Amidst the sea of VoIP providers/manufacturers, acquisitions, integrations, and partnerships have been making waves. Now, riding the crest of partnerships and shared integration, ShoreTel has announced the availability of their Communicator platform for IBM Sametime. While this integration is already in effect at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FDIM), availability is set to expand to the general public. While integration typically allows for more concise and comprehensive solutions, as well as easier management, what do ShoreTel and IBM hope to bring to the table? More importantly, as more and more companies integrate their services, platforms, solutions, etc. with one another, how can newer integrations make themselves distinct?

The key to both questions lies in understanding what services are being fused. First off, IBM Sametime is a UC social communications tool “providing integrated voice, data and video.” That being said, the application enables users to utilize features such as instant messaging, online meetings, telephony, video conferencing, and more. Separate from this, ShoreTel’s Communicator (also a UC tool) provides “integrated advanced call management and quality desktop video in a highly customizable interface that is easy to set up.” Additionally, ShoreTel’s Communicator is accessible via Web browsers, Windows, Mac OS, and Citrix as well as mobile devices (iPhone, Blackberry, and Nokia). Like IBM’s Sametime, ShoreTel’s platform helps users to better stay connected; however, it’s also more expansive in terms of function. For example, ShoreTel’s Communicator utilizes increased mobility and a greater capacity for integration—i.e. the communicator is able to integrate with users’ pre-existing CRM applications such as Salesforce, Microsoft Outlook, and Microsoft Dynamics.

As these differences may seem minute, some may not believe this integration is truly warranted; however, both companies believe there is a lot to gain. Pejman Roshan, Vice President of Product Management at ShoreTel, states, “The ShoreTel Communicator for Sametime provides significant timesaving for users needing to interact with rapid fire collaboration.” That said, ShoreTel’s Communicator for Sametime will bolster a host of features including visual voice mail and remote call control integrated with calendars and contacts, adjustable online, presence options that alert when a party becomes available or is unavailable, and more. While all these functions are beneficial, there is one paramount advantage, convenience. The communicator will integrate with both IBM Sametime as well as IBM Lotus notes; therefore, users will be able to manage all collaborative tasks from a familiar interface. This ultimately results in one-click convenience for instant messaging, email, and telephony interactions available/initiated via contact list.

Even with a number of advantages present, some may still question the validity of this integration. Currently, users have access to a ton of similar options—for example, Bria and other mobile softphones. Even aside from other options some may not even desire the providers’ approach. “ShoreTel recognizes that every organization has a different approach and a unique roadmap for UC. Additionally, enterprises may prefer to standardize on existing platforms without forcing end-users to switch or learn new tool when looking to enhance social communications.” Sure, there are a number of benefits to be had, but what distinguishes this solution as being a viable choice? The answer is flexibility. Both the ShoreTel Communicator and ShoreTel IP phones are able to deliver quality, cost efficient, and feature-full solutions. As such, users are able to continue to use what they’re most comfortable with while expanding the functionality and operability of their solution. For example, with a ShoreTel IP Phone, IT controls the convergence of tech while users are able to choose their preferred desktop applications and/or collaborative platforms.

The ShoreTel Communicator for IBM Sametime looks very promising. In integrating both UC offerings, users are privy to expansive feature sets, increased mobility, flexibility, cost efficiency, and familiarity. As stated above, this integration is already in effect at the FIDM. There, Roxanne Reynolds-Lair, Chief Information Officer, stated “Our students, faculty, and staff all live and breathe within collaborative projects.” That being said, this integration is ideal for any users involved in highly collaborative environments. Additionally, Lair goes on to state that the ShoreTel Communicator for Sametime is ideal for continued collaboration. “When anyone contacts us, we pride ourselves on ensuring that there is always a live person to interact with and our entire front office has embraces the simplicity of ShoreTel Communicator for Sametime as a smooth way to ensure continued collaboration—no matter who we’re communicating with.” Regardless of all praise and accreditations, this integration, though not revolutionary, looks to be a sound solution for UC users looking to continue and expand collaboration.