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Sametime provides real value, a simple interface, and full mobility.
https://www.trustradius.com/voipHCL Sametime (formerly from IBM)Unspecified6.116101
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Updated February 12, 2016

Sametime provides real value, a simple interface, and full mobility.

Score 8 out of 101
Vetted Review
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Overall Satisfaction with IBM Sametime

IBM Sametime is a collection of real-time collaboration and communication tools. It solves several problems and fills various needs across our entire organization, which I'll summarize as bullet points.

We have not yet integrated IBM Sametime with our phone system.

First, a list of the features we use which may or may not be unique to IBM Sametime:

  • Presence Awareness: Quickly find someone who's available to help.
  • Chat: For quick questions, notifications, or file transfers, Chat is the go-to communication tool.
  • Web Meetings: For formal training, with people on-site or anywhere in the world.
  • Screen-Sharing: For cross-training, technical support, or co-creating content.
  • Audio & Video Conferencing: We've just started using this feature but we've got great feedback from traveling Sales and internals alike.
  • Mobile Apps: From an iOS device I can join or start a web meeting, see who's available for a chat, and make or take video calls.

Additional benefits we've found:

  • Savvy users log into a IBM Sametime Web Meeting to give a presentation, rather than search through
    thousands of files on a shared drive before a meeting.
  • If on-site with a customer, our sales person can get onto IBM Sametime via the mobile app and get quick responses to time-sensitive questions.
  • Chat on iOS can optionally show a logged-on user's GPS location (town & state). This has been really handy on multiple occasions and does not seem to impact the iOS device's battery life very much.
  • File transfer is faster via IBM Sametime than via email. Users love that!

Here are some specific aspects of Sametime that we really appreciate:

  • Integration with IBM Notes: Not just an add-on, but full integration means it's really quick and easy to book a web meeting with dozens of other people, or see if the person who just sent you an email is available to chat about it. Your chat status changes to "in a meeting" automatically if you've got something booked on your calendar.
    • We use Notes' SmartUpgrade feature to deploy updates to the embedded IBM Sametime components of Notes along with Notes FixPacks.
  • Centralized Settings / Preferences Management: It's an XML file, yes, but the amount of stuff we can tweak is extremely useful. This reduces the learning curve for users and keeps them from changing the wrong settings.
  • Rest API lets our developers easily integrate basic chat functionality into web apps, etc.
  • Sametime's web-based interfaces are "zero load", requiring no plug-ins to be installed to join a meeting, launch a meeting, or use chat in a browser. A plugin is required only if you want to share your screen.
  • Integration with IBM Notes is very tight. Sametime's chat status can change according to your Notes calendar. You can easily see if someone who just emailed you is available to chat. Your chat History is right inside Notes as well.
  • IBM's mobile apps are top notch. We automated the apps for our users thanks to IBM's work with third party MDMs. This made it very simple for us to deploy the Sametime mobile apps -- Chat and Meetings -- and get new capabilities such as Audio & Video mobilized quickly.
  • No down time, ever. The rock solid WebSphere back-end of Sametime means the environment is always up. Period.
  • In web meetings, even with audio & video enabled, we cannot stream pre-recorded video such as a training video in MOV format. It seems like this should be simple but I'm told only 1 or 2 competitors can do it.
  • The "WebPlayer" plugin that's required for screen-sharing, etc. is not easy to push out. IBM does not supply a typical .MSI file for easy deployment to Windows clients so we had to come up with our own work-around.
  • As is typical with most IBM software, the error messages -- though admittedly quite rare in Sametime -- are not helpful.
  • We do not have WebSphere experts on staff so there were considerable consulting costs to install and update the Sametime environment, which required 8 VM servers in our environment. Once up and running, though, the environment needs little or no "care and feeding" to operate.
  • Faster response times to inquiries internally, from tech support to HR to marketing and finance. This means employees are generally happy with the technology and have improved their efficiency overall.
  • Better customer service from the Sales staff who have embraced the technology. The ability to reach in and see who's available and get a quick answer for a customer is very satisfying for us and for our customers.
  • If there is a negative impact, it's been that some people see Chat as "distracting" and who have complained that this technology hurts us more than helps us. At the end of the day, Sametime is just another tool and we have to train our users to use their tools appropriately.
IBM's Sametime solution did not require that third party users have their own account, which was a big win over Skype at the time we reviewed that solution. Additionally we found users were frustrated with GoToMeeting and WebEx (the two big names at the time) because plugins had to be downloaded and installed (and frequently updated) for those to work.

Not only was Sametime a "zero-load", no plug-in client for anyone participating, but it had a cleaner interface. Integration with IBM Notes was a big factor for us initially, and as time went on we were happy to see IBM provide solid iOS apps as well.

