Changing the Way We Collaborate

Changing the Way We Collaborate

By Michael F. Finneran October 14, 2015 2 Comments
Michael Finneran JPG 125
Changing the Way We Collaborate by Michael F. Finneran

Two recent articles caught my attention and got me thinking about the new communications technologies that are coming on line and the impact they are having on some of the older ones. The first was a piece in the Wall Street Journal titled, “Pay for Your Own Phones, Bank Says," and went on to report how J. P. Morgan Chase was initiating cost savings measures in the face of financial pressures brought about by new banking regulations and persistently low interest rates. A number of the measures were aimed directly at IT expenditures.

As the title indicates, the bank will be going BYOD, apparently with no reimbursement. They do allow both BlackBerry and non-BlackBerry devices, however only BlackBerries are allowed to access some email systems. That’s good news for BlackBerry as it demonstrates there are at least some markets where the company’s air tight security is still mandatory. In a written statement, a BlackBerry spokesperson said that the company’s clients include the largest banks and all G-7 governments.

However, the cost saving measures went beyond cutting the cellular bill. J. P. Morgan was also experimenting with “hot desking” (which they call “ratio seating” for some reason) particularly for people who work different shifts or move between company locations. It is also looking at relocating some employees to lower cost office space.

The one initiative that most caught my attention however was the possibility of shutting down the voicemail system. The funny thing is that if they did, many of the employees might not notice for weeks! With the number of asynchronous, near real time and real time communications alternatives that are available in a modern office, voicemail seems to be going the way of fax. Further, with the increasing use of presence and text, the chance of a call winding up in voicemail is dropping to near zero.

The other piece dealt not with a dying technology but one that is exploding, text chat. While the coverage was a bit sketchy, the examples cited were certainly illustrative. The author starts out with the premise that email is a lousy collaboration tool, something that many of us will readily agree to, and points to the rise of chat as a ready alternative particularly for collaboration.

While there is a brief mention of Microsoft’s Yammer, Cisco’s Jabber (not Spark) and Google Hangouts, that is followed immediately with Jive, Slack and Cotap. While the product selection may be a bit off, the idea of shared document repositories that we associate with what we’ve been calling “social collaboration tools” is very much part of the story. The first case study example is about a San Francisco ad agency called Brass Ideas that moved from emailing Word and PDF files with the resulting version control problems to collaborating through a platform called Hip-Chat.

One of the key ideas that is pushed is the need for management support - and use. Poonjan Kumar, co-founder and CEO of PernixData clearly got that when he shifted his company from email-based collaboration to Microsoft’s Yammer - he blocked company-wide emails.

Of course, PernixData is a tech company that makes storage products. However, we heard that same story from Rowan Trollope, SVP and General Manager of the Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group at Enterprise Connect last year, where his email volume dropped 75% when he shifted his group onto the company’s Spark platform (originally Project Squared).

While the idea may be getting out to corporate America that there are new sets of tools appearing that will offer better ways to communicate and collaborate, this might not be the best news for traditional UC&C suppliers like Microsoft, Cisco, Unify and the like. It appears that the startups are getting as much ink (and resulting interest) as the old line players. Add to that the creative energy that drives the startup world, and the big guys could be in for a tough fight.


2 Responses to "Changing the Way We Collaborate" - Add Yours

Tim Banting 10/15/2015 2:38:23 AM

Hi Michael. Thanks for the article. It is a shame that few people are tracking the utilization of synchronous real-time communications., I believe its declining along with phone revenue. With distributed and mobile teams working across time zones and contingency/agency staff brought in to help on projects, I can see why email and asynchronous tools seem to take precedence over real-time voice in many organizations.

My biggest annoyance in the business toolbox is the conference call. They are not "conferences"- they are meetings. We take notes, draw diagrams, ask questions and what happens after most of the calls? Little fragments of information are taken away by the "attendees" either in their heads, written in notebooks, or typed on laptops. Then we have follow-up calls to track progress and spend 20 minutes reviewing that which was said in the previous "conference". Hardly productive!

I find the intersection between real-time communications and net real-time/asynchronous communications (with persistence), fascinating. There