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 >>

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.


Enterprise Connect Orlando 2018
March 12-15 | Orlando, FL

Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem

Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

March 7, 2018

Video collaboration is experiencing significant change and innovation-how can your enterprise take advantage? In this webinar, leading industry analyst Ira Weinstein will present detailed analysis

February 21, 2018

Business agility has become the strongest driver for enterprises to begin migrating their communications to the cloud-and its a benefit that enterprises are already realizing. To gain this benefit

February 7, 2018

Enterprises are starting to grasp the critical importance of security and compliance in their team collaboration deployments. And once the risks are mitigated, your enterprise can integrate these n

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
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 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.