Sametime, since the 7.5 days, has allowed users to access its basic presence and chat features from a variety of mobile devices. It allows us mobile people to not only reach others in an effective manner (it seems I am constantly getting off a plane and seeing who is available to me right now to deal with whatever issues are top of mind). But it also gives others more accurate information about when and how I can be reached... making presence a universal dial-tone, rather than one that is accurate only when I am at my desktop.
Sametime 8.5.2 extends native presence/chat to new platforms...specifically the great variety of Android devices that are sweeping the marketplace and filling our pockets and briefcases. And you Apple fan boys and girls (I am now officially one, having gotten my first Mac and iPhone within the last month) will see enhanced capabilities on iOS in the near future...watch this space!
But Sametime 8.5.2 goes beyond adding Android and paving the way for iOS devices. It is the beginning of a whole new approach to our increasingly mobile world. For example, we mobile folks can not only do IM functions, but Sametime meetings can now be attended from the mobile devices -- first from Blackberry, with Android and iOS to follow (you just have to experience a Sametime Web Conference on an iPad!)...watch this space!
With Sametime 8.5.2 we even have SUT on mobile devices. Previously, your mobile phone could certainly be a preferred device, with calls being routed to it by Sametime-contextual rules (geographic location, availability, etc.). And you could move calls to you mobile phone (and back again) from any other device. And you could even click-to-call someone and have your mobile phone be the one you use to talk and listen. However, you could not initiate an SUT call from the mobile phone (this was possible only from the Sametime desktop client). With the Sametime 8.5.2 native Android client, SUT users can initiate a call to any Sametime contact, Android contact, or phone number. This call is actually handled by SUT, ringing back the caller on the mobile phone and then completing the call to the other party. The advantages are:
The caller shows as "on the phone" to other Sametime users
The incoming caller ID shown is the caller's SUT unified number (not the mobile carrier number)
Enterprise dial plans can be used for least-cost routing and roaming/toll charge avoidance
Of course, if you are interested in SUT calling capabilities on iOS...watch this space!
Finally, there are a couple of features of the Sametime 8.5.2 native mobile client that are particularly significant. These include using the phone's GPS for (optionally) showing location, converting incoming text chats to speech (e.g., when you are driving), and taking a picture with the mobile phone and including it in the chat you have with another Sametime user. This last capability, while not earth-shattering in itself, may be the most significant one we have ever delivered in Sametime mobile. That is because historically our mobile apps tried to emulate what you do on the desktop...taking into account mobile form factor and connectivity. The add photo to chat feature is the first one that rather than taking a desktop collaboration feature and adding it to mobile, takes a mobile feature and uses it for collaboration. This indeed is the hallmark of the new era of mobile UCC.
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".
Following up from our July 18 Business Partner session on Living Social with UC
, I modified our presentation a bit to make it a more general story on how unified communications can work together with Enterprise 2.0 capabilities to help your enterprise become a social business. The benefits of both together really are a 1+1 > 2 story. I would very much appreciate your feedback, as this is the first time I've personally posted a presentation to SlideShare.
The (nearly) final list of Lotusphere 2010 sessions is now available on the Lotusphere blog
. But since this is the Sametime blog, here are the sessions we think you should focus on. ;-)
addition to meeting with customers and business partners, Lotusphere
is also a great opportunity to meet with IT analysts, reporters and
bloggers, share with them what we're up to, and get their feedback,
since they have such a strong pulse on the marketplace. Our Analyst
Relations lead, Public Relations lead, along with our Unified
Communications leadership team met, with several analysts and
reporters throughout the week.
wanted to summarize some of the feedback we received, mainly to show
IBM's continued commitment to the Unified Communications and
real-time collaboration market.
up is a video interview with Zeus Kerravala from Yankee Group. He particularly liked
the themes of multi-modal UC and cost effectiveness that were in the
broader themes covered in Bruce Morse's Unified Communications
Keynote Monday afternoon. Zeus is also a regular contributor to the nojitter.com blog.
our analyst relations lead, also had the opportunity to interview Melanie Turek from Frost & Sullivan. Money quote:
think the most interesting new stuff right now revolves around the
Meetings [function in Sametime 8.5]. And I think that what we saw
especially how fast and easy it was."
