A couple of days ago as I was driving to the office I was listening to a discussion on the radio about whether being always online and overloaded with information makes us more isolated or more connected. One side argued that being constantly bombarded with information from multiple sources makes us more aware but less focused and, as a result, more isolated. The other side argued that being more aware is good enough; that the nature of the work knowledge workers do does not require any kind of deep thought and that jumping from one task to another while being aware just enough to not screw something up is acceptable.
The first argument has some footing, in my opinion. Last year I did extensive research on finding ways for unified communications and collaboration tools to help address the pain points plaguing the banking industry in the face of the current economic crisis. I found that information overload breeds uncertainty and, with it, isolation. My research revealed that in cases where organizations face structural isolation uncertainty exacerbates the issues that prevent people from knowing what they need to know when they need to know it. I also found that even when structural isolation is not a problem there's a risk that information overload will cause us to just tune out and, as a result, we end up being less aware than we think we are. When we see this in the context of different areas of an organization needing to be aware of each other the result is what I called a communication dead zone.
The second argument is intriguing. It basically says that superficial awareness is the new normal. It says it's OK to know just enough to not screw up and I find this really disconcerting. It reminds me of how doctors interact with patients nowadays: they come in, skim over your chart, ask you to stick out your tongue, ask you a few questions, order a round of tests for you and they're gone; off to the next patient. That's being mildly aware for you but, hey, it is what it is.
But let me get to the title of this posting. We like to say that, in the past, people went to work and that today work comes to you. One could argue that when we went to work we were less isolated from our teammates and collaboration was the natural way to do things at work. I can see someone saying to me that being part of a virtual team scattered all over the planet makes us more isolated regardless of how many unified communications and collaboration tools we have at our disposal.
My previous job made me move to Austin. My manager at the time wanted her team to come to the office every day and to work together as much as possible. In those days our mission was to help business partners build applications on IBM middleware. The projects we worked on were complex, long, and had lots of moving parts and it made sense for us to be physically in the lab every day and to travel together when we went on site to work with partners. In those days we did not have much in the area of unified communications (Sametime 3.0 only did presence and instant messaging) and broadband was something you really came to the office for.
Then I moved overseas. I was the first member of my team to be (really) remote. In 1999 my telephony expenses were about $400 per month just for dialing three times a day for 30 minutes each time--just long enough to let Notes replicate--and to attend the few conference calls we used to have at that time.
As time went by and broadband became available work started coming to me more than it ever did.
As IBM started deploying Sametime 7.5 my phone bills went to zero and my conference calls started to multiply. Collaboration became the norm: I used to share my screen with my colleagues; I used to be on a voice chat session while logging in on remote servers; we abandoned conferencing bridges for long discussions and went with voice chat pretty much full time and things started to look more or less as they do today. I worked from my overseas home most of the time when I wasn't traveling. I came to Austin from time to time but I was not really required to anymore. The job had changed and the requirements had changed and, thanks to the new tools me and my teammates were given, we were not isolated from each other.
I must say, though, that when work came to me I had an advantage: the years coming to the office left me with good friends with whom I still get together regularly. Isolation doesn't stand a chance in the face of long-lasting friendships.
When I changed jobs and joined the Sametime team in 2008 isolation did become an issue at first even with an ever richer set of unified communications and collaboration tools. I was being bombarded with information from all sides (the whole fire hose analogy) and I was now part of a group of people who were perfect strangers to me.
I went from an outward-facing environment in which my manager's job was to shield me from the internal workings of IBM to a situation in which my job was to master those very internal workings I had comfortably ignored since 1996 when I joined the company.--I'm still working on that today.
Work came to me all right and, with it, isolation. I learned that, when work comes to you, having the latest and greatest in unified communications is not enough without a healthy dose of collaboration tools. Our humanity, the instinctive side of us recognizes one and only one kind of human touch: actual human touch. I think our primate selves cannot register a chat session or a conference call as equivalent to meeting another human in person no matter how much we try. Body language doesn't translate very well over a headset and it's arguable that even telepresence and video chat may not be enough.
