Email has been in the news lately. Not any specific message, but the platform itself. Following the announcements of Google’s Inbox, and Microsoft’s Clutter, IBM recently unveiled IBM Verse, a cloud-based service that blends mobile, social and analytics that aims to “fundamentally change the way people work.”
“We’ve applied analytics to enterprise email in an innovative way,” said Bob Picciano, senior VP for IBM Information and Analytics Group, at a launch event in New York. “It’s about engaging with people, driving relationships, and highlighting important tasks, not managing messages.”
IBM Verse looks to integrate the many ways people collaborate – including email, calendars, file sharing, instant messaging, social updates, video chats and more – through a single platform. The idea is to create software that allows large global teams to collaborate at scale like those two-pizza small teams enterprises use to actually get things done, said Phil Gilbert, general manager of IBM Design.
Verse will enlist personalization to automatically categorize incoming email based on the content of the message and user’s behavior. According to the company, IBM Verse “uses built-in analytics to provide an ‘at-a-glance’ view that intelligently surfaces an individual’s most critical actions for the day. By learning unique employee preferences and priorities over time, it provides instant context about a given project as well as the people and teams collaborating on it. This is in contrast to most freely available mail services that mine a user’s inbox to increase advertising and monetize that data in other ways – an unwelcome proposition for business users concerned about privacy or which operate in regulated industries such as healthcare and finance.”
IBM also invested a lot in the platform’s design. According to Jeff Schick, General Manager for IBM’s Enterprise Social Solutions division, “when you launch Verse, you will see a strip of photos across the top representing individuals, teams and topics. You’ll click once to drill down, which will take you to emails, advanced search (the first instance of faceted search’ applied to the inbox), or content related to that individual, group or topic. Red dots on the photos signal that something demands your attention, so you’ll typically click on them first.”
On any email thread, a user can click through to see a visual tree of all the people connected, how they’re connected to each other, and their positions in the organization. The platform is programmed to “learn” over time, and can suggest new people to add.
Furthermore, where traditional email clients are presented in a chronological list, Verse turns this around by filtering emails based on who sent them and how important these senders are to the recipient. Verse studies user habits to determine which contacts are important but users can also manually set senders to be highlighted so emails from these people will be prioritized.
Over time, IBM said Verse will learn the most important items to surface for each user, and a future update will allow businesses to embed a Watson module allowing employees to query it on specific topics.
The beta release for Verse just came out, but only is available for select enterprise partners and clients. A freemium version will be released for individual use during the first quarter of 2015 through the IBM Cloud Marketplace. To attract those who work on the move, IBM Verse will also be available as an iOS and Android app.
Sounds like it will be an innovative entry into the enterprise email sphere. We’ll see how well it is adopted in the year ahead.