Another advantage for us was our users could make and keep their web meeting rooms, fully stocked with presentations and other files, ready to go whenever they needed to use them. Integration with the Notes calendar meant it was easy to send out an invitation with the correct link.
IBM Sametime is extremely well suited in an environment where IBM Notes is used for collaboration, since this is what it was designed for. IBM Sametime is also designed to scale well to handle thousands of users (or more), so it is suitable for large to very large deployments.

IBM Sametime would probably not be well suited for environments smaller than, say, 500 users. This is primarily due to the high cost of consulting to get the environment installed and kept up to date. However, organizations that size are probably looking at cloud services anyway.

HCL Sametime (formerly from IBM) Feature Ratings

Hosted PBX
Not Rated
Multi-level Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
Not Rated
User templates
Not Rated
Call reports
Not Rated
Directory of employee names
Not Rated
Answering rules
Not Rated
Call recording
Not Rated
Call park
Not Rated
Call screening
Not Rated
Message alerts
Not Rated
Video conferencing
9
Audio conferencing
9
Mobile app for iOS
10
Mobile app for Android
10

Using IBM Sametime

Across the board, from customer service to traveling Sales to IT and manufacturing staff.
Mainly the support person assists with end-user training and adjusting the configuration to best support what end-users want. Secondarily this person provides some technical support but most of that is outsourced to a consultant. Sametime is a complex suite of technology and the downside of that is expensive consulting is needed to initially setup the environment and then perform any major upgrades.
  • Presenting across geographies. While we don't claim it reduces travel expenses, Sametime does increase the amount of time remote teams spend working together without increasing any travel expenses.
  • Cross-training. Whether for new hires or current users that are using new software or processes, sharing my screen is invaluable. Far better than sending dozens of screenshots via email!
  • Connecting otherwise disconnected people. Traveling sales people are often disconnected from the rest of their team unless they go out of their way to check in. With Sametime, the internal team can tell when the Sales person is available or on the move.
  • Fast file transfers. Many of our users still rely on email to get files to other users. However, that introduces delays and can be frustrating. By using Sametime to transfer files instead, the transfer is practically instantaneous.
  • One issue we've had for years is when someone wanted to present a slide deck from a PC in another office, they either had to copy their presentation to an "open" shared drive (clogged with thousands of files), take their file on a USB stick, or email it to someone who had access to the presentation room. With Sametime meetings, users can load up a meeting room (which they can keep and re-use for repeating meetings) and just log into the web interface to present.
  • Sales sometimes field complaints when on-site at a customer. They used to take dozens of photos and email those photos to basically everyone they could think of, hoping to get a quick response. Now they can contact a person who's actually available and, using Sametime's file transfer, take a photo on their phone and immediately transfer it to that person. It saves a lot of time and reduces confusion and re-work.
  • Using AV calling from smartphones, you can point the device's camera to a scene -- say, machinery or some kind of process -- and share that with the meeting attendees. This has been a great way to "live stream" to a private, internal audience and has the benefit of not cluttering up users' devices with large video files.
  • We are hoping to reduce travel expenses as users get more comfortable with AV calling direct from their PCs and mobile devices.
  • At some point we would like to integrate Sametime with our phone system. It should not be difficult but it is just not a priority for us.
Sametime is now an embedded experience for our users. They know it, they like it, they use it, and they expect it to be wherever they are. Because it is pretty easy to use and NEVER goes down, users know they can rely on it and won't be frustrated by it. Sametime is right up with there with Microsoft Office in terms of user adoption and appreciation.

Evaluating IBM Sametime and Competitors

Yes - We replaced several publicly available services with Sametime. We were looking at Sametime anyway but users -- to fill various needs -- were using services such as WebEx, GoToMeeting, Skype, LogMeIn, and others. We were happy to discover that Sametime covered all those, or at least the features our users were using, and in addition we could keep the Sametime environment on-premises to integrate with other systems.
  • Price
  • Product Features
  • Product Usability
  • Product Reputation
  • Prior Experience with the Product
  • Vendor Reputation
  • Existing Relationship with the Vendor
  • Positive Sales Experience with the Vendor
  • Analyst Reports
  • Third-party Reviews
Product Features. Sametime eclipsed all the other solutions under a single platform. That would ultimately save time by reducing the amount of training users would need.
Now, several years later, cloud services are more easily integrated (with e.g. ActiveDirectory, mobile, etc.) whereas at the time, we prioritized integration over most other features. Integration was much easier to accomplish with on-premises systems so it was a primary driver for Sametime over its cloud / SaaS competitors.