What helped me get over my isolation and the fact that I was part of a team of people I knew nothing about was the collaboration bit. Unified communications by itself won't to the trick to stifle isolation in cases where there's no preceding rapport among humans. When you introduce collaboration tools as the context driving the interactions among people isolation is less likely to occur. Collaboration tools provide a catalyzer, a filter that helps us keep the focus where it should be.
Collaborative environments help us learn more about the other humans in our group and allow us to get a glimpse of the personalities. This is funny--you learn all these things not from people's body language but from the way they talk on the phone, their writing style, the way they use graphics in presentations, their style for structuring information, etc. Eventually strangers become teammates and, with a bit of luck, they may even become your friends.
In conclusion, the first argument is dead on. It happened to me. The counterargument is also right but it's not ideal. Being aware just enough to not screw things up is not a good thing. Unfortunately this is the new reality. I don't have too many chances to get together with my new teammates. They're not total strangers to me anymore but I can't say we know much about each other besides what we do at work (I do know David Marshak is also a photography aficionado).
The good news is there are ways to cope with the new reality: a healthy combination of unified communications and collaboration tools can help prevent becoming isolated. The thing is that learning to take advantage of collaboration tools takes more time than learning to use unified communications tools. All we need to do then is be aware of that fact, be patient, and, as it's printed on the cover of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: "DON'T PANIC".
The Sametime Blog
Marlon Machado 100000PEST email@example.com Tags:  sametime uc2 ucc collaboration uc 1,650 Visits
One of the great things about a blog is you can quickly experiment with editorial calendars. A month ago I started the Friday Funnies postings, where I try to inject a little humor into the Unified Communications market. This newest series I'm calling Business Partner Tuesdays, where I would like to feature a specific member of our loyal and critically important business partner community. If any partners out there have some interesting things they're like to share about being a Sametime partner, from customer references, new integrations, new technologies, partner success stories, or more, just send me an e-mail (just click my name above).
This week I wanted to showcase an upcoming presentation by Epilio (sponsored by LotusUserGroup.org and Plantronics), a business partner who has written many interesting plug-ins for Sametime. Carl Tyler will present "Two tin cans and a piece of string? Sametime can do better than that!" virtual event, June 10 at noon ET (registration link here). The focus will be on features and capabilities that customers are using to make their employees lives easier. If you're confused when you hear Sametime, VoIP,TCSPI, SUT, and Lotus Foundations Reach in the same sentence, then this webcast is for you. Registrants are entered to win a Plantronics Plantronics Voyager PRO UC wireless Bluetooth headset (drawing void where prohibited, see rules for details).
Jacques Pavlenyi 1000002W2A firstname.lastname@example.org Tags:  ciozone.com uc video ucc interview bruce-morse 1,215 Visits
Under the "better late than never" section: Bruce Morse, VP for Unified Communications Software, had the opportunity to talk with Roger Green of CIOZone about IBM, unified communications and collaboration, the intersection with social collaboration, and other issues. The first interview was from Enterprise 2.0 San Francisco back in November (Part 1 video linked here, Part 2 video linked here) while the second was at Lotusphere 2010 in January (Part 1 video linked here, Part 2 video linked here). Some key highlights:
"...from our point of view, communications and collaboration, enterprise communications and collaboration is really about connecting people together in the context of the work that they do every day. It's really not about voice or about any particular communication media. It's really about using all of those capabilities along with things like social networking that allow you to connect the best people together that have the expertise to be able to resolve issues quickly, et cetera." - Bruce Morse
Here are the links to the specific videos:
Jacques Pavlenyi 1000002W2A email@example.com Tags:  summit 2010 friday-funnies humor uc events 1,327 Visits
IBM had the honor of being a Platinum Sponsor of the UC Summit 2010, held at the simply beautiful La Estancia Hotel and Spa, La Jolla CA. There's already been a few reviews of the event -- in addition to the ones linked from the UC Summit website, there's also a discussion group in LinkedIn, and a great post by Joe Staples at Interactive Intelligence -- so I wanted to focus on a few IBM things:
Oh, two small "good news" housekeeping items that should hopefully help us collaborate with you, our readers, a little more:
And in honor of last week's Summit, a little Trade Show humor for you, courtesy of the Trade Show Guru, Trade Show Zombies. I find this amusing because at every trade show I see them, and particularly bad were the ones at Web 2.0 Expo this past week here in San Francisco. Luckily we kept them at bay at the UC Summit. Rule #1: Cardio!
