I'm still playing catch up from Lotusphere (maybe next weekend, after
some of the adrenaline subsides I'll play "rest up") but I wanted to pop
in here for a quick blog post. WOWWW. That was an amazingly insanely
fantastic Lotusphere experience. Thanks to all of you!
I know I'm a Lotus Geek because I'm watching the Super
Bowl tomorrow because Sametime is there! I'm a Dolphin Fan. They
For those of you that were not at Lotusphere that are loyal blog
readers, Sametime has gone Social and is going to the Super Bowl The
very beginning of the closing session was a demo of Sametime being
utilized at the Superbowl for real time security communications. This is
a clear example that Sametime or UCC is the "Action" in a Social
Imagine the challenge of keeping over 100,000
people safe with a vast array of emergency teams ready to respond and
take action at one of the most popular events of the year.
You need a real time communications system to take action right now and
the right person and get the right response.
This is a social network with real implications.
Traditionally you have multiple agencies operating on different systems and on
different radio frequencies. We bring these disparate systems together with a solution called
Radio Connect from UnifiedEdge based on IBM Sametime Standard.
RadioConnect for Sametime has been successfully deployed as a permanent
technology component in the Joint Emergency Operations Center at the City of
Fort Worth, Texas reaching tens of thousands of workers. And this Sunday - it is being used to bring
together 60 different agencies on multiple radio frequencies in the most important game in American Football
– the Super Bowl.
In case you missed the tweeting a few weeks ago, you should know that a new cloud offering for Unified Communications was launched by IBM (it's us) on April 16th. Under the name "IBM SmartCloud Unified Communications Dedicated", this offering delivers a complete communications suite from a private cloud. This solution is built on enterprise-grade software components, such as: feature rich telephony, instant messaging and presence from IBM Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony, unified messaging from IBM, video integration, and more... A wide variety of communication devices can be made available with softphones, deskphones, and of course, support for smartphones and tablets.
This offering is designed to facilitate the transition to cloud-based telephony, and provides support for flexible deployment models (IBM data centers, or managed on customer premises). This offering is the result of an extended partnership between IBM Collaboration Services (Sametime software) and IBM Global Technology Services (ex: networking and managed services), aimed at delivering a best-of-breed and complete UC solution.
For more information, here is the official IBM announcement (www-01.ibm.com/common/ssi/cgi-bin/ssialias?htmlfid=897/ENUS613-002&infotype=AN&subtype=CA). You can expect more news around this new offering over the next few months.
If you have any questions, please reach out to me, or anyone in the Sametime product management team.
As I blogged about on NoJitter back in June ("The Future of UC is
Social" --> http://www.nojitter.com/blog/229900178?queryText=the+future+of+UC+is+social
), I disagree with the premise that it's either UC or social
collaboration, but not both. Enterprises for some time have been asking
to make UC part of a broader collaboration environment, including newer
collaboration capabilities such as blogs, wikis, forums and communities.
Users want a variety of tools to use, and more importantly, the ability
to pivot between various tools depending on the circumstances they're
in, and from the applications and environments they're working from,
whether business process applications, mobile device, e-mail client, web
application, etc. And many analysts have been seeing the same thing; I
believe Gartner just recently said by 2014 more than 20% of business
users will use social networks as their primary communication hubs, and
separately said that the distinction between UC and collaboration will
disappear altogether by 2013.
I also believe that, while many
recent UC startups and cloud offerings in the consumer space are
spurring innovation, the levels of security, policy management and other
administration features demanded by enterprises are going to stay out
of reach for many consumer-focused UC and collaboration vendors -- cloud
or on premises. Social collaboration, including voice and video,
generates a certain level of agida on the part of enterprise Legal, IT,
and Finance that has to be addressed by any serious vendor.
Microsoft and Cisco are by no means the only vendors integrating social
collaboration with unified communications. IBM has been doing this at
least since the launch of IBM Connections several years ago. Integration
with other IBM applications as well as with best-of-breed applications
and platforms through open standards-based APIs, has been the hallmark
of the IBM approach for some time.
What do you think? How fast do you think UC is merging with other collaboration tools? What are examples in your environments where this is -- or isn't -- happening?
A refreshing note from our friends at No Jitter... Brian Riggs writes about Unified Messaging for WebSphere Voice Response, an IBM product that sits at the core of VoiceRite's unified messaging solution for Notes and Sametime. You can find the article here. #LS11 #UCOMS
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Whether an organization is starting a new Unified Communications (UC) project or they have already deployed some UC capability, a Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) based infrastructure can significantly drive down costs and provide greater flexibility for the future. This white paper, authored by IBM Research and GTS experts, examines the impact a SIP-based architecture can have on all aspects of the business - the infrastructure, applications and process layers of the organization. The paper explores the business and technical implications of this transformation from a services perspective and describes how a structured approach is necessary for organizations to extract the full value of the new SIP technology.
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):
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.
The third video that I worked with her on as part of this series was just recently posted. Here I talk briefly about why Business Partners are so important to the IBM strategy for unified communications and collaboration. Take a look at the video on YouTube here.
Info-Tech Research Group just published its UC Vendor Landscape report, which ranks UC vendors and UC products based on various criteria. Their rankings go from Emerging Player to Market Pillar to Innovator to Champion. That's where we are:
We're sharing the honor with Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft and Siemens. Congratulations to them. Congratulations are in order as well to our partners Interactive Intelligence and ShoreTel for making the Innovator quadrant.
