Will IBMs Mail Next Stand Out in Enterprise Email

IBM claims its Mail Next email platform is about having fun and making things easy on people who are trying to get work done.

Will it be?

We won’t know until at least the fourth quarter when Big Blue releases it under the Connections brand.

We do know this: People are interested. Tweets exploded when IBM announced the product at its January IBM Connect conference in Orlando. Today's webinar on Mail Next sold out.

“We still believe we’re ahead of the market in our ability to help users prioritize what they need to focus on,” Kramer Reeves, director of Messaging & Collaboration Solutions for the IBM Software Group, told CMSWire this week. “We think Google is trying to do this, but I don’t think they’re there yet.”

Foot Race with Microsoft?

But it's not just Google.

At the SharePoint Conference in Las Vegas earlier this year, Microsoft announced a new framework, Office Graph and Project Oslo, a search-driven app built on Office Graph. Oslo and Office Graph will, Microsoft contends, solve the problem of finding the right information in a timely fashion. It combines documents, people and conversations that are relevant for any given user.

That’s a similar end-target for IBM with Mail Next: a world where documents, email conversations and action items are easy to find.

CMSWire asked two social business enterprise analysts if anyone else was doing something similar to IBM. Each mentioned Microsoft with Office Graph and Oslo.

“It will be scanning sources such as email, SharePoint and Yammer and surfacing information that people should know about,” said Alan Lepofsky, vice president and principal analyst for Constellation Research.

Vanessa Thompson, research manager for the IDC’s Enterprise Social Networks and Collaborative Technologies, told CMSWire Microsoft is “trying something similar” with the UI for Office 365 combined with Oslo. It uses Office Graph, she said, to surface recommended content to users.

IBM’s Footprint

Microsoft or not, Lepofsky said IBM’s Mail Next has some original components. He cited the program’s ability to prioritize what you should be working on and who you should be working with.

social business, Could IBM's Mail Next be a Standout in Enterprise Email Land?

“It’s a nice enhancement not currently available in other email clients,” he said.

IBM’s solution focuses on the integration of task management and email communication, he added.

“If Mail Next can become a dashboard for people to start their day by knowing what things requires action and where they should be paying attention,” Lepofsky added, “it could help people be more productive.”

Asked if email clients will abandon ship and come to IBM because of Mail Next, Lepofsky didn’t think so.

“I think existing IBM customers will be happy about this new functionality, and it could help some of them move from on-premises Domino servers to cloud-based IBM email,” he said, “but I do not think companies will be switching from a competitive email system just because of this.” 

‘Personal Debt’ Notion

IDC’s Thompson wrote earlier in the year that Mail Next is a “clear shift away from the traditional email inbox toward a core theme of ‘personal debt.’”

Management of personal workflow, she wrote, is a step in the right direction to delivering an experience in email that transcends traditional email clients and moves toward becoming part of a more fundamental enterprise decision system.

“The notion of ‘personal debt’ works well as email has become a behavioral catch-all for a user’s task list,” Thompson told CMSWire. “Structuring the UI in a way that makes this easier to execute against is a great way to help deliver a less laborious experience for users.”

Asked about companies jumping onto Mail Next from a different provider, Thompson said the upgrade path to cloud will be more of a determining factor.

‘Fun’ and ‘Easy’ Goal

IBM demoed for CMSWire some of the capabilities in Mail Next this week. Among the highlights were:

  • Time warnings on actions due
  • Search functions that zoom in on relevant conversations and people and sorts by date and time
  • Functionality that pulls out of emails, documents, graphics and other additional elements and groups them together outside the actual email/inbox. It’s all about “separating out value that exists inherently in email messages,” said Scott Souder, senior product manager responsible for IBM Mail Next.

IBM is still crafting the look and feel of Mail Next, Souder told CMSWire.

The finished product will be something that makes email “fun” and a “place to enjoy,” Reeves told us.
Customers embraced the concepts built into IBM Notes and Domino Social Edition 9, Reeves said.

Just more than a year ago, IBM announced its fully integrated social mail solution that wrapped the social experience around emailing. Mail Next plans to have a social-sharing function, moving email tasks and conversations into social functions (thought the details are not final yet, Souder told us).

“Let’s have the system do some work for me,” Reeves added. “Find things easier and faster. Build an engaging experience that reduces the personal debt.”

Title image by Adriano Castelli (Shutterstock).