Riggs from Current Analysis blogged extensively
about his thoughts from Lotusphere 2010 on nojitter.com. Money
Sametime client can of course provide the same click-to-call and
other telephony features. And with the release of SameTime Unified
Telephony last year, IBM can now deliver a soft phone that combines
instant messaging presence, telephony presence, and the ability to
initiate and receive calls in a multivendor PBX environment. So while
IBM has stayed out of the PBX business, it is quite capable of
delivering a UC-enriched soft phone that works with a variety of
Clive Longbottom from Quocirca was also in attendance. Money quote:
IBM is demonstrating is that no matter where an organisation is
starting from, it can move the communication and collaboration
platform forward to wherever the organisation feels it needs to go:
in-house, hybrid or pure-play cloud.
Osterman from Osterman Research was at Lotusphere as well, also
producing a lengthy blog entry.
is making major strides toward moving its offerings into the cloud.
IBM is also focusing heavily on mobility, demonstrating a number of
interesting mobility-based features and functions for Notes, Sametime
and other platforms.
Kelly from Wainhouse Research devoted a big section of the January 26 Wainhouse Research Bulletin
to his attendance at Lotusphere. And Henry Dewing from Forrester also wrote about the launch of the IBM Collaboration Agenda.
Twitterati were out in force as well, certainly aided by my extensive use of Tweetdeck on my iPhone, the @Sametime id, and lots of retweeting by @bilaljaffery
and others. What was nice, though, was some of the more “water
cooler” a-ha! Moments, such as this one from Stephane Rousseau:
#Lotusknows that I enjoyed #Lotusphere. Check my feedback here :
let us not forget the mainstream media. Sametime's press activities
at Lotusphere did generate articles in key technology and telephony
trade magazines including: NetworkWorld, Computerworld, ChannelWeb,
eWEEK, IDG, VON, V3 and TMCNet.
In case you missed them, here is a quick summary of the unified communications & collaboration press releases issued by IBM partners at Lotusphere:
The world is noticing that communication alone is not as useful as when it's done in the service of collaboration towards achieving a common goal--if only talk show hosts would get a grip on that one... but I digress. The point is that communication as an enabler to collaboration actually make sense and people are starting to notice. The steady penetration of social software into business processes proves my point.
I mentioned before we're working with the IBM BPM team in devising integration scenarios for BPM and UC² around a theme known as "Social BPM". We're making good progress along several work streams and we're all very excited about the strength of this story.
Today, an article on Internet Telephony titled Businesses Are Sweet on Social Networking
talks about specific case studies where customers are deploying social software to enrich collaboration and bridge gaps caused geography and other barriers. The author has nice things to say about our very own Connections software:
"...one customer is Rheinmetall AG, a German defense and automotive manufacturer. They have deployed Lotus Connections and embedded it into their internal SAP portal to improve productivity across teams, time zones, borders and corporate divisions. They can tap the expertise of their entire organization from the context of their ERP system.”
Another IBM customer is the Practicing Law Institute, which deployed IBM social software last year to support its extranet site for 100,000 lawyers. “The social capabilities allow PLI to not only deliver continuing education to the legal industry more effectively, it also helps strengthen PLI’s relationships with those customers so they visit more frequently,” says Lamb.
When organizations embed the knowledge of employee or customer communities into those applications, adds Lamb, they accelerate adoption, and they can optimize that particular business process. This results in faster time to market, shorter sales cycles, improved customer satisfaction, lower call center volume and other potential benefits, he says.
Sametime and Connections are first cousins who are growing up together. Sametime is about ten years older than Connections and, as a good older cousin, it has embraced its younger cousin. Sametime features integration with Connections both ways, on the Sametime Connect client, and on the Connections user interface as well.
You can get to a person's activities, blogs, communities, etc. on Connections straight from a chat window on the Sametime Connect client:
Additionally, you can see a person's Sametime presence and availability status directly from the Connections user interface:
In a nutshell, we got this one down. Now we're working on taking it to the next level where social software and unified communications along with BPM software will truly make CEBP happen.
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...
And that's this week's roundup.
It is with mixed emotions that I'm announcing that today is Bruce Morse's last day with IBM. After 32 years, he's decided that it's time to pursue other challenges and adventures in life. Most of you know that Bruce has led our Unified Communications & Collaboration segment for the past 4 years. But in his 3 decades with IBM he also
- helped manage IBM's
S/390 and AS/400 businesses through a number of challenging industry
transitions in technology, computing styles and business models
- was responsible for building strategic
alliances as part of IBM's business development initiatives
- built the Software Group mergers and acquisition team and played a prominent role
in the acquisitions of Lotus, Tivoli, and eight other software
- played a leading role in the
launch and development of the WebSphere Portal business
- was a major driver in a number of our software start-up businesses,
Computing and Software Group Industry Solutions
- participated in some really bad skits on the Lotusphere stage. Holy cow they were bad...