I got this nice little PNG from the Lotusphere 2012 team that says "I'm a Speaker":
I think it's pretty cool and I'm already using it as part of my email
signature. It's great that the Lotusphere team decided to do this for
next year. They're also collecting Social Business stories, which I also think it's pretty cool. You may want to check it out here.
My session, ID213 - What's New in IBM Sametime is scheduled for Tuesday, January 17 at 3:30 PM. Feel free to drop by if you're attending the conference. But before you do that, please make sure to attend John Delpizzo's session, INV209 - Strategy and Roadmap for IBM Sametime, on Monday, January 16 at 5:00 PM. It'll give you the necessary context you'll need to make sense of what I'm going to talk about. We'll publish a full list of all the Sametime-related sessions on this blog once we get the final list. Stay tuned.
Blair Pleasant writes on No Jitter (here) about how UC and Social Business have more in common than most people realize. She quotes Alistair Rennie on how "...three years from now we won't call this social business--it'll just be business." I happen to agree.
I've said many times that social interaction patterns are natural to us while linear interactions, the way we've worked with each other for years, are learned behavior.
In our natural environment (home) we use people-to-people interactions to communicate, collaborate and deal with each other. When we are at work, we use people-to-process and people-to-information interactions as the primary means of getting something done and we use people-to-people interactions when we need to. Social Business reverses this paradigm and makes people-to-people interactions the center of the universe, the way it should be.
Interested in implementing unified communications, but concerned about cost and deployment resources? A cloud-based unified communications strategy could dramatically lower your infrastructure and other fixed asset costs, while offering a flexible deployment model. Leverage the power of the cloud to collaborate! On August 30 at 12noon Eastern US time, please join speakers from IBM, and IBM Business Partner Meetrix, to learn about UC as a Service (UCaaS), powered by IBM Sametime. Register here for free access today. Speakers to be confirmed shortly.
#socbiz #ITEXPO FYI, folks. In case you're attending or in case you happen to be in the area, the ITEXPO West 2011 conference is coming to Austin. The conference will take place at the Austin Convention Center from September 13 to 15 and it promises to bring together lots of industry heavyweights as well as interesting newcomers. This year ITEXPO will feature keynotes from IBM (Mike McCarthy, VP of Cloud Computing Services as well as from Polycom and Siemens.
Mike Ross from 4PSA and Tim Wittbrod from Interactive Intelligence will join me in a discussion on one of my favorite topics: the role of unified communications in social work patterns--precisely what I've been blogging about in the last few weeks.
I submitted this topic to the conference back in April (I think). I wanted to discuss the fundamental differences between the natural way in which humans interact, a.k.a. people-to-people interactions and the artificial way in which we've forced ourselves to interact at work. The conference was nice enough to accept my abstract and they invited Mike and Tim to join in.
As you know, we work very closely with Interactive Intelligence and we've talked about people-centric business processes in the context of what we do together. The conference is placing our session under the Social CRM track, which could not be more appropriate. I have not met Tim and Mike but I'm sure this will be a productive and enlightening conversation.
Our session is scheduled for Tuesday, September 13 from 2:30 PM to 3:15 PM. You may also want to check out other sessions from IBM and from our business partners by visiting the conference program page.
#ibmsocialbiz As many of you know, we've been working with Interactive Intelligence in integrating their CIC contact center suite with Sametime. The integration allows contact center agents to tap into expertise beyond their immediate reach.
The expertise location pattern is critical to improving customer satisfaction, up-selling and cross-selling, and to keeping customer-facing business processes moving. That's exactly what the CIC-Sametime integration does. Our friends at InIn produced this nice video illustrating how the integration works. Take a look:
This is my second posting on the role UC plays on the path to Social Business. In my previous post I discussed the roadmap to becoming a Social Business. The roadmap, as you may recall, has four steps: emphasize people-to-people interactions, retrofit existing people networks, help people extend their organizational reach and enable newly created people networks to function. Well, today I want to talk about the first step.
The first step towards becoming a Social Business involves seeding the behavior needed to make the transition from people-to-process and people-to-information to people-to-people interactions. Emphasizing people-to-people interactions is key to introducing social interaction patterns in environments where people don't always know each other. This is how we transplant the natural behavior humans exhibit in their own social groups into a work environment where they spend most of their time surrounded by perfect strangers.
Social interaction patterns are natural to us and they start with people. Under this paradigm, information and process are mere attributes. When we interact with friends and family we start with the person. When a child is hungry he will most likely yell out "Mom, I'm hungry. What's for dinner...!" He starts with the person (his mother), then provides status information (he communicates that he's hungry), and then requests data from the other person (he asks what his mother is preparing for dinner).
This type of interaction, a people-to-people interaction, is more efficient than finding out, first, who's cooking dinner, then letting that person know that one is hungry to verify that there's a match between an empty stomach and freshly-prepared food, and finally asking what that food actually is. At work, we've done this for years. We've been trained to think in terms of information and process first and then to consider who can provide the information or who can make something happen in the context of a business process. After a few trials we identify a go-to-person and that person becomes part of our immediate people network. Then we no longer base our interactions with that person on process or information. We call on them first and then ask for information. In other words, we gravitate to the type of interaction that comes natural to our species.
