SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Jim  Burton
JIM BURTONFounder and CEO, CT Link, LLCCo-Founder, UCStrategiesJim Burton is Founder and CEO of CT Link, LLC. Burton founded the...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Jim Burton | January 24, 2012 |

 
   

IBM Leads on Social Business, But UC Still Needs Go-to-Market Strategy

IBM Leads on Social Business, But UC Still Needs Go-to-Market Strategy With the shift to social, IBM is once again leading the thought process on UC, but it has considerable work ahead of it to gain the position it should hold.

With the shift to social, IBM is once again leading the thought process on UC, but it has considerable work ahead of it to gain the position it should hold.

I spent a good part of last week at Lotusphere 2012 in Orlando, IBM's annual conference for their Lotus customers. While IBM made little mention of "unified communications", they have been a player in the UC market since before the term was coined, and years before Microsoft or Cisco entered the market. With the shift to social, structured around the IBM Connections product, IBM is once again leading the thought process on UC, but it has considerable work ahead of it to gain the position it should hold.

In a closed session for industry analysts, Mike Rhodin, SVP for IBM's Software Solutions Group, described how IBM chairman Sam Palmisano agreed to fund IBM's first forays into social business almost a decade ago, as he recognized that this was an important emerging area. Rhodin went on to point out that while the IT community may be confused about the impact of social on business, IBM is working with line of business managers in making their social business vision a reality.

IBM has recognized the direction of the market and has gone beyond UC to embracing social networking as the next major development in business, particularly where knowledge workers are concerned. During his Lotusphere keynote, Rhodin was joined on stage by Michael Chui, Senior Fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute, to discuss how work is changing and how leading-edge companies are starting to make use of social networking in both internal operations and in customer-facing activities. In response to the question of how enterprises should best start the shift to social in business, Mr. Chui responded that companies should "embed it in business processes". That sounds suspiciously like UCStrategies' definition of UC, "Communications integrated to optimize business processes".

While IBM has a great vision for social business, when it comes to UC, IBM is a prime example of a "thought leader" that became a "market laggard". IBM clearly has a vision that goes beyond "speeds and feeds", but they have effectively been left out of the UC conversation, and voice seems to be the weak link in IBM's vision. Unfortunately for IBM, the IP-PBX vendors have usurped the UC market and sold customers on the idea that the starting point for UC is an IP-PBX. This has left IBM out of the discussion, and in most cases they were not even at the table when the customer was talking about UC. (Note that we at UCStrategies have never made the IP PBX-to-UC assumption). IBM's Sametime Unified Telephony (SUT) architecture does not provide PBX functionality, and instead focuses on interoperability, using a server to interface the Sametime UC capability with virtually any TDM or IP PBX system. In the meantime, Microsoft clearly isn't gun shy about going after the PBX directly, and has had more success with its UC offerings.

IBM has had a love-hate relationship with the voice business since the introduction of its European-developed 2750 PBX in the mid-1970s and the purchase of Rolm Corp. in 1984, which was subsequently sold to Siemens in the early 1990s. While it is tempting to speculate as to whether IBM has an institutional aversion to voice based on past failures on that front, the more practical reason is that IBM's systems integration business does billions of dollars in business each year with Cisco and Avaya and they could not replace that revenue with UC any time soon.

Besides the decision to keep voice at arm's length, IBM has never invested sufficiently in the marketing, sales, channel recruitment/development and consultant programs to compete with the other UC players. Most recently, the company introduced the innovative Foundations UC/PBX product, only to withdraw it a year later.

The key for IBM will be how to take its innovative long-term vision and translate it into a practical go-to-market strategy. The company is way ahead of its UC competition in key areas such as recognizing the value of social networking and analytics, and in revolutionary ideas such as the probabilistic computing paradigm for working with unstructured data, which has been demonstrated in the ground-breaking Watson initiative.

If there was ever an example of need for an improved go-to-market strategy for UC and Social Business, IBM is it. That strategy refresh will need to start with a frank assessment of the company's strengths and opportunities and develop into a plan to build market awareness around the vision they embrace, and then support that with a sales plan that brings it to the customer. With all it has going for it, IBM should be doing a lot better in UC and will want to ensure that the UC lessons learned are applied in order to attain broad-based Social Business leadership.

The UC channel should keep an eye on the IBM go-to-market strategy. There may be some exciting new partnership opportunities.





COMMENTS



July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

April 19, 2017

Now more than ever, enterprise contact centers have a unique opportunity to lead the way towards complete, digital transformation. Moving your contact center to the cloud is a starting point, quick

July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.