IBM is releasing version 8 of its Sametime UC platform next week, as well as Sametime Entry, which is designed to deliver basic IM and presence capabilities to Outlook users. New features in Sametime Standard (formerly just “Sametime”) include expanded platform support for IBM Lotus Domino 8 server and server support for VMWare environments; extended support for mobile workers, including the Nokia E-series, Sony Ericsson, and Microsoft Windows Mobile 6 devices; new point-to-point video capabilities for Macintosh users; and integration with Microsoft Office 2007.
Meanwhile, Sametime Advanced is on track for delivery in Q1 2008 (it adds persistent chat, broadcast and instant-share capabilities), and Sametime Unified Telephony is still due mid 2008. That product is expected to include telephony plug-ins for the Sametime application, click-to-call and click-to-conferencing, aggregated IM, phone and calendar presence, incoming call control, an embedded softphone, and connectivity to legacy PBX and SIP-based systems. Unified messaging and voicemail capabilities are due in release 2. What’s nice about SUT it that it will truly support mixed-vendor environments, so that companies with, say, Cisco and Avaya gear already installed can use IBM’s middleware layer (and that’s essentially what SUT delivers on top of—or, underneath—the Sametime client) to give employees a single, consistent communications environment, regardless of what specific telephony and network products they have in place.
I love the Sametime products, because they’re mature, elegant and easy to use. I also think that in the past 12 months, IBM has done a terrific job of detailing and delivering new products that build on the company’s history in the collaboration arena, and that IBM is in the best position to add social networking and other Web 2.0 tools to its software in a way that meets both end user and IT staffer needs. But I still think the company should yell a little louder about its success in the marketplace.
On a recent analyst call, for instance, Bruce Morse, VP, Unified Communications & Collaboration Software, highlighted three customer case studies that actually talked about customers using a true unified communications application—not just a subset of UC features, such as VoIP or conferencing or IM. That’s unusual—none of the other vendors who’ve showcased customer stories in the past few months have said the same. Here they are, boiled down:
- A major European bank is giving Sametime to tellers, who in the past were making long-distance calls to the home office to get information on products and services as customers came up to the window. They contacted IBM in search of a way to get those telephony costs down—and ended up deploying Sametime not just save on toll charges via VoIP, but also to give tellers the presence information and chat and capabilities they need to get information on the spot. The company expects to save $3.5-$4 million dollars its first year, as well as drive new business.
- Colgate-Palmolive is using Sametime to shrink development cycles for new products by leveraging the presence and conferencing capabilities within the system. By linking various constituents in the development process, wherever they are and whenever they’re needed, the company expects to shave considerable time off the process of getting new products to market—and gain considerable revenues as a result.
- Celina Insurance Group is using Sametime to get an edge with the independent agents who sell its products and services. Because those agents sell insurance from multiple firms, Celina needs to give them excellent and immediate service and support, ensuring agents get the information they need when they need it, and collaborating with them on new offerings and opportunities.
Those are the kinds of case studies other companies want to see in order to justify their own UC deployments. I’m excited to hear more of them in 2008.