The technology we've used at work so far has not been flexible enough to facilitate people-to-people interactions. The consumer space, on the other hand, has built solutions to enable people-to-people interactions beyond the people networks we can build within our immediate surroundings. Now we can initiate people-to-people interactions with remote parties through various channels. Facebook, for instance, provides asynchronous channels for exchanging status information and it also provides real-time channels to exchange data as needed. Twitter allows broadcasting information to multiple parties in real time. These are social interaction patterns and most people already understand how the technology that enables those patterns work. In other words, the behavior is already there.
Since the behavior is there, all that's needed now is to enable it at work. All we need to do is help people exercise the same social interaction patterns they rely on to interact with friends and family with the people they work with. The goal is to infuse the enterprise with the same degree of efficiency social interaction patterns give us in our daily lives.
This is the first step of embracing change. It means letting people use the tools that let them interact with each other naturally. Ten years ago many companies regarded instant messaging as a toy and labeled it a distraction. Now I'm sure there are very few companies out there that have not embraced instant messaging. Most companies, I'm sure, would agree that they could not do business today without it. The same applies to people-to-people interactions and the technology that enables them.
So, what to do? As part of the need to embrace change, I say don't be afraid of letting people be people. Let your employees interact with each other as people. Let them exercise people-to-people interactions at work. Let them use Facebook, let them tweet, let them leverage instant messaging, email and the telephone to enrich their interactions with colleagues, customers and business partners. That's what emphasizing people-to-people interactions means.
In my next posting I will discuss what happens when the behavior has been seeded and internalized. Stay tuned.
#ucoms #socbiz This week, several IT industry blogs reported on the increased focus around unified communications as organizations embrace social computing in the workplace. In the first, IT Business Edge discusses in "Social Networking and Unified Communications: Catalysts for Change", the impact of unified communications on social business and cloud computing:
What Barlow is driving at is that it won’t be too long before all of these technologies combine to fundamentally change the way we all work.
The barriers to enterprise social software adoption are far more cultural than technical. Internal social networking tools make for great demos, but unified communications (UC) pros often struggle to define what problem enterprise social software is trying to solve.
Ever since I happened upon an exhibit of Japanese post-war consumer design at Design Museum London back in 1992 (the miniature cars! the sleek juicers! the radios encased in melamine!), I've been somewhat enamoured with design. When you are (or like me, used to be) an engineer, it's too easy to put function over form. Great design doesn't put form over function, but instead marries the two seamlessly in order to solve real human problems in a way that feels natural.
In the words of our own Thierry Nicolle - EMEA’s IBM BUE’s experience on our new Voyager PRO UC:
Plantronics Bluetooth Headset is delivering the best Unified Communication Experience on Sametime I ever had. Not only this headset is extremely well designed and easy to use but is also providing unique capabilities in Sametime environment . For instance: the new ‘ Smart Sensor feature’ that ‘automatically‘ answers any inbound call when you place the headset on your head is a fantastic feature and the Plantronics Call control plug ability to ‘roam’ from your PC / desktop up to 33 feet (10 metres) away to multitask and remain ‘connected’ to [Sametime Unified Telephony] calls. [And] meetings with its multiple call handling features provides real freedom and extra productivity benefits. After trying this headset I simply cannot work without it…
Speaking from my own experience, it is a visually engaging piece of technology. And it really does enhance your mobility and productivity.
I've discovered that keeping our Business Partner features to just Tuesdays wan't enough. So instead, we'll feature our Business Partners more throughout our weekly editorial calendar.
Today's IBM Business Partner Feature is about Lionbridge. On Wednesday, they announced the GeoFluent IM for IBM Sametime solution. This solution will help IBM Sametime clients collaborate more effectively with non-English speaking colleagues, partners and customers:
“Today's dynamic workforce is increasingly globally dispersed, multigenerational and multicultural,” said Caleb Barlow, Director, Unified Communications and Collaboration, IBM. “As globally dispersed organizations move towards becoming social businesses, the challenge of resolving real-time barriers of language translation is critical. Today’s always available, socially-connected organizations need to communicate seamlessly with networks of partners, clients and suppliers, regardless of location, time-zone or language.”
We encourage you to join Lionbridge and IBM for a webinar on August 23rd to learn more about increasing social communications across borders with multilingual unified communications. Please register for the webinar here.
As a native English and French speaker, I have to say this is pretty cool. I've seen the real-time translations in action, and it makes cross-language real-time communication SO much easier. It won't replace professional translators for all use cases, but for the majority of day-to-day real-time translation work, it's a great solution to look into.
IBM today announced new cloud-based collaboration services to help U.S.
Federal government organizations reap the benefits of social computing. The new set of social collaboration services, including IBM Sametime, delivered on IBM's Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA)-compliant Federal Community Cloud, addresses the administration's drive to adopt a "cloud-first" policy which is designed to help the government improve its overall IT efficiency and delivery of services to citizens. By having Sametime as part of a FISMA-compliant environment, IBM is able to provide a roadmap for unified communications as a service for those organizations looking for FISMA-compliant delivery.
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.
Blair Pleasant over at UC Strategies recently blogged about a Focus.com IBM and Polycom webcast on video communications in the enterprise. My personal experience has been similar to hers, specifically video collaboration can be both a positive reinforcement AND negative reinforcement of good collaboration behavior and outcomes. On the negative reinforcement side:
One of the strongest arguments in favor of video calls is that
participants are less likely to multitask and do other things while on
the call. If someone is looking right at you, you're probably not going
to be checking your email, playing Angry Birds, or eating your lunch.
And on the positive reinforcement side:
Communication is enhanced. Using video lets you see if someone is
confused, bored, or angry, so you can modify your message and
presentation. Interactions are more personal, which helps to enhance the
quality of relationships between the participants.