IBM Sametime Support

IBM Support is, and has been for years, top notch. It's rare that my issue is not resolved within 24 hours. They do not give up on difficult issues, and they get engineers, developers, etc. to weigh in on the issue before I would ever consider escalating it.
ProsCons
Quick Resolution
Good followup
Knowledgeable team
Problems get solved
Kept well informed
No escalation required
Immediate help available
Support understands my problem
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
None
Yes - The bug was with their mobile chat app. I was the first to report the issue and it was 100% fixed in <2 weeks.
They ALWAYS provide exceptional support! I can not think of any time when IBM Support merely solved an issue and closed the case without follow-up to make sure everything was working as it should. IBM Support also rarely plays the "blame game" that is so common. There are many cases where they could blame Microsoft's Windows of Apple's iOS, but instead they try to get hard data to prove or disprove where the root cause is.

Using IBM Sametime

Just about everything works the way you expect it would and it's relatively easy for users to figure out. Sametime was one of those things that we started with only a few people as a "test" and before the test period was done we discovered a few hundred people had figured out how to log in and most got it working all on their own. Many of our users want to use Sametime and do so regularly; we do not have to create policies enforcing its usage. Users find it practical to use Sametime to do things like chat, transfer files, share their screen, and so forth.
ProsCons
Like to use
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Well integrated
Consistent
Quick to learn
Convenient
Feel confident using
Familiar
Unnecessarily complex
  • The Meetings and Calendar integration is particularly helpful, not only on the PC / Mac client but also on mobile devices.
  • Sametime significantly reduces barriers to user collaboration & sharing. Our high-tech users had no problem using 3rd party services for e.g. screen-sharing before we introduced Sametime, but most of our users would never have attempted it without that functionality built-in and in easy reach. Now, screen-sharing to help a co-worker or train a new hire is very commonplace.
  • Making myself available from the mobile device is also really easy and really useful. Reporting my location (town & state) via GPS is also helpful because people in the office can easily see where I am.
  • Joining a web meeting by clicking a URL should open the "rich client" if it's installed on the PC, but we've found that to be hit-and-miss. The rich client is a bit faster and includes a few advanced features that are not in the pure web-based client, particularly for the presenter.
  • It's too easy to accidentally start an group chat. Occasionally you get "invited" to join a chat with 100 other confused users, and the person who started it accidentally sometimes gets so embarrassed that they won't use Sametime anymore after that.
  • Allowing & Taking control of a screen-share session is something most users need to be trained on first, otherwise they just don't get it. The UI design should be streamlined and made more obvious; it's a little obscure and requires too much thought to get it to work correctly.
Yes - There are 2 mobile apps for Sametime: Chat and Meetings. Both apps work REALLY well and can be automated by various MDMs for easy deployment.

The Chat app gives you presence awareness and the ability to Chat (of course) plus make or take AV calls. Additionally you can share your location via GPS (town & state) and an option to disconnect you from Sametime automatically after so much elapsed time.

The Meetings app is also handy. You can host and watch online meetings, though of course hosting a meeting is easier on a larger screen such as an iPad. The ability to mark up ("whiteboard") and take notes via the Discussion panel is very helpful.

IBM Sametime Reliability

Sametime is rock solid. It runs on WebSphere, DB2 and other related IBM technologies. This does mean the back-end is highly complex and very difficult to learn and get comfortable with, however.
Typically if Sametime is not available, it's because Windows Updates were done on the servers and they were not rebooted. However, that's not a problem with Sametime -- in fact, if you have Linux you could probably run Sametime for years without any hiccups whatsoever. We have no internal Linux expertise.
Generally very good. Occasionally AV or screen-sharing will stutter and every now and then I hear of it dropping out altogether, but in all cases it was easy to re-establish.

Integrating IBM Sametime

Not everything went smoothly the first time. ActiveDirectory is always the cause of the biggest headaches when working with non-Microsoft software, but in the end we got it figured out without too much mucking about. Once that was done, the integration has worked perfectly.
  • ActiveDirectory, for authentication and user "business card" details.
  • IBM Notes, for calendar integration and Chat History preservation.
  • Apple iOS, via MobileIron, for mobile app deployment and auto-configuration. Users don't need to know the server name, ports, etc. It just works.
Not terribly difficult for any of them.
  • IP phone systems (various...each office has their own).
Yes, I have heard several times that it's possible and supported and not terribly difficult. I'm sure it's more difficult than what was stated, but it sounds like it's very much achievable if we made it a priority.
  • Single Signon
  • API (e.g. SOAP or REST)
MDM (mobile device management). This makes it possible to "deploy" supported apps and pre-configure them so users don't have to.
Find a consulting firm who has installed Sametime before. IBM's back-end technologies are amazing for their performance, but they are VERY complex.