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IBM Mail Next & the Future of Email UI in the SaaS Sector

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I know it sounds like a over zealot disciple screaming out new learnings that they have gleemed after a visit to the mountain top, but after attending IBM Connect 2014 this week I am convinced I have seen the direction for traditional mail.

In a move that would surprise many vendors in the market, IBM has not only adopted and grasped SaaS with both hands (which surprising they had done some time back but have failed in promoting it widely enough), but they have fundamentally changed the positioning of how we interact with email through their IBM Mail Next client vision.

And yes, I do work for IBM, although people should realise that my scribings here are my own impressions and not those of the company.

So back to what got me so excited.

Instead of a providing an interface whereby people access and manage mail and personal productivity tools (calendars, to-do lists and so on), the IBM vision for a mail client is more akin to a productivity dashboard with mail being just one of the capabilities included. Included in this 'dashboard' will be interactive links to the enterprise's Social Collaboration platform, and with the incorporation of analytics into the mixture we have a new UI; a UI that incorporates Communication and Collaboration capabilities together with the power of Analytics.

Adding Analytics into the email UI

In hindsight, incorporating analytics into a mail UI makes great sense, in that you end up with a UI that can 'learn' and prioritise mail based on factors such as the users actions, keywords, subjects and other factors. I appreciate that Google has attempted this to date dividing mail into primary, social and promotional tabs, but this is something that goes much further. The simple inclusion of indicators showing 'who you owe responses to” and “who owes you a response” being just two capabilities that are immediately apparent.

Building upon existing linkages into Social Collaboration Platforms.

Email is not collaboration. It is a communication mechanism. So refining linkages between the communication (mail) and social collaboration systems through a dashboard UI also makes perfect sense.

The idea is for email to return to its original strength and intension in being a notification tool for action (contrasted with the inappropriate use of it as a collaboration medium for documents, files, project plans and the like). The final piece of the IBM Mail Next UI is in being able to seamlessly act upon these notifications using the collaboration capabilities of your social business platform. For example, if there is an action required from a mail notification the request can be moved into a community or action plan in the IBM Social Collaboration environment where it can be managed, tracked and acted upon appropriately.

Is this the end of the IBM Notes client?

In short, no!

IBM Mail Next will be provided as an alternate UI in the SaaS sector in the second half of 2014 first and then for on premises users in 2015. IBM will continually develop and shift in the cloud first, and then make it available for on premises clients following. The simplicity of this approach is that both their SaaS offerings, and their on premises offerings use the same code base – IBM Domino.

IBM's strategy is very clear. It doesn't matter what delivery mechanism clients require for their capabilities, whether it be cloud, on premises, mobile or a mixture of all three, the choices will be available to select what is most appropriate for the situation.

It is also clear that the focus is today, as it was before. And that is upon providing a platforms with capabilities and the best UI's that will enable clients to move beyond the non productive use of mail, towards more productive forms of social collaboration.

Enjoy

Chris

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