Negative reinforcement isn't a bad thing - social mores are just as often about "don't do so-and-so...it's bad manners" as they are about "do so-and-so, it's good manners". Video collaboration is no exception. Personally, I've experienced both the positive and negative reinforcement of good behavior both in work meetings from video meetings. At work we've been (of course!) using video inside a Sametime 8.5.2 meeting for regular weekly meetings, and our team's focus has increased significantly in those meetings. And I've also experienced it outside of work. My personal mobile device is an iPhone 4 and lately I've been using FaceTime to communicate with my spouse, who's recently been in New York while I've been back home in San Diego. The interactions we've had via video on mobile has been leaps and bounds more satisfying than a pure voice call, making the 3000 miles seem a lot less distant.
That personal experience is enlightening. It reminds me that even in business situations, we're still HUMAN. We still want -- need -- visual communication to establish trust and maintain deeper relationships (note that I'm omitting an important conversation on the special challenges faced by the vision-impaired). If Trust is the new currency, then video collaboration will surely be an increasingly important tool in the enterprise.
Please join IBM and IBM Business Partner Polycom Tuesday June 21, 10am Pacific, for a free live webcast (registration required), "Becoming a Social Business with Unified Communication". In
this webinar, UCStrategies experts will
discuss how Unified Communications with visual collaboration help
medium-sized companies (100 - 1000 employees) achieve "Location
Liberation" and more effectively communicate both internally and
As you may know, I demonstrated our recent integration with Ion Objects at Lotusphere. I blogged about it way back in December and I got a few questions from some of you about the integration. I showed the integration live at the Sametime pedestal at Lotusphere and we're going to do the same at Enterprise Connect. This time, though, we're going to demonstrate the integration at the CEBP pedestal.
John Kotch, Founder and Chief architect of Ion Objects is going to stop by the CEBP pedestal throughout the week to hang out and talk about the many cool CEBP applications they're planning to offer their customers now that Sametime is just another object in their framework.
Make sure to stop by the CEBP pedestal if you want to learn more. Here's a short overview of the integration:
Many of you are no doubt gearing up for what will be a very exciting Lotusphere 2011. There will be plenty of Sametime and Unified Communications activities and content filling up the week. Here's just a taste of the top activities:
INV106: "Unified Communications and Collaboration Strategy and Roadmap", with Caleb Barlow and John Delpizzo
ID501: "What's New in IBM Lotus Sametime?" with Rob Ingram and Amy Travis
ID502: "Join the Lotus Sametime Communications Revolution Now!" with Pat Galvin and Binh Nguyen
ID503: "Lotus Sametime Meetings: Today, Tomorrow -- and Beyond" with Ron Pontrich andAmy Travis
ID504: "IBM Lotus Sametime Mobile: Native Meetings and Messaging", with Josef Scherpa and Steve Babin
ID505: "Network Architecture for IBM Lotus Sametime Audio/Video", with Uri Segev and Anat Fradin
ID506: "Planning and Implementing a Highly Accessible IBM Lotus Sametime 8.5.x Deployment", with Uri Segev and Tony Payne
ID507: "IBM Lotus Sametime Unified Telephony: Today and Tomorrow", with David Marshak and Tracee Wolf
ID508: "IBM Lotus Sametime Web-enabled Audio/Video Conferencing", with Bhavuk Srivastava and Sagar Joshi
ID509: "Unified Communications and Collaboration: Clicking to Collaborate", with Jane Wilson and Sam McHan
AD306: "Sametime Proxy: A Collaborative recipe for success", with William Holmes
AD307: "Application Development with the Sametime SDK: From Java to Web 2.0", with Marlon Machado
BP102: ""Get Started Installing IBM Lotus Sametime 8.5.1 – You Too Can Be a WAS Admin!", with Gabriella Davis
BP120: "Sametime Gateway: The Business Case, Implementation and Best Practices", with Chris Miller
BP121: "The SUT "WOW Factor": How to Surprise and Delight Enterprise Voice Architects", with David Price (MeridienMeridian IT) (and for misspelling it the first time, I promised to mention that everyone who presents a best practice session also gets a seat/spot at their next GURUpalooza! GURU101)
JMP202: "Sametime 8.5.1 Deployment Workshop", with Wes Morgan
SHOW201: "From Zero to Hero - Next Generation - Sametime 8.5.1 installation" with Frank Altenburg and Volker Juergensen
For our Business Partners, there's also plenty of additional content and activity at the Business Development Day (BDD) on Sunday:
we plan on having a surprise UCC partner as part of BDD Opening General Session
Jeff Schick's Executive Insight Session from on Exceptional Work Experience will include UC content
Exceptional Work Experience: Winning against the competition will also include UC content
Winning Customers with IBMs Exceptional Work Experience, a panel with David Price (Meridien IT), will include UC speakers
The Building Customized Integrated Collaboration Solution Demo will have a strong UC component
The Upgrade Session will include detailed information on upgrading to Sametime 8.5.1
The Application Development: Social Business Framework will cover the entire IBM Collaboration Solutions portfolio, including Sametime APIs
The Market Insights session will discuss the market opportunity for UC
During the main Lotusphere event, in addition to all the sessions covering Sametime and UC, we'll also have:
Certification will be available on-site for Sametime Unified Telephony and Social Software + Unified Communications through out the week.