The entire UC2 team wishes him all the best and his leadership will be missed.
As for Sametime, the rest of the team remains intact and our focus unchanged. I had hoped to be able to announce Bruce's successor at the same time as his retirement, but that is still in the works. I'll let you know as soon as I am able.
I want to elaborate a bit on the ideas I rambled about on one of my previous posts
about how UC without collaboration doesn't do the trick and how this makes IBM's vision for Communication-Enabled Business Processes (CEBP) better than our competitors'.
Humans are wired for communication. We just cannot shut up (some more than others) and that's why our brains developed the ability to create language as a coding system to express ideas. This is also the reason our bodies evolved to have the anatomical features that allow us to talk and not just grunt and howl at each other--we still do that in general but that's another story. In short, communication is natural to us and we will communicate no matter what; even when we have nothing important to say (Twitter anyone?)
Collaboration, on the other hand, is trickier. We are social animals but human nature is not necessarily wired for cooperation. Instead, we are wired for survival at a very individualistic level. Our brains have evolved to understand that cooperation is a more cost-effective way to survive than going it alone and, arguably, having learned to internalize that understanding is what makes us civilized. However, collaboration is learned behavior and that's why it doesn't come as natural as communication.
So, when we put the two together and we end up participating in a CEBP having the ability to communicate with others doesn't mean much unless we have something to talk about, i.e., a context. Some of our competitors will tell you that CEBP is all about adding voice to everything, which suits them well because they sell hardware and phones, but what do you do once you got the SIP session going? What do you say besides "Hello!"?
In my view, CEBP is as much about collaboration as it is about communication. In order to get there you need to create the conditions that will provide the context in which people will collaborate before they have anything meaningful to communicate about. This is known as Business Process Management, or BPM, and IBM is a strong player in this market.
For us, BPM is not just about automating everything and removing people from the picture. It's about optimizing and creating context. Collaboration is a new theme within BPM and there are new buzzwords such as "social BPM" and "people-centric BPM" that reflect the ways in which this may play out:. The way I see it, collaboration is the realm where people operate within an optimized business process and communication is what enables them to collaborate.
We always say we don't do just UC. Our thing is UC² (Unified Communications and Collaboration). When you do BPM+UC² you're bound to get a better CEBP as a result.
We're working with the IBM BPM team in building concrete scenarios for CEBP. We're just getting started and we're very excited about the possibilities. Stay tuned.
UC² is about more than voice; more than UC. It's far more valuable than adding voice to everything and it's far more profound than debating whether to phase out their PBXs. It's more than selling people phones and telephony hardware and it's certainly more than selling them Windows licenses. Our competitors offer UC. We offer UC². There, I said it.
Having that out of the way, let me tell you why I'm starting this post with a rant.
I just came across a nice example of what I've been saying since I got here:
InformationWeek has just published an article about SPACE (Smart Place to Accelerate Community of Excellence) at Berlitz International. SPACE is a solution based on Sametime, Lotus Connections, WebSphere Portal Server and Tivoli Identity Manager that Berlitz is deploying to serve over 10,000 employees across 550 language centers in 70 countries. The solution is being used to communicate, to collaborate, to find expertise, to capture and share knowledge; all that.
I know it sounds like copy-and-paste from our marketing material but it's actually true. This is our message to the world.
If you're interested in reading the article you can find it here
As I mentioned in a previous post
, we've been working with AwesomeBobcatVideos
to include Unified Communications videos in her ongoing series of short videos that cover Enterprise
Collaboration as well as other topics.
Here's the 2nd video in the series. This one talks about how IBM is helping insurance companies, specifically Celina Insurance
, streamline operations and save money with unified communications. Take a look at the video on YouTube here
I'm happy to report that a new thought leadership piece based on a long, long, long paper based on deep, deep, deep research that yours truly undertook last year has finally been published.
The Value of UC² in the Banking Industry is finally available for public consumption (yay!) The final product is shorter than my original paper and the editing process rendered the writing more lively than anything this old geek can muster. I'm very pleased with it and I think you will too if you feel so inclined to read it. You can find it here
In communication circles, collaboration is apparently the word of the day. But for IBM customers, collaboration has long been an integral part of their UC environment. If you'd like to understand how IBM Unified Communications and Collaboration Solutions can help your business, I invite you to visit the new IBM UC2 Website
and download a copy of the white paper, "The Power of Unifying Communications and Collaboration
." You'll also find useful demos, webcasts, podcasts, 3rd party analysis and the new UCC Business Value Builder, which helps you quantify the value of UC2.