In February, we let you know that our long-time leader, Akiba Saeedi, had moved on to new challenges in IBM (A Changing of the Guard). Today, I'd like to share a couple of additional organizational changes with you
First, I took over as head of the Sametime Product Management team in March. I have been extremely lucky to be a part of this team for the past two years and will do my best to clear the way for the real brains in the organization... our product managers Rob Ingram and David Marshak, SUT Offering Manager, Kathleen Cooke and our Industry Solutions/Collaboration Agenda lead, Marlon Machado.
Second, I'm very excited to announce that Jelan Heidelberg will take over for me next week as the Offering Manager for the core Sametime portfolio (Entry, Standard & Advanced.) You may know Jelan as the Offering Manager for Quickr, a role she's held for the last four years. Jelan really knows how to make the IBM machine move and I'm counting on her experience to help us accelerate the transformation that began with Sametime 7.5 and the Unified Communication & Collaboration vision.
Finally, we also have an important addition to our WW Sales Leadership. Rick Schonbrun, a long-time communications industry veteran, joined us in March. Rick was most recently President & CEO of Telovations, a managed services provider "offering outsourced communications services and applications delivered through a hosted SaaS model". He's also had senior sales and marketing roles with Sonexis, Expanets and 3COM. We're happy to have his expertise to guide us as the collaboration and communication markets continue to merge.
Welcome to Jelan and Rick!
One of the great new components of Sametime 8.5 is the Proxy Server. It let's you embed Sametime services into your web apps using standard web 2.0 tools. One of the most commonly discussed applications of the Proxy is to chat enable customer service sites to improve satisfaction and lower support costs. Well, if you want to see this in action, check out the new "Technical Support Chat" on the Lotus Support sites. You can engage with an IBM Support Engineer when creating or updating a Problem Management Records (PMRs) or reach out to the IBM Technical Support Engineer who is working with you on your open service request. Just look for this logo:
Jacques Pavlenyi 1000002W2A firstname.lastname@example.org Tags:  friday-funnies uc iphone humor 927 Visits
UCStrategies just published a brand new article that outlines a no-nonsense value proposition and a basic roadmap on how to partner with IBM in the new and exciting field of unified communications.
Before you go read it, though, let me say a few words about why partnering with us is better than partnering with the competition:
I've learned these three maxims over the last twelve years that I've worked with business partners. I think it's still true and, honestly, that's one of the reasons I like working for IBM. In a world where there's not much of it left our relationship with business partners is still based on integrity and honesty. That means a lot to me personally.
I'm sure some people out there will disagree and say we have strayed from that principle more than once. Nevertheless, I can say I've never done it--the sizable community of business partners I've worked with over the years can attest to that--and I can also say I don't know any IBMers who have done it either.
Now, if you're curious, please go take a look at the article. You can find it here.
Dilbert's always a good source of laughs for a Friday. Enjoy!
Jacques Pavlenyi 1000002W2A email@example.com Tags:  sametime-unified-telephon... uc award ucoms magazine sut ucmag unified-communications 1,200 Visits
Technology Marketing Corporation (TMC®) has named IBM Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony as a recipient of its 2009 Unified Communications Magazine Product of the Year Award. "IBM has proven their dedication to quality and excellence while supporting the needs in the marketplace,” stated Rich Tehrani, CEO, TMC. “We look forward to seeing continued advancement in technology solutions from IBM in the future.” A complete list of Product of the Year Award winners will be published in the March/April 2010 issue of Unified Communications magazine.
We are proud of the continuing momentum from our 2009 launch of Sametime Unified Telephony. This also comes on the heels of IBM winning both the 2009 Internet Telephony Product of the Year Award and the