The Business Partner Cafe will feature Unified Communications as part of the Exceptional Work Experience table
Happy New Year to those on the Western Calendar! Catching up from a little time off, I see a couple of news items from last week of note you might be interested in.
No Jitter published an article ("Decoding 'Collaboration for realistic decision-making") on collaboration: what it is, how it affects businesses, and building a unified communications roadmap. IBM Quickr is mentioned specifically as a means of an information repository or shared workspace:
In many cases, there is also a need for an information repository or shared workspace, using enterprise tools such as Microsoft SharePoint, IBM Quickr, or dozens of other collaboration products; in those cases, the communications tools are being built into, or tightly integrated with, those collaborative workspaces.
And within the broader coverage of Avaya's recent announced enhancements to its Avaya Agile Communication Environment, many articles (such as this one from UC Strategies) including mention of the support for IBM Sametime and Lotus Notes. A similar piece from Network World also had this to say:
As for IBM environments, there's a packaged application to embed voice in the latest release of IBM Lotus Notes and Sametime. Employees can click-to-call and see telephony presence from within Lotus Release 8.5.1 while using deskphones from Avaya or other vendors. – Network World
On November 10, the Lotus User Group hosted a Webcast by Marlon Machado, Product Manager Sametime
Platform and Solutions at IBM Lotus. The Webcast was titled "Optimize Your
Business Apps with Communications and Collaboration Services”. For those of you who could not make it, the session was recorded and is now available online for limited time, free to
LotusUserGroup.org members. You can watch it on the LotusUserGroup.org site here.
In an interview with Enterprise Communications Europe for an article entitled Integrating UC with Social Software, Blair Pleasant, one of my favorite analysts, talks about the evolution of presence from "I'm here" into what I would call a rich realm of contextual information powered by an aggregation of UC and social media features. I happen to think she's absolutely right in her assessment.
I've always said IBM's approach to UC is better than what our
competitors offer. We understand UC as the connective tissue that enables
collaboration and it's nice to see that people are starting to notice. According to Blair, when it comes to integrating UC and social software, IBM "...has a head start over most of its competitors..." and goes on to say that, for customers, "The real bang for the buck will come from integrating IBM's social software capabilities with its UC and collaboration offerings, notably Sametime," and points out that the basic integration points are available today.
After several iterations, the industry has concluded that
social media is probably the most efficient way to connect people so
they can collaborate. In the past, collaboration was about tools and
workplaces (no pun intended) and hubs to bring people together; it was about defining the context and bringing people into it effectively forcing them to collaborate following predefined patterns. Social
software, on the other hand, does not define the collaboration context. Instead, it seeds context through multi-modal channels
and lets people decide how they want to collaborate.
This is the way people interact with each other in the real world, where
presence means more than "I'm available @ Office". It's efficient, it's dynamic and it's flexible. No wonder it's been
so successful: it wasn't built thinking of the enterprise in the first
Blair actually describes it very nicely when she says that today “We have a greater variety of channels and networks through which we can
announce our whereabouts, activities and thoughts; Twitter tweets and Facebook
status updates are the social equivalent to business users’ presence
information. We can initiate communication based on context, even without direct
contact information. We’ll approach business acquaintances through LinkedIn, for
example, while a social situation is Facebook’s territory.” I could not agree more.
I've also said many times that presence "is" and we only switch from one status to another, including being offline. When I thought about this definition I wasn't really sure of the meaning of the word "is"--no pun intended, again--in this context. I can say now that when I say "presence is..." it means many things: a rich realm of contextual information powered by an aggregation of UC and social media features.
For yesterday's Business Partner Tuesday I was struggling to find a topic when I read a review by Mike Nolan on FierceVoIP on the Microsoft Lync release. It struck me that many of the announcements that were being touted were similar to announcements IBM and Sametime have made with our Business Partners 12-18 months ago. There's plenty of room in this growing market, but I couldn't help myself; I just had to point out in a comment that what may be touted as new is already successfully in market with IBM and IBM Business Partners:
Thank you for the update on new UC developments. I wanted to bring to your reporters' attention that many of these developments are not new. In fact, IBM has already worked with many of these partners to develop Unified Communications solutions built on IBM Sametime. Here's just three examples of the over 400 business partners we have around unified communications:
Before Twisted Pair announced WAVE Lync Communicator, IBM business partner KITS developed Radio Connect for similar radio-frequency integration with unified communications back in November 2008 (press release), with several government customers already using the joint IBM / Radio Connect solution.
Similar to ProtoSphere's announcement of their 3-D virtual immersive environment, IBM announced back in June 2009 a Virtual Collaboration Services for Lotus Sametime. Several large customers are already using 3D immersive collaboration experience for brainstorming today.
And we've been doing cloud for some time already: IBM Business Partner Meetrix has already announced cloud and hybrid deployments of Sametime unified communications.
I'm probably a little late to this particular debate, seeing that it started on November 9. The CRM Magazine Blog highlighted a debate going on, started by Nick Jones over at Gartner, asserting that unified communications is a Big Vendor Scam. What I found interesting was Mr. Jones' relating UC vendors Cisco and Microsoft as "dinosaurs in a world of fast-moving furry mammals":
“[this] ill-assorted mix of technologies that vendors want to sell in a
single bundle because it’s convenient for them,” is actually useless to
employees; Twitter, Facebook, and Skype are much more attractive to
consumers and are a lot more “fashionable.”
