can leverage the enterprise- class capabilities of unified
communications through the ShoreTel on IBM Foundations unified communications appliance. There will be three seminars throughout September, and you can attend by registering online here.
Come see what the 8.5.1 release looks like on the Mac 10.6, Linux, and other popular desktop and mobile device environments.
Discover how the new Sametime Unified Telephony 8.5.1
release provides support for additional client platforms and simplifies
See how to reduce calling costs with softphone, call management, and aggregated presence awareness.
Get a peek at what a real consistent user communications
experience looks like with a demonstration of telephony presence,
incoming call management, click-to-call, click-to-conference, and
Learn how to activate telephony features via administrator policies
Our friends over at IDoNotes and Plantronics are sponsoring a webcast this week. Tomorrow (Wednesday August 25) at 10am Central US time, please join them for How to Get the Most from your Sametime Client (A User's Perspective). Marie Scott and Tom Duff, authors of a book on this very
topic from Packt Publishing, will show you how you
can effectively collaborate with your colleagues and teammates both in
your organization and outside your organization by using the features of
Sametime. It's practical, down-to-earth, and most of all, fun! Registration is free.
As if the greatly improved administrative experience, user experience and overall business value from IBM Lotus Sametime 8.5.1 weren't enough (hey, I had a lot of coffee this morning), you might want to also know that IBM has announced that as of September 30, 2011 (over a year from now), IBM will no longer be providing support for Sametime 7 and Sametime 7.5. This should give you, our esteemed clients, plenty of time to upgrade. And remember, if you're on Software Maintenance (and most of you already are), there is no charge to upgrade*: begin planning your upgrade now by starting with Upgrade Central or Planning for migration from an earlier release in the Sametime Information Center.
(*terms and conditions apply, see Announcement Letter for details. I had to say that or IBM Legal would get mad at me).
It was a varied week in UC news. As mentioned earlier this week, Doug Carolus and our friends over at NoJitter posted an excellent feature article on Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony.
We encourage you to read the post in detail, and I'm sure they would
like to hear what you have to say (registration required for comments).
Recently in Australia, Alistair Rennie participated in a live panel and webcast discussing the future of email. ZDNet published a recap (along with a second post of photos) of the panel highlighting Alistair's remarks positioning IBM as a thought leader in integrating analytics and social capabilities into collaboration. This is important from a Unified Communications standpoint because the increasing importance of measuring business value of all enterprise investments extends to UC: adoption rates, actual ROI on the investments made, and identifying usage patterns that open up new opportunities for integrations and use cases.
And finally, Processor Magazine published an article on steps enterprises should take when evaluating unified communications and collaboration solutions, including VoIP and UC systems. In a sidebar to the main article, John Del Pizzo provides specific recommendations for enterprises evaluating UC solutions:
IBM’s Del Pizzo stresses that enterprises should keep in mind their end goal when analyzing their VoIP and/or UC needs...“It’s important for enterprises to first have a strong understanding of where their UC/VoIP challenges lie,” says John Del Pizzo, program director for IBM’s Unified Communication & Collaboration Software group. “From speaking with customers, these are commonly identified as slow business processes and response times; expensive travel; and complex, disparate technology platforms.”
A shout out to Doug Carolus and our friends over at NoJitter, who put together an excellent Feature article on IBM Lotus Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony. Please do take the time to walk through this detailed review, and let them know what you think (and us, too!)
This week's IBM UC News roundup includes several articles on the heel of the CIO.com interview with Alistair Rennie we posted about earlier in the week. Reinforcing that story, FierceVoIP and Rethink Wireless published articles on IBM's unified collaborations strategy and offerings for the mobile market. Mobility is still very hot, with 4.1B mobile phone users worldwide (a 60% penetration) and an increasing percentage (although still small) of those are smart phones on higher-speed networks (ITU report from 2009). The effect of this shift to mobility on the way we work is already being felt.
A feature story in Australia's ARNnet focuses on the opportunities and challenges presented to IT teams when mobilizing an organization's workforce. In the article, IBM's Michael Handes discussing the benefits of social software in identifying knowledge workers and the future convergence of unified communications and mobility.
IT Jungle continued the coverage on the new features of Lotus Sametime 8.5.1, including support for Linux desktops, mobile phones, Web browsers, Notes, Outlook and Windows.
The Really Big News of the Week, IBM's intent to acquire Unica, might not at first blush seem related to Unified Communications. But with the increased market need for creating exceptional customer experiences, whether on the web or in all channels, comes a need for enterprises to not only analyze the traffic on their websites more effectively, but turn that insight into more meaningful and longer-lasting customer experiences. That includes the ability to interact with company representatives beyond e-mail or picking up the phone: rich text chat, audio and/or video chat, click-to-call, etc. Customer service representatives and the Call Center are only the first line of contact; they can't possibly answer every question, and customers are more than ever demanding faster (and smarter) responses. So more and more enterprises are going to be under more and more pressure to allow (encourage?) more and more of their employees to connect with customers directly. Unified Communications integrated with web portals and e-commerce seems to me at least a natural extension of the power and promise of UC beyond "traditional" information worker collaboration.
I don't know about you, but I for one will be glad to be rid of the all-too-deeply-buried webform "fill this out and we'll get back in touch with you shortly".
For those of you who attended Lotusphere or DNUG, you may have attended the highly regarded session on Sametime 8.5 installation by Frank Altenburg and Volker Juergensen.
