In December, Cisco provided a tasty holiday treat by releasing their latest software that integrates Cisco’s telephony systems with IBM’s social communications platform, IBM Sametime. Cisco calls it CUCI-IBM (Cisco UC Integration for IBM Sametime), pronounced “Cookie” IBM. My wife would tell you I’m a fan of cookies in general, but I’m quite excited by this CUCI that provides significant new functionality over past voicemail and phone control plug-ins from Cisco.
For those not familiar with IBM Sametime, it provides a feature-rich unified communications platform that integrates with both Microsoft and IBM collaboration environments. With simple and affordable per-user licensing of Sametime Standard, organizations gain:
- Secure instant messaging
- Fast web conferencing
- PC audio & video conferencing
- Mobile UC clients
- Integration into email, office and collaboration environments
- Toolkit for extending functions to other applications
CUCI-IBM utilizes the open framework of Sametime to provide plug-ins that incorporate Cisco telephony features directly into the Sametime client. These features are accessible in the standalone Sametime client (typically used by Outlook users), or the embedded Sametime client for IBM Notes. Let’s take a look at these features in greater detail.
First, you are able to select what telephony device to control with CUCI-IBM. You can choose to control your desk phone, Cisco’s IP Communicator software, or the new integrated softphone. If you plan to be away from your desk, you can also set your call-forwarding to another number.
I am a big fan of the new softphone. Unlike previous versions that only worked with the separately installed IP Communicator, this softphone is built into CUCI-IBM. That means that whether you’re placing or receiving calls, it is all part of the native Sametime experience and doesn’t open separate programs which can be confusing to end-users.
Regardless of which device you choose to control, incoming calls provide a revised prompt on your screen allowing you to answer the call, or decline the call which sends the call to voicemail. If the caller is also a Sametime user, the prompt contains the additional option to ‘Chat Reply’. This option sends the call to voicemail, and at the same time opens a new instant messaging session with the caller. This is a nice option if you’re not available when the call comes in—perhaps you’re listening in to a conference call—but you want to provide immediate feedback to the caller.
If you select to answer the call, the call activates on your speakerphone, phone headset or computer speakers, depending upon which device you are controlling. A call control window with a new UI opens that, as before, allows you to: put the call on hold, merge it with another call, hang up, or surface a dial pad to interact with IVR systems. New call control capabilities include being able to:
- mute your line,
- transfer the call,
- conference in others,
- and ‘dock’ the call control window to the chat window.
Possibly the most significant addition to CUCI-IBM is the new ability to escalate your call to a video call. The video call leverages the new video capabilities of Cisco’s Call Manager environment, not the video from Sametime. This means you can now leverage point-to-point video from Sametime without putting any additional load on your Sametime servers.
Cisco has also vastly improved the ability to initiate conference calls from Sametime. The UI in prior versions was so bad as to be mostly unusable. This new UI is very easy to use. You can start a conference call by selecting multiple people from your Sametime contact list and selecting to conference them together. You can add more people to the call by dragging people from the Sametime contact list and dropping them onto the conference call window. You can also use the integrated search field to look up another person and add them to the call. Or you can even enter an external phone number into the search bar to join that extension into the conference bridge.
Of course, you can still do click-to-call from the Sametime contact list, as well as anywhere you have Sametime presence inside of IBM Notes (email, calendar, contacts, live text, custom applications). The phone number options for a user include all phone numbers stored in your LDAP, as well as any you’ve personally added to a contact. You can also call out to any number by simply typing it into the Sametime search field. And with the latest version of Sametime, phone numbers or names that occur in a chat are recognized as ‘live text’ and allow a user to click-to-call directly from them.
Like past versions of its plugins, CUCI-IBM provides you direct access to listen to and manage your voicemail from your Sametime client. Phone and Sametime presence appears next to the voicemail, and you can return the call through a simple click-to-call interface. Playback of messages is now handled in place rather than launching a separate player, and you can forward a voicemail to another person via email. You can now call your voicemail inbox from CUCI-IBM, and a new tab has been added to allow you to review your call history. This shows all calls received, missed and placed from your Cisco extension.
If you’d like to see a live demo of CUCI-IBM in action and will be at the upcoming IBM Connect conference, stop by the CDW booth. Or if you miss us at the conference, we’ll be happy to setup an individual time to speak with your company.
CDW has helped many customers integrate their Cisco telephony environments with their IBM Sametime and IBM Notes environments. We’re happy to share our cookies with you. Do you have questions about Sametime or CUCI-IBM? Post them below. We’d love to extend the conversation with you and help simplify communication and increase productivity in your organization.