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.
This week's IBM UC news roundup brings us three articles of interest. On September 16, Dave Michels at No Jitter published a blog post, "The Big Squeeze"
, about leaders in the enterprise Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) market positioning IBM as an enterprise-savvy player in the unified communications battleground. The article notes that IBM's Sametime Unified Telephony provides middleware built specifically to integrate with multiple vendors' legacy PBX's, which differs from Microsoft's one-vendor approach.
IBM [is one of the] enterprise-savvy major players that are throwing their weight into the unified communications battleground. ... It is positioning its Lotus and Sametime systems as critical components to UC (messaging, collaboration, and presence), and is integrating with ShoreTel, NEC, and Broadsoft for the telephony component of the all-in-one Foundations server for SMEs.
IBM business partner and reseller Outreach Telecom & Energy
recently announced its sales support for IBM Lotus Foundations product suite. Phone Plug Mag published an article
on the news and noted that Foundations can be purchased from Outreach as a standalone product or as a fully integrated IT and UC system (with ShoreTel for IBM Foundations).
And the big announcement last week was IBM Customer Experience Suite. In a great article in Fast Company
, Jeff Schick, IBM Vice President for Social Software, describes the importance. This is not just about "Facebook"-style social interaction, by the way. As we posted earlier, IBM Lotus Sametime is part of the IBM Customer Experience because customers are more and more demanding real-time interactions with their brands, and with fellow shoppers.
IBM itself has been using Sametime and Connections (and their many precursors) within our enterprise for 15+ years. But as these technologies continue to transform work, we see humor such as this recent Dilbert cartoon (how's that for a segue into our Friday Funnies section?). Expect to see similar concerns from the Telephony side of the house as more enterprises open up their employees to more direct conversations with customers, whether via social or IM or video or voice or what-have-you. So it's just as important to include unified communications when setting new social media policies (hopefully NOT like our Pointy-Haired friend below):
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.
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.
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 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
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
or call (714) 436-6100, or visit www.citent.com
for more information. If you're in the neighborhood, please RSVP and stop by!
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.
Join IBM's Clifford Spinac, Technical Specialist for Lotus, LotusUserGroup.or, and IBM Business Partner Plantronics and Meridian IT on
October 19, 2010 at noon ET for a free webcast, "What you need to know about Sametime Unified Telephony (even if you think you don't)
". Learn about the deployment
options for SUT and examine the architecture behind it. Hear from an insider
about the critical points where SUT integrates with your infrastructure and why
you need to be aware of them. Cliff also reviews basic call flows and what you
need to know about how SUT manages your telephone calls. Plus, every
attendee is automatically entered to win a Plantronics Voyager PRO UC wireless Bluetooth headset
This is a Webcast every Lotus IT professional should attend. Whether
your organization is running SUT now, planning or considering a deployment, or
not yet even thinking about it, you’ll want to have this information under your
belt for use now or in the future.
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.
So, what's in a name? A lot, as you can see.
Interactive Intelligence's partner conference is going to take place in beautiful San Antonio, Texas from October 11 to 13 at the San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter (see here
to register if you want to attend).
Yours truly has been invited to do a session on the value proposition behind the CIC-Sametime integration. The session title is Selling Success with CIC and IBM Lotus Sametime and it's scheduled for Monday, October 11 at 4:15 PM CDT as part of the sales and business solutions track. The magic will happen in Salon K-L.
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 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.