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Lessons from Lotusphere: It's Not Just About the Products

At Lotusphere 2009 in Orlando, there were several keynotes, lots of breakout sessions, and some very cool demos (both on stage, on the show floor, and in the Innovation Lab). Analysts were treated to not one, but three Press & Analyst Briefings, where we got to ask IBM execs questions (some of which were answered, some of which weren't). We also got the opportunity to have one-on-one meetings, and to speak with various IBM representatives. During one of these meetings, I had a chance to chat with Marisa Viveros and Laurence Guihard from IBM's Global Technology Services (IGS) group.One of IBM's competitive advantages is its professional services organization (see this for more info on IGS). IBM Global Services is an important part of IBM's overall UC program, offering a comprehensive suite of strategy-and-assessment and architecture-and-design services, as well as integration, deployment and managed services. IBM is one of the few companies that really emphasizes its professional services organizations--as well it should.

IGS does many UC implementations, and has insights into what customers are doing and planning. In the brief time I had to spend with Marisa and Laurence, I asked for a few examples of UC projects their team has been working on. They noted that they are seeing a lot of activity in the public sector and have many references in UC, especially in Europe, and that these are full deployments, rather than just pilots.

Until recently, IGS has been involved in many voice projects and IM projects, but not projects that include and integrate both IM and voice together. They are now seeing progress in this area, with many more clients integrating voice, IM, and presence. For example, IGS recently did a project for a municipality in Spain integrating Avaya telephony and IBM Lotus Sametime. A Belgian government organization used IGS to provide application integration and to integrate its Cisco telephony with Sametime.

Despite the challenging economy, IGS is finding that there is still some activity in the financial sector. The organization recently provided a full solution for a large international financial firm, integrating the company's telephony with IBM's IM/presence capabilities for a UC solution that is helping the company gain a competitive advantage (and because of this competitive advantage, the company does not want to be named). In addition to UC, social networking integration is also gaining steam, both as a standalone solution and when integrated with telephony and IM. IGS has seen a big uptake in the last four months for companies that are combining IBM's social networking products with telephony and IM. Perhaps the area that is growing the most is video, including both high-end video (telepresence) and video on the desktop. Desktop video is also being integrated with telephony and Sametime to provide click to conference capabilities, making the videoconferencing experience faster and easier.

Leveraging its own technology, IGS has deployed high-end video within IBM, which is helping the company maintain closer relationships with its groups in Asia. IBM is using video for sales training over video, as well as for mentoring workers in Asia.

Most likely the UC market will slow down this year because of the impact of the economy, but it was nice to hear that a good number of companies are not dropping their UC projects, but are moving forward with them in order to gain a competitive advantage. What happens later in 2009 may be another story, but for now, it's reassuring to hear from IBM, IGS, and IBM customers, that UC still has a somewhat promising future.