I have several problems with his argument:
Integration and interoperability to end-users is far from useless. Having to switch constantly between applications is rather distracting and productivity-sapping. I'm an eager technologist, so if I find the "switching costs" of going between applications an irritant, I can only imagine the psychic cost for the average worker. The ability for Sametime to integrate with the way I want to work is hugely important to me as an end-user. I can use Sametime without ever leaving my Notes environment (or, Outlook if you so choose), I can integrate with Twitter and Connections in a single dashboard (oh, yes it does - just take a look at this nifty little Status Updatr Plug-in on OpenNTF), I can use Sametime within a Portal, etc. Certainly we have a longer way to go, especially as communications tools continue to innovate, but there's always going to be a balance between bringing in what's new vs. conservatively sticking with what works.
Twitter, Facebook and Skype are attractive to consumers because they're free, not necessarily because their capabilities are better. I've been using all three for quite some time now, and while I would definitely describe them as "fashionable", their user interfaces, capabilities, changing terms of service, and quality of service leave much to be desired (just one recent example: a LifeHacker comparison of Skype with iChat and GoogleTalk shows they all have work to do).
Quality of Service matters. You get what you pay for, and free means you get less. If my PBX failed as often at voice quality and video quality as my recent Skype experiences, I'de be fighting my IT department tooth and nail. Just another example: I gladly pay extra for a Mac because I can use iChat to integrate all my various personal chat networks (including Facebook, AOL and GoogleTalk). That's real value I'm willing to pay for as a consumer, so businesses are willing to pay for similar integrative capabilities for their users.
And a pedantic quibble - a Ponzi scheme assumes you're robbing one customer to pay the previous one, which eventually comes crashing down like a house of cards. I like a competitive dig as much as my competitors do, but I would never accuse Microsoft nor Cisco of trying to do that. No serious vendor in their right mind goes that route, it's business suicide. So if you want to claim a vendor might be over-charging and under-delivering, go for it. But calling it a Ponzi scheme just comes across as needless provocation.
Perhaps it's IBM's different viewpoint on unified communications. We're not looking at it as if it were a single stack of capabilities - there are simply too many different capabilities involved and the mix of what's important is unique to each enterprise. That's why we take an open platform approach vs. a single-stack approach. So that we can learn from, and integrate with these fast-moving furry mammals. Consumer technologies do tend to be leading indicators of where enterprise technologies are going, so it's very important keep an eye on what's happening there. And an open platform approach where you can (quickly) integrate these new capabilities can only help.
It's not that it's been a quiet week (or three) since the last news roundup - it's that we've been busy around here. You know, getting ready for Hallowe'en and all. But our press corps has been very hard at work as always, with some new press coverage we wanted to share with you.
"IBM is still a massive player in the desktop space," [Polycom Vice President of Partner Marketing Mark] Roberts said. “The reality is IBM still owns 50 percent of the desktop, and we see it as an opportunity to extend our position in the marketplace and help our channel partners extend their reach as well". – Phone Plus: Polycom, IBM Collaborate on UC Solution for Lotus Sametime
In Chile, Channel News published two articles on Lotus Notes 8.5.2 and Lotus Sametime following a local Lotus Knows event.
IBM Lotus Notes, in its latest version 8.5.2, can be the platform for converging technologies and mail, office tools, secure corporate instant messaging and encrypted audio and video conferencing and others. These tools converge in a work environment forming a "single collaborative desktop."
In Italy, Office Automation published an article on the benefits of enterprises adopting UC solutions (Italy, Office Automation, 09.10, UC Solutions, why should companies adopt them?)
And there's been a lot of news for the rest of our portfolio. Look for some additional recaps on our Lotus Knows blog coming soon.
One day late on the Business Partner Tuesday post...
How's this for a too-familiar dialog on an average business day?
“Hello? Who just joined?” "Tom, there’s too much noise on your line, can you
please mute your phone?” “Sorry I’m late. I couldn’t find the passcode for
For those of us who spend all day on conference calls (like me), and as more and more of us work remotely this will be the same for many of you, it would be nice to imagine
a meeting where you could see every participant by name, mute or un-mute
participants’ lines from your desktop, and have the meeting dial out to your
participants. Thankfully, that capability is available today with PGi audio conferencing
integration to Lotus Sametime.
PGi has been integrating with IBM for some time. Their first
TCSPI adaptor was launched in January 2004. Just this January they released their latest conferencing integration to
Sametime 8.5, including Mute/Un-mute, Dial Out, Lock Conference, End Conference and Disconnect User. By
embedding one-click access into web, video and instant messaging collaboration
applications, users can escalate the meeting experience while everyone is
engaged - facilitating quicker decision making and improved productivity.
PGi Global Collaboration
Services provides a wide range of collaboration services. You can learn more at www.pgi.com/gcs.
On October 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm (Eastern Daylight Time), please join Clifford Spinac, Technical Specialist for Lotus SUT, in a free
Webcast to 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.
It was an excellent week in the news for IBM Unified Communications and Collaboration. The IBM Communications team has been hard at work getting us in front of a lot of industry press, and these articles are nice confirmations that what we want to talk about, people want to hear about.
“What we do today is help customers build a long-term strategy and help them understand what the differences are in an on-premises private cloud vs. the public cloud," [Korkki] said. “We’re not pushing one technology over another. We start from the customers’ point of view and look at their needs, and then determine what the solutions are. Then we help them understand best deployment option." --Billingworld
"We have a history of building unified communications environments for customers and now what we see happening is the cloud taking off," Jeri Korkki, IBM Global Service Category Leader for ICS Cloud Services told InternetNews.com. -- VoIPPlanet.com
Network World published an article on the rise of social computing due to enterprise-ready offerings in three key areas: sharing workspaces, social platforms and unified communications applications. IBM is the only vendor highlighted with offerings in each of the three categories.
