Thursday, February 7, 2013

Connect 2013

You can find a more detailed overview of the conference from me on the CDW Solutions Blog, but here are some personal reflections.

I'm not exactly sure which year I first began going to Lotusphere--I believe it was 1999, soon after I began working in the e-Learning field at the University of Wisconsin Learning Innovations.  Whoever assembled the big picture mural at the conference -- thank you!  It was quite fun looking back and remembering.

I think I've missed one since 1999.  Like for many others, this conference has become like a family reunion for me.  It's the only time of year I get to see many of these folks.  In fact, I always get to see my former boss from UWLI who has long worked for IBM.  I couldn't resist giving her a bear hug this year. I always come away from this conference excited by the product direction, insight and the great innovations Lotus IBM puts into their products.  I love the time with friends, business partners and coworkers.

I did hear some grumbles about the OGS, but I was quite happy with it.  No, Joe did not have the star appeal of Neal Armstrong or Walter Cronkite, but what they are doing at is such a great example of what is possible through social collaboration that I'm very thankful to have heard their story.  (Plus I loved the short video of The Man with a Turnip for a Head.  Not sure how to embed it here, so just go see it on their website if you haven't.)  And I know not much time was given to Notes 9 in the OGS, and I'd agree that more should have been.  But there were many sessions available to get that information, both before and at the conference. 

I could not help but be impressed by the pace of innovation happening with Connections--and that it seems the team there is really listening to suggestions from the community regarding where enhancements are needed and acting on those suggestions.

I did spend some time with some newbies at the conference.  It was a bit hard to watch them get excited, and then get frustrated.  Comments along the lines of, "Wow!" and "I had no idea IBM software could do that" and "they are so far ahead of the competition."  Only to be followed by things like, "Whoever in IBM is responsible for advertising should be ashamed of themselves." Sigh. I've tilted at those windmills to no effect, but maybe they will wield the lance better than I.  I've always found it hard to balance between reciting "It's the best of all possible worlds" and letting the emperor know his suit is just plain ugly. 

So I head back to tend my garden (though it is covered in snow).  It was absolutely wonderful to see so many wonderful people again at the conference.  I hope I have the good fortune to do so again in 2014.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cisco Releases Major Update to Plug-in for Sametime

Cisco released a major update in December to their integration with Sametime, which they are now calling CUCI-IBM.  The plug-in is a great step forward over previous integration options, and includes:
  • streamlined UI
  • integrated softphone
  • video calls
  • call history
  • call forwarding, and much more.
You can read a more in-depth overview of the plug-in and see several screenshots of it in the posting I made on the CDW Solutions blog.

One integration point I didn't mention in the overview is that both phone status and phone control options carry over into the Sametime meeting experience.  This makes it easy to quickly dial someone you've just brought into an instant meeting, or start a conference call with all of the meeting participants.

With CUCI-IBM, Cisco has closed some of the feature gap between its plug-ins and IBM's SUT solution.  I've compared the two in the past, so let's examine where things stand with Cisco's latest release.
  • In the past, SUT had the advantage over Cisco's plug-ins because of SUT's built-in softphone.  As I mentioned above, the latest CUCI-IBM plug-in includes a built-in softphone, erasing SUT's past advantage in this regard.
  • Conference call usability has improved significantly, including support for drag and drop addition of callers.  However, I'd still have to give the nod to SUT over CUCI-IBM on overall usability.  Even with drag and drop, adding users is a multi-step process involving selecting number to call, connecting, and joining users to the call.  Further, CUCI-IBM does not include conference call controls for the moderator nor current speaker indications available from SUT.
  • CUCI-IBM now includes call history as well as call forwarding.
  • CUCI-IBM now includes the ability to do SIP video calls.
It is important to note that where past plug-ins from Cisco have been free assuming you had licensed the backend Cisco systems, that is not necessarily the case with CUCI-IBM.  Be sure to identify what licensing costs may apply when evaluating CUCI-IBM for your organization.

There are some areas where SUT continues to have advantages.  These include:
  • in-call device switching (call forwarding in CUCI-IBM comes close though)
  • rule-based call routing
  • custom phone book
  • mobile integration
  • SSO (There are some customers where this is a huge issue.)
  • multi-vendor pbx support
So if any of the above are critical features for your organization, you should continue to look to SUT.  But if you've been holding off on integrating your Cisco telephony environment with your Notes or Sametime environment because of feature limitations of past plug-ins from Cisco, you should really re-evaluate that decision.  These UC features provide significant benefits to end-users.  If you don't find a way to bring them to your Notes users, your organization may not think such UC integration isn't possible with Notes.  And your organization wouldn't be the first to look to migrate to another platform because of incomplete information about what is possible.

Friday, January 4, 2013

CDW Customer Event at IBM Connect

Once again CDW will be hosting a customer appreciation event at the IBM Connect conference.  This year's event will be held Tuesday evening, January 29th, and will involve great food, bowling and billiards.
If you are a CDW customer attending the conference and would like to attend this event, reach out to your CDW Account Manager and ask for an invitation. Or you can email me at for more details. I look forward to seeing you there!