Category: Enterprise systems


Location: Armonk, N.Y.

Founded: 1911

Technology: Sametime, the first instant messaging and e-meeting technology built specifically for corporations

Key customers: Shaw Pittman LLP (a multinational law firm), Ryder System Inc.

How It Works: Sametime provides secure real-time instant messaging capabilities for businesses by integrating the software directly into their corporate networks. Systems administrators have full control over who can view corporate information, while also ensuring that only employees can send messages within the system, which differs from free instant messaging software such as Yahoo Inc.'s Messenger.

Tip: Sametime is easy to install but must be specially configured to operate through ports in corporate firewalls.

The old ways of communication just weren't cutting it anymore at the law firm of Beckman & Hirsch PLC.

Using intercoms and internal e-mail systems, the attorneys and staff in the 10-person Burlington, Iowa-based practice were continually having to halt their meetings with clients and other work to talk on the intercom or check for e-mail.

But that's all changed since Beckman & Hirsch deployed IBM's Lotus Sametime, a corporate instant messaging and electronic meeting application that's helping the firm react to messages and information with fewer distractions.

David Beckman, one of the principals at the law firm, says his personal secretary moved to another town, but that hasn't created a ripple in how they work together. "I can do my work and never realize that the secretary handling this is 100 miles away," he says.

When using e-mail or intercoms, employees have to stop and check for messages or react when the intercom sounds. But with Sametime, staff members can quietly and efficiently respond to one another through pop-up messages on their computer screens, even while they're on the phone, increasing their productivity and billable hours. Also available are collaboration tools such as whiteboards that allow people to work together in real time.

Beckman says Sametime offers major benefits to his business, such as secure communications and encryption - features not found in the free instant messaging applications available on the Internet, including Yahoo Messenger and America Online Inc.'s Instant Messenger. "It isn't just, 'Go on AOL and everybody get in a chat room,' " Beckman says. "Particularly in the legal field, confidentiality is important."

What's in store

"[Instant messaging is] definitely becoming infrastructure, but it's what you do with it that gives you bang for the buck. It squeezes out time and waste. Instant messaging is going to become a critical part of that," says Neil McDonald, an analyst at Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn. "Sametime is one of the most visible business IM products on the market because of its inclusion in IBM's software offerings."


Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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