Now Frank has published the next generation online version for you to use. Its posted here for anyone to play. The slides are also posted to download. http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/stwiki.nsf/dx/Sametime_8.5.1-From_Zero_to_Hero-Next_Generation
Here is a summary of the session
Lotus Sametime 8.5.1 setup can be fast, smooth, and easy when you know
what you are doing. The new server architecture of Lotus Sametime 8.5.1
offers so many more options to deploy that it is not easy to know where
to start. In this presentation, the presenters wanted to prove that it is
possible to create a proof of concept setup very quickly, They install
all the new Lotus Sametime 8.5.1 components: Lotus Sametime System
Console, Community Server, Proxy Server, Meeting Server, Media Server,
and the new Lotus Sametime Connect client. At the end of the
presentation, you can experience how to maintain and administer the
whole environment from the new Lotus Sametime System Console.
We hope you can benefit from this free training tool.
As one of the SametimeBlog managers, I'm always looking for more conversation opportunities with you, our readers. So in addition to our Business Partner Tuesdays and Friday Funnies sections, today I'm introducing a new, hopefully weekly every Friday, the IBM UC News Roundup. We'll bring you a summary of IBM- and Unified Communications-related stories in the press and blogosphere, and add our own thoughts as well.
Hopefully you find this new section valuable. As always, we thank you for making us part of your regular reading, and looking forward to your comments, questions, and conversation.
Although not technically in the week of August 2, the big story, of course, is today's article in CIO.com, "IBM to Accelerate Mobile Unified Communications". IBM continues to see Unified Communications, and mobility, as very important components of the collaboration market, and it was nice for our General Manager, Alistair Rennie, and Rob Ingram, our senior offerings manager, to talk to CIO Magazine about these trends and where IBM plays. Don Van Doren, a principal with Unicomm Consulting, had some nice things to add to the article as well:
"Van Doren also ranks IBM as being far ahead in its social networking software for business with Lotus Connections tied into presence and with its capabilities for mining information within the corporate network to enhance finding the right people for specific tasks. "They've been working on this four or five years," he says. "Cisco is just starting to do it...[and] IBM is aligned to do well in battling its primary competitor, Microsoft, [says Don Van Doren]"
And Alistair also linked in the coming 4G deployments as well:
"Over time, as businesses deploy 4G handhelds, IBM will fully support mobile collaboration "on the mobile device of choice" and treat the collaboration features as services, not a stack of available features but an always-available set of tools, Rennie said."
There were two stories we followed this past week. Following a blog post from Gartner’s Craig Roth on Project Northstar, IT Business Edge blogger Loraine Lawson has chosen to continue the discussion, focusing on Project Northstar as IBM’s “Grand Theory.” Overall, Lawson is supportive of the technology, particularly it's promise to integrate unified communications and other collaborative tools and capabilities. We, of course, whole-heartedly agree:
And this one is particularly nice, because it promises to integrate across unified communications, social software, mobile technology and rich media, Roth writes. IBM includes an even more exciting integration story among its five key NorthStar principles…”
UCStrategies published a podcast with IBM's Caleb Barlow discussing IBM Lotus Foundations and its integration with ShoreTel. A key element of providing unified communications to Small and Medium Business (SMB) is a focus on lower up-front investments in both capital and IT resources. The needs of SMBs might be similar to larger enterprises, but the resources are usually more constrained. The IBM Foundation for Smart Business program and products are exactly about that, and UC is definitely part of the mix:
...The Foundations appliance out of the box: it’s a file server, print server, web server, mail server, anti-virus, anti-spam, firewall, VPN, you get the idea... ...As IBM, we want to maintain an open relationship with all of our partners. ShoreTel is the first to have a solution available, but we have publicly announced that we’re also working on similar capabilities with Mitel, NEC, and BroadSoft...
We have just released the latest Lotus Sametime Advanced client plug ins that work with the Smatime 8.5.1 client. This works with the Sametime Advanced 8.0.1 server including latest hotfixes (note there is no new Sametime Advanced 8.5.1 server release). Detailed info is available in this technote
Notabale additions are Mac and Linux desktop clients, Windows 7 client support, support for Notes and Domino 8.5.1 and 8.5.2 (when it is delivered) and a plan to add support for zLinux servers for IM and Meetings features within approx 60 days. We have also updated the mobile clients to support Blackberry 5.0 OS and Windows mobile 6.5.
This week's Business Partner Tuesday is a day late, but if you saw our earlier post today, you'de know why :-)
Would you like to connect instantly with other members of the Lotus Community? Perhaps your favorite blogger? A presenter you saw at Lotusphere? A Lotus Business Partner? Or even an IBMer? Well the people running BleedYellow.com are helping make this a reality. Here's an easy how-to guide to set yourself up. I've already done it, so you can now connect with me via Sametime (say hi!).
BleedYellow is a public Lotus Connections site, run by IBM Business Partner Lotus911 (now GROUP). So the first thing you need to do, is go there and register. (the Register link is at the bottom left corner, as shown below):
Once you have an ID and PW on BleedYellow, you next go into your Lotus Sametime client, and add an additional community, allowing you to connect to both your company's Sametime server to chat with your coworkers, and the BleedYellow Sametime server to chat with people from all over the world (but you already knew that Sametime client can connect to multiple communities, didn't you...)
In Sametime: - Choose File - Manage Server Communities from the top menu. - Click Add New Server Community - On the Log In Tab, add the username that you registered at BleedYellow.com, and your password. * Note: Some people have told me that they use the email address they registered on BleedYellow with, not their username.
On the Server tab, enter im.bleedyellow.com as the Host Server, and 1533 as the Server community port.
Then click OK at the bottom. Now the last thing you have to do is add a group so you can see the people to chat with. Click on the New icon, and choose New Group:
Select Search for a public group (1), select the bleedyellow community (2), search for the group yellowbleeders, select it (4), and click OK.