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Give Sametime its due expert Steven Gerhardt thinks some organizations don't give Sametime its due. Sure, it's a corporate instant messaging tool. But after spearheading four Sametime installations, Gerhardt, vice president of Houston-based consultancy Ixion LLC, thinks an added value lies in its Web-conferencing features. He recently talked to news editor Jon Panker about what he's observed about Sametime.

From your observations, do most companies see a benefit in using an enterprise instant messaging tools? After all, they could just use AIM or other consumer tools for free.
Overall, I think specific industries [do]. Government-related clients or state and local agencies or security-conscious corporations are interested in large-scale deployments of this if they're interested in instant messaging. They like that the server and the entire environment is controlled and deployed by them and it's not something in [a] shared server environment. From an AOL Instant Messaging perspective, you can use it, but you're opening yourself to using their resources and so forth. What about a developer?
That's where the software developer's kit (SDK) comes in. From a development perspective, reading that [IBM] redbook and understanding the SDK usage and where it can be applied is very good. As a user and consultant, what are your favorite aspects of Sametime?
I like the AIM [AOL Instant Messaging] interoperability. I can put AOL users on my list. And I can run it inside with my own services. And then lastly, [I like] the desktop sharing. I can throw up a screen and have somebody take control of my desktop during a [sales] demo. Are there any special skills a developer needs in order to work with Sametime?
Just the API skill set. That would be what's in the IBM redbook. If you're working with the HTML Sametime Links SDK, which is the Web-based online awareness, then you just need to know simple HTML and Javascript in order to make that happen. If it's something deeper where you want to write awareness into Outlook, then you are going to have to know the Java or CAPI piece of it. When organizations evaluate Sametime or its corporate competitors, what don't they understand?
There's still the 'My daughter uses instant messenger' understanding. That's the message we have to overcome. [Sametime] is more than instant messaging. Even some [Lotus] busines partners get the instant messaging part of the story, but they don't get the entire part of the story -- the 'Hey, it's Web conferencing' story. People who do understand Web conferencing are those who consistently sell via [online conferencing tools] WebEx or Placeware. Those are ASP solutions where you can go out and share your desktop or demonstrate [a product] via a community. You can also host your own conference using Sametime that way. The people who understand that and get it are people who use those tools in terms of selling. What does an admin need to know to successfully run Sametime?
The [Lotus authorized education] course and the certification are very good. I have heard good feedback on that. There are other benefits of enterprise IM tools too, right?
There's logging, but I don't see people doing that. I don't see that as a big perspective, but it may be a consideration for some. I can't give you a percentage, but I would say that most are not going to archive or log a chat session. It's just a huge resource or overhead, and I can't see organizations doing that from a cost perspective. Maybe a large law firm [would]. What is Sametime installation like? Can you do it in-house or do you need a consultant's help?
We do it in a day for small customers. In larger customers, typically 10,000 seats would take a month, maybe three to four weeks. I'd say a prerequisite would be for management to send somebody to the [Sametime] 3.0 certification class at a Lotus-authorized education center. And once they take the class and the certification is done in a small environment and you've got one Domino administrator who has taken the class, they're free to go. It's not turning a lot of dollars for us [as consultants] 'cause it is a fairly easy implementation. Where the largest customers are going to benefit [from consulting] is with a mixed environment with some Outlook use. Then we can come in and do the plug play with that piece. For a shop running Lotus technologies, does Sametime offer any added perks?
Just the knowledge, I think. You already have some understanding of Domino as a developer for the SDK. You're building in awareness to Web applications and so forth. I'm not sure there are a whole lot of integration points. That's what makes it kind of nice because you don't have to know a whole lot about Domino. For example, we use it now at a client who has 12,000 seats [and] a huge Domino infrastructure. They're deploying a Sametime infrastructure, but I can't see much crossover. The application as a service being Sametime can run on its own. And do shops have trouble justifying Sametime ROI?
There are two sides that go back to the same themes. In terms of instant messaging, it's a soft ROI. I do see some results from saving on telephone costs and stuff, but those may not be as evident as the direct return on my investment if I'm using it as a Web conferencing tool. If I'm able to sell my product and do a demonstration via a Web conference, then I can see the positive revenue. That's not just saving me business, it's able to drive business. So the chat is on the expense side; the conferencing and collaborative piece used from a sales force perspective [can deliver] hard ROI.


More resources on Sametime in this Featured Topic

Sametime bots add muscle to IM

Competitors tread on Sametime's turf How's end-user training?
I'd put end-user training on the easy side of the spectrum, looking at software in general. It's Web-based, so there's a big leg up there, and the Java IM client is pretty straight forward.

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