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When companies adopt collaboration tools, they think they have solved enterprise communication and content sharing. But more often than not, many business users still spend precious hours of their workday inside the tried-and-true enterprise email inbox -- regardless of how cluttered and inefficient it might be.
IBM Verse, announced last month, is a cloud-based enterprise email platform that combines social and collaboration features, as well as analytics, to help users find the information and contacts they need quickly from their self-organizing inbox.
Cemex, a Mexican building materials supplier with operations in over 50 countries, is an early beta user of IBM Verse. Fifty employees from different departments within the company are using the platform. IBM Verse offers as a one-stop shop for all its communication and collaboration needs, said Gilberto Garcia, chief technology officer for Cemex. The rest of the enterprise still uses IBM Notes for email, as well as other enterprise social and collaboration platforms.
"[Verse is] a quite radical approach," Garcia said. "It's a really nice design that is more centered on the user, and links us to what [we need], including our social and collaboration environments."
IBM Verse rethinks enterprise email
IBM Verse integrates email, calendars, file sharing and social updates, as well as instant messaging and video chat functionality, into one browser-based platform. Unlike a traditional inbox that lists emails by date, subject or sender, Verse uses behavioral analytics to learn an employee's priorities and preferences over time and sorts content accordingly. The analytics provide an "at a glance" view that highlights an individual employee's critical actions for the day, and users also have the ability to manually filter which content they would like to prioritize on their interface, too.
Unlike IBM notes -- formerly Lotus Notes -- Verse is a Web-based service that will allow users to group messages and contacts to declutter the inbox, Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM said. The vendor recently invested $100 million in redesigning Notes, and IBM Verse is one of IBM's first products with a reimagined user interface.
Cemex is also using IBM Connections as its enterprise social networking platform and IBM Sametime for integrated voice, data and video for real-time collaboration. Even though Garcia and his team are very familiar with IBM products, the interface for Verse is very different, he said.
"For the longest time, [IMB Notes] was pretty much the same. With Verse, it looks different, but everything is in one interface so it's very easy to use," Garcia said. "It's a very simple and nimble way to manage all your conversations."
The behavior-based analytics makes IBM Verse stand out among competing enterprise email tools, he said. This feature helps employees stay productive, without getting caught up in searching for the information they need to get their jobs done, Garcia said. "If you email with certain people the most, the user and their picture or the conversation can appear on the top of the screen, or, you can filter and search for content that relates to a certain person," he said.
Social email spurs productivity
Cemex learned years ago that not every conversation is suited for email and that social and collaboration tools can help employees finish projects faster. Having one window for all its communication elements will help boost efficiency even further, Garcia said. "Feedback has been positive from users involved in the pilot program -- and other employees want Verse [to be rolled out to them], too," he said.
Cemex is currently running IBM Notes, Sametime and Connections on-premises, with the pilot of IBM Verse running in the cloud. Once IBM Verse is made generally available, Cemex will be migrating its employees from Notes to Verse, Garcia said. "It's the email evolution we were looking for, and very much aligned to what we need," he said.
IBM Verse is available for iOS and Android mobile devices, and a freemium version of the offering is being offered for individual use during the first quarter of 2015 through the IBM Cloud Marketplace.
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