UC at IBM Connect 2013
IBM had plenty to talk about when it came to Sametime. The upcoming features look pretty solid, and as far as I can tell IBM is set to deliver on them later this year.
I spent a couple days last week at IBM's Connect conference in Orlando. As an industry analyst tracking the UC space I was naturally looking for an update on where IBM is in UC. At a product level, IBM UC means Sametime for corporate instant messaging and Sametime Unified Telephony for connecting to enterprise voice systems.
At first it seemed there would be little in the way of UC content at the event--not surprising given that these days IBM prefers to talk about social this and social that. But appearances, as they say, can be deceptive.
Though it's clear that UC and Sametime no longer bask in the marketing department's limelight, it's equally clear that the Sametime product team is pumping considerable effort into enhancing them. I attended every Sametime session I could in my two and a half days at Connect 2013. Here are some of my takeaways from each:
Social Communications Strategy and the IBM Sametime Roadmap. At this session, John Del Pizzo, head of Sametime product management, reminded us of what IBM added to Sametime in 2012 (social network integration, audio and video on iPads, streamlined licensing, integration with third-party video conferencing solutions and Arkadin's audio conferencing service), and what's planned in 2013 (a software MCU; SVC video conferencing; HD video; a Unified Telephony client and multipoint video on mobile devices; cloud-based video conferencing; revamped user interface). The new video architecture is especially significant. "We believe the next version of Sametime will be the only solution you need for desktop video," Del Pizzo told the crowd.
John Del Pizzo providing some of the first details on Sametime enhancements due out later this year
Multi-Channel Communication with IBM Sametime in a Large Banking Environment. Contact center integration isn't a topic you often hear in relation to Sametime, so it was interesting to hear Michael Frericks from IT service provider Finanz Informatik describe Sametime's role in delivering multichannel functionality to Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe's previously voice-only contact center platform. Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe, a Germany-based network of more than 400 savings banks, already used Sametime for corporate instant messaging among its 3,000 employees, so it turned to IBM to integrate Sametime with its home-grown contact center platform.
The resulting solution lets customers launch chat sessions from their browsers and have them routed to Sparkasse's 1,000 or so contact center agents, who can address questions about their accounts. At this point the integration is limited to routing chat sessions to available agents, recording the interaction, and ensuring the chat sessions are secure from end-to-end. Sametime is not used to enable video conferencing sessions, something an audience member from France was very keen on learning how to do since his customers have been requesting this. Nor does Sparkasse's Sametime implementation route calls to expert agents outside the contact center or launch chat sessions from customers' mobile devices.
Frericks said that Sametime could enable some of these more advanced customer service capabilities, but Sparkassen's Sametime-based multichannel solution is still very new--it went live just last month. At this point, Sparkassen is more focused on increasing customers' use of the new chat functionality rather than complicating it with video conferencing and other advanced features.
Michael Frericks from Finanz Informatik outlines Sametime's role in a multi-channel contact center environment
Next page: IBM's Mobile Collaboration Strategy