social connections


by Natalie Miller • @natalieatWIS

IBM Mail Next is your key to getting out of mail jail

Published March 06, 2014


IBM’s Connections platform has been the growing focus for the company’s social business efforts in the past years, and they hope the recent Mail Next announcement will go a long way in helping organizations transform into more social and connected entities.

At January’s IBM Connect 2014 conference, Big Blue announced Mail Next, an analytics-based mail offering to help users surface critical work rather than wasting time in mail jail. The tech giant also announced the full rebranding of its collaboration portfolio based on connections.

“Connections is our overall branding for our collaboration capabilities,” says Jeffrey Schick, IBM Vice President of Social Software, explaining that Notes and other IBM Connections offerings will now fall under the new branding. “Over time you’ll see Connections Chat, Connections Meetings, as an example to the rebranding of the Sametime components.”

Top 5 key considerations companies should make when looking to become more social, connected  >>


To be a more social and connected business, many organizations will need to transform themselves, says Schick. Below are the five key considerations he says companies should make when looking to become more social and connected.

1. CULTURE Does the company have a culture that can adapt to change?

2. INNOVATION Does the organization have the ability to harness the innovation from within the organization to better their results?

3. PEOPLE AND THEIR EXPERTISE Leveraging and harnessing the expertise within the organization is critical. Getting the right person, over the right opportunity, at the right time to yield the right result has a company best leveraging their most important asset, its people.

4. TECHNOLOGY Technology is not the only part of the puzzle, but you need something that will do the job.

5. PROCESS How do people do their jobs every day? Processes that bring experts and information can change how people do their work. At the Connect conference we had SIKA on stage and they explained how within their sales process, by sharing information, they were able to win more opportunities and speed their time to respond.

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With this rebrand, Connections will include integrated capabilities such as social networking, mail, meetings, chat, docs, and content. Meetings and chat will be powered by IBM Sametime. The email offering within Connections will be called Connections Mail.

In the mail space outside of Connections, the next thing that is coming in mail is IBM Mail Next. This standalone offering is built off of IBM iNotes, optimized for mobile and web, and delivered in the cloud.

“It will be browser-based, feature offline replication—offline access to your main, offline access to your local archives—and it will be very tightly integrated with your social network,” says Schick. “We think we are solving some mail problems here that previous technologies didn’t address.” 

Mail Next is designed with the idea to help users prioritize and focus on what work is important as opposed to wasting time processing their messages. One large component is organizing personal debt. “I open up my email, and I have at the end of the day 20 or 30 emails still open, with things I might have read but I still own something or someone owes me something still and I’m not getting to done,” explains Schick.

Waste a lot of time at work?  >>


According to IBM:

• The average employee check their mail 36 times in an hour

• Employees spend 9 hours per week searching for information

• On average, 304 business emails are received each week

• Employees spend 16 minutes refocusing after handling incoming email

• Organizations lose:

   - $1,250 per user in annual productivity because of time spent dealing with spam

   - $1,800 per user on unnecessary emails from co-workers

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IBM Notes 9.0.1 is available today, and IBM’s roadmap still shows they will provide a client for the foreseeable future.

“The Notes client today is a rich client that people know and have deployed extensively,” he continues. “That client and that Notes brand is not going away. I chose not to change it as well. As we move into this new browser-based experience that supports offline access to your mail and is tightly integrated to your social network, we felt that that represented a next step in mail and we would associate the Connections brand with what, but we did not chose to take existing Notes client and just change its name and change it from what people expect today.”

IBM wants its customers to consider moving to iNotes, as that experience will be a natural lead to Mail Next. In the past, customers have been reluctant to move to iNotes because they couldn’t take their applications with them to the cloud. To address this, IBM has announced updates to their Notes Browser plugin that allows applications to run in a browser with no modification.

Rob Axelrod, Technical architect and principal of Technotics, first got started in Notes 20 years ago and called the rebranding a sad, but logical progression. “All good things do come to an end,” he says, “I think this did make a fair amount of sense in a lot of ways ... It looks like IBM has some exciting things that they want to do around the new mail client, around the Connect Mail and I think that this is a logical jumping off point to start with some new branding.”

New features of Mail Next  >>


• Solve and organize personal debt—what is owed to you and what you owe others.

• Organize information based upon your network, communities, and topics. Use analytics to bring to the forefront that which is most important to you.

• Team analytics to easily see who is in a distribution list or a meeting invite and see how you are connected to them.

• In-line preview of all attachments

• One click share with your social network

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A few design concepts
A “favorite” contacts bar across the top allows for mail to be surface based on what is important to the users. Favorites are linked to the directory, management chain or groups of people (i.e., sales team). Users can hover over and click on a Favorite’s icon to look at messages from that person, review calendar entries they have with them, or start a chat. Users also have the ability to go directly to the inbox by clicking the Inbox button in the top right.

The calendar located in the middle of the page aims to quickly show users all the information they need to know for a specific meeting in one spot. For example, participants’ pictures are under the name of the meeting.

In terms of the personal debt component Schick mentions, there are “needs action” and “waiting on action” modules at the bottom of the mail, which helps the user focus on what is most important and due on a particular today and helps them recall what else is waiting.

IBM will continue to release information about Mail Next throughout 2014 and plans for a beta program for Mail Next in the summer of 2014.

Celia Hamilton, Strategic Planning Manager,, contributed to this report. Follow her at @Celia_WIS.



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