Attention Amazon.com and Google! Yoo-hoo, Yahoo! Mahalo, Salesforce.com! Adobe and Microsoft, listen up! Make room in the clouds for your newest playmate there: IBM.
At IBM's recent Lotusphere conference, the computing giant announced a major new move toward the cloud with its LotusLive portfolio. IBM Lotus users can now find familiar Lotus solutions -- email, collaboration, and Web conferencing -- residing online at LotusLive.com. The Lotusphere conference also marked the unveiling of several partnership and integration announcements, most notably better integration with Salesforce.com.
IBM's recent news touches on many of 2009's hot topics: collaboration and Web conferencing, mobility, and social networking. Tim Hickernell, senior analyst with Info-Tech Research Group, points out that offering Lotus products via the software-as-a-service (SaaS) delivery model is particularly compelling for smaller shops that may have lacked the means to acquire Lotus' collaboration and productivity tools via the on-premises versions. Hickernell also points out that many of the new Lotus developments involve integrating the tools and technologies with users operating within their client of choice.
Here are several of the other CRM-related announcements coming out of Lotusphere:
- Salesforce.com: In what Hickernell calls "a much-needed improvement," IBM announced tighter integration of Lotus with Salesforce.com. "The level of integration is already there with Outlook and the Microsoft platform, but what this does is it gives especially salespeople the option...[of] living more within the [Lotus] Notes client or they can live more within Salesforce," he says, underscoring the importance of the revamped partnership. "When you don't have this level of integration, and you're a mobile or a field salesperson, depending upon the mobile device...it's really been a two-horse game. You've got synchronization with your company's email and calendar and then you've got Salesforce.com -- or whoever your CRM vendor is -- as a separate app on the phone." By tightly integrating Salesforce.com and Lotus, joint users no longer have to go to two places for field sales.
- SAP: IBM and SAP announced a joint software product called Alloy, which essentially connects Lotus Notes with the SAP Business Suite. Alloy repositions data and information from the SAP products in the Lotus Notes format. This is just the latest in a long line of joint efforts from the two software giants. During the conference, IBM noted the pair's 35-year-long history -- SAP, in fact, was founded by veterans from IBM -- and estimated that the two vendors have joined forces to bring customers united software offerings at more than 13,000 client sites.
- LinkedIn: IBM announced that it is now "linked" with social-networking site LinkedIn, a move that Hickernell calls smart -- but overdue. (SAP, for example, joined several companies in taking a $23 million equity stake in LinkedIn in September 2008.) "More and more, salespeople are using LinkedIn as an augmented or subsidiary CRM database," Hickernell says, adding that integration of LinkedIn contacts with Lotus Notes could be a valuable capability.
- Skype: The software provider that allows users to make telephone calls over the Internet announced plans to integrate its voice and video with LotusLive. The integration will enable customers to use Skype from within LotusLive to reach out to their LotusLive contacts.
- Research in Motion (RIM): IBM also extended its existing relationship with mobile provider RIM, the maker of the popular BlackBerry handheld devices. IBM's CRM software for BlackBerrys will now include Lotus software developed explicitly for those handhelds.
- iEnterprises: Mobile and on-demand CRM player iEnterprises is making its products easier to use with LotusLive. "You can leverage the information inside of LotusLive -- all of the collaborative information, the social networking information -- and then use that within the CRM to make the channel cycle shorter and to correspond more effectively with customers and prospects," explains John Carini, chief executive officer of iEnterprises, as well as the company's chief architect of wireless.
- Interactive Intelligence: The provider of Internet Protocol telephony solutions, announced developments in its joint efforts with IBM on a unified communications offering, primarily an integration between its own Customer Interaction Center contact center suite and IBM's Lotus Sametime collaboration software. According to a statement released by Interactive Intelligence, the integration will enable beter communication between contact center agents and business users through "presence synchronization, companywide directory, desktop client enhancements, and mobility features."
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