"Social-computing products are transitioning from individual applications, such as blogs, wikis, or document sharing, to integrated social-computing suites encompassing and integrating many different tools."
"I think the touch screen device in mobile tablet form may end up replacing a lot of those fixed IP phones that do everything … [because] touch screen interfaces are certainly much more intuitive and easier than a phone keyboard," Del Pizzo said.
Recently IBM announced Singapore Airlines' use of Sametime, IBM Lotus Notes/Domino, Traveler, Connections and Quickr to empower its geographically distributed workforce. That announcement received quite a bit of coverage, including some of the quotes you see below:
IBM won a bid over Microsoft, after a comprehensive total cost of ownership study evaluated by Singapore Airlines. The airline company chose IBM Lotus software for a more effective collaboration and communication among its geographically diffused man power despite mobility. – Silicon Angle “What's interesting in the Singapore Airline announcement, is the specific focus on building out on their existing platform to enhance their collaboration, knowledge management and mobility support. In addition, Singapore Airlines has the confidence to stand with their vendor and announce their decision to maximize their investment in IBM/Lotus software.”- Leadership By Numbers
And we continue to see coverage from our IBM Customer Experience Suite announcement 2 weeks ago, from the media and blogger community around the globe. Of note, the Financial Times highlighted the IBM Customer Experience Suite in Monday Sep 27th's issue of the paper:
If your call centre attracts more brick bats then praise, maybe its time to switch to web-based customer support. IBM’s Customer Experience Suite encourages customers to help themselves to information using blogs, chat forums, video, social networking tools and, increasingly, mobile devices. --Financial Times
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.
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.
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.
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".
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...
I've been a fan of Seth Godin since I read is book Permission Marketing, long before I joined the Sametime team. It reinforced for me the power of digital marketing to forge new relationships between vendors and customers. He continues to enlighten and challenge all of us, lately via Seth's Blog. A recent entry, Goodbye to the Office, challenges why we need offices in the first place.
...Factories used to be arranged in a straight line. That's because there was one steam engine, and it turned a shaft. All the machines were set up along the shaft, with a belt giving each of them power. The office needed to be right next to this building, so management could monitor what was going on. 150 years later, why go to work in an office/plant/factory?
He then goes on to enumerate the 7 reasons most companies and workers still think that way. Whether he realizes it or not, I believe his entire thesis is possible because of unified communications and collaboration: tools that are forcing us to fundamentally rethink how we work together, organize ourselves as corporations, work-life balance, and more.
1. That's where the machines are.
As Seth mentioned, if you have a laptop, you have your office. Now, of course the assumption is you're a knowledge worker, and that you have access to a full complement of collaboration tools on your laptop, including VoIP, and a (decent) Wi-Fi connection. But what if you're not a knowledge worker, manager, or executive? The majority of workers are still physically tied to their work locations: construction workers, manufacturing assembly-line workers, nurses, medical technicians, Department of Motor Vehicles reps, pharmacist, truck driver, and so on. Those workers don't use laptops or desktops on a day-to-day basis: they're tied to a specific application appliances or mobile devices -- process control equipment, desktops running SAP or accounting software, UPS scanner, etc. These workers still need to collaborate, now more than ever if your enterprise hopes to keep up with an accelerating world. As we write about often on The SametimeBlog, the promise of UC has to move beyond just rich UC clients on laptops to all sorts of devices and applications (web or cloud-based, packaged, etc.). Communications enabled business processes can bring the promise of UC to the vast majority of workers, not just people like me and most of this (limited) audience.
2. That's where the items I need to work are.
This is more true than ever, as all our data and applications are digitized and surfaced via web-enabled or virtual applications. But see #1 for the caveat: what about the 70%+ workers who are still physically tied to processes and locations? More and more (as Marlon Machado posted here a while), it's less and less about you going to work, and more and more about work coming to you.
3. The boss needs to keep tabs on my productivity.
This is one place where technology has leaped ahead of culture. Rich presence -- including online status (online, offline), geographic location, availability status ("do not disturb", "in a meeting", "at lunch"), telephony status (on the phone), connection device (mobile device, laptop), etc. -- allows you to abstract "work" from "physical location", while paradoxically INCREASING your availability. The challenge isn't the technology per se, it's culture: management still thinks in terms of assembly line ("how can Joe produce my widgets if they're not on the assembly line?") rather than outcomes, which results in that perceived need for visual control. IBM has been an early and avid adopter of remote working, which has given us plenty of time to slowly shift our culture from one of "facetime" to "availability"; as long as I make myself available within the requirements of my particular role, my management chain can focus on what's really important: am I achieving my objectives in a timely manner, whether or not I'm in the "office" from 9-5.
And this is where the second "Collaboration" of IBM's Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC2) approach comes in: integration of social networking tools (not just community tools in Sametime Advanced, but blogs, wikis, rich profiles, online communities and networks, sharing, tagging, etc.) moves UC beyond the immediate availability to capturing those interactions, sharing them and thus growing the enterprise's knowledge base, and even measuring (via social analytics) productivity in new, novel ways.
UC is forcing corporate cultures to rethink measurement, performance evaluation, and social boundaries. Or, put differently, for companies to successfully deploy and use UC, cultural adaptation and business process alignment are critical.
4. There are important meetings to go to.
Clearly, with UC, meetings can happen whether or not you're in the office. The recent business disruptions caused by the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokull were a perfect example of meetings still going on, via e-meetings, chat and video, despite all the ash. One of UC's primary and most measurable value propositions to customers is saving travel cost, time, and reducing environmental impacts through enhanced virtual meetings that are (almost) as good as being there. Now, UC (or generally-available bandwidth or device power) isn't at the point where it can completely replace face-to-face meetings; human communication is only partially verbal (and if you're hearing impared, not verbal at all), so additional advances in video, 3D (not just Sametime 3D, but moving towards "Fahrenheit 451"-ish holographics) and even virtual touch and smell...well, maybe the last two are entering creepy territory, but you get the picture.
5. It's a source of energy; 6. The people I collaborate with all day; 7. I need someplace to go.
Clearly we're still social animals; we can't all work in isolation (we certainly don't want to end up as Isaac Asimov's Solarians...) As I alluded to in #4 above, UC2 is a great technology enabler, allowing us to draw social energy from wherever we happen to be. As Seth said, we don't just draw energy from our office co-workers. And if our work and collaboration networks extend far beyond immediate reporting structures to work with co-workers in Bangalore, customers in Bratislava, Business Partners in Dalian, investors in San Francisco, while simultaneously running into dear friends in the cafe on the Seine we happen to be working from today, UC2 can only help us draw energy simultaneously from physically immediate and virtual, ever-widening circles.
We still, though, have a way to go before we can provide virtual environments that enable the full richness of human communication. And that includes the natural outcomes of extroverted, social behavior: surreptitious/unplanned encounters and non-verbal communication just for starters. Hence the continued need for local socialization.
A lot to think about on a cool San Francisco midnight. What do you think? Would very much like to hear your thoughts.
Just a quick reminder to our Sametime audience. As we blogged about a month ago, our friends over at Wainhouse Research are still soliciting responses to their 2010 Unified Communications and Collaboration End User Survey. Your responses will help develop a clearer understanding of the unified communications marketplace. This
survey should take 5 - 8 minutes to complete! And as an added bonus for your time, Wainhouse will select ten
respondents to win a $50 Amazon.com gift certificate. Hurry: the survey closes July 30!
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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".
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:
Unified Communications: Interview with Bruce Morse at
VoiceCon/Enterprise 2.0 San Francisco 2009 (part
Communications: Interview with Bruce Morse at Lotusphere 2010 (part
The IBM presentations, including our keynote and focus sessions, should be posted to the site shortly. In the meantime, there's also a podcast you can listen in on.
The entire event had a great, dare-I-say "intimate" feel, allowing vendors and channel partners to really connect 1-on-1 over a longer period than one normally has at the bigger trade shows, where everyone's also busy chasing deals. Here it was about creative business development and channel development discussions, which was a nice change of pace.
It was also very enlightening to hear first hand from the traditional (and not-so-traditional) consultants and resellers who are struggling mightily with an industry under metamorphosis. Whether it's traditional end-point or hardware consultants finding they need to beef up their software and collaboration skills, to traditional collaboration software SIs needing to better understand telephony and VoIP networks and end-points, clearly they are facing a challenge and need the Vendors help to navigate these new waters.
The Hospitality Suites was a great ending to Day 2. I was at the IBM one (of course, as I was also the host) and didn't get a chance to visit the other ones, which all looked as well-attended) and everyone was having great conversations. A little wine and beer certainly helped.
Although June Gloom came a little early to La Jolla, the weather didn't disappoint for the most part, adding to the very pleasant surroundings of the Hotel and Spa (alas, no time for a spa treatment).
Oh, two small "good news" housekeeping items that should hopefully help us collaborate with you, our readers, a little more:
I've linked The Sametime Blog to our @sametime twitter ID, meaning every time there's a new post, not only can you subscribe via RSS but you can also get updates via this new Twitterfeed link.
I've also linked The Sametime Blog to our Facebook page in the same way, thanks to the NetworkedBlog app.
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!
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:
Business partners are an integral part of the IBM software strategy. We thrive in making software platforms and, as such, we tend to keep our platforms on the neutral side of things. Because of that, we rely on business partners to provide the necessary specialization actual solutions require to be useful. In short, you'll be treated better here.
We don't eat our partners for lunch. We either work closely with them and, in some cases, we bring them fully into the fold in a proper way.
We don't suffer from the not-invented-here syndrome. When it comes to developing cool technology we fully understand we can't come up with every single bright idea ourselves. We actually appreciate the fact that our business partners are smart cookies and we're happy to work with them when they're nice enough to let us use what they develop.
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.
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.
He said: “When we moved our business to UC,
we expected a period of adjustment, but we found that we simply had to
show staff how it worked, and the culture began changing virtually
We've been saying in Sametime for a while that "adoption drives
business value". Here's a real example in the real world. We would love to hear some of your examples of how UC adoption has led to transformation in your enterprises. What are
some of your examples?
From our friends over at UCStrategies.com, a new article from Blair Pleasant on how IBM is integrating unified communications with social software. Several real customer examples are cited, with a nice quote or two, including:
IBM is not the only company to offer enterprise social software capabilities, or to integrate them with their UC capabilities but it has a head start over most of its competitors, which have only recently announced such capabilities.
If you are considering ways to improve asynchronous communications, teaming and sharing across your organization, you can see first hand that integration with Lotus social software, including Lotus Connections and Lotus Quickr.