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Has IBM cracked the email challenge?

by Mark Adams, on December 1, 2014

Original article at:

IBM Verse – Email That Sings With You

It sure would be great to have email that sings with me as opposed to having an inbox that screams at you. If you’re like me, and a lot of you are, you have a love-hate relationship with email. However, since this is my preferred medium for electronic business communication, a good part of my day is spent there.

The problem is, I spend way too much time just trying to manage my email let alone use it and I’m just a solo artist. I can only begin to fathom the logistical problems that must be associated with wrangling this same task if you are an enterprise level company or even a midsize business.

You’re going to like this song!

IBM thinks that they have a better answer to this dilemma and that answer is called Verse, a new freemium social collaboration tool that is intended to reinvent email by addressing these issues and more …

Is your choir singing off-key?

The simple fact is that, particularly as a business, we collectively form a choir and that choir sounds a whole lot better when they sing together and when they are singing the same song. Instead, what we find is that there are a number of forces in our inboxes that are working against these goals. As examples …

Our email is (should be) ground zero for a number of our other critical office related functions including …

  • Our calendars and appointments
  • Project and task management
  • Communications and collaboration with team members and customers
  • Relationship building, social or otherwise

But, It gets complicated …

  • Which messages are priorities and which are not? What about those that fall in between? (How about a product that will assist with this by first learning about you and then deploying predictive analysis?)
  • I’d like to attend this meeting but … I had best jump to my calendar prior to responding. (Would you like a calendar integration that is baked into your inbox? Who wouldn’t!)
  • Why is my inbox cluttered with an endless loop of message threads when I am no longer a pertinent party? (Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to mute these?)
  • Speaking of parties … I am seeing a whole lot of people in this conversation yet I have no idea of who they are or why they are here? (Relationship mapping would be awesome!)

I saw an inbox count of over 4,000 unread messages for one individual just this morning. My guess is that their method for email management is … “If it’s important, they will email me again”. Sadly, this is a system shared by many and certainly not by choice.

While email has become the glue that holds all of these disparate tasks together, it is also the cement that binds us to our chairs. How can we break free of this grip without having to tear out the seat of our pants? The answer may be IBM Verse.

According to IBM, Verse takes a vastly different approach to enterprise email by integrating the many ways employees connect each day – via email, meetings, calendars, file sharing, instant messaging, social updates, video chats and more – through a single collaboration environment.

Faceted search will enable users to pinpoint and retrieve specific information they’re seeking across all the various types of content within their email while built-in analytics will provide an at-a-glance view that intelligently surfaces an individual’s most critical actions for the day and Verse will also have the future option to embed a Watson feature into their collaboration environment, which enables users to query Watson on a given topic and receive a direct reply with answers ranked by degree of confidence.

Verse very much has the potential (full details are not yet available) to deliver the promise of social business by effectively combining the key elements of communications, calendars and activities/tasks, social networking, document sharing, and collaborative efforts. The fact that it streamlines all of these is the icing on the cake.

To be fair, everybody has been, and continues to be, working toward a better email system. Many also say that email is either dead or doomed to extinction and that any efforts spent toward increasing its usability amounts to little more than putting lipstick on a pig. I would disagree and, if anything, I am a pragmatist and certainly not an overt optimist. Not only is the design itself gorgeous (no lipstick needed), the functionality may just surpass that.

IBM’s approach does appear to be decidedly different, and more encompassing, than other solutions I have seen. When you throw in the Watson Factor, it has to make you drool at least a little bit at the prospect of potentially being able to harness all of that computing power to either perform the mundane and less important tasks for us and maybe even to be able to identify what those tasks may be and perform those without our intervention or involvement.

IBM 2014

IBM, after legitimizing the personal business computer in 1981 and then leaving that market by selling its last vestiges to Lenovo in 2004, has noticeably been relatively quiet where I live my professional life. However, they have obviously been very busy behind the scenes and have now begun to appear more regularly, and visibly, on the main stage …

  • Analytics: $24 billion+ invested in Big Data and Analytics capabilities
  • Mobile: Forefront of mobile enterprise innovation, 4,300+ mobile patents
  • Cloud: $1.2 billion to expand global cloud footprint, plus $7 billion in key cloud acquisitions including $2 billion for SoftLayer.
  • Security: Largest enterprise security management vendor in the world, with $2 billion in dedicated security research and development and more than 3,000 security related patents.
  • Social: IBM social software used by 79 of the top global Fortune 100 companies.

Verse is the latest in a series of IBM investments that leverage their platforms in analytics, cloud, mobile, social and security. Verse is one of the first projects to stem from IBM’s $100 million investment in design innovation and It follows the recent partnerships with Apple, Toyota, and Twitter, as well as the launch of Watson Analytics, to fundamentally transform the future of work.

Verse is currently in very private beta but, you can request access here and hope for an invitation after November 25th. A general 2015 launch is planned however, in all likelihood, individual users like myself will be in for a long wait. At least I’m in line! Would you like to learn more? Here are a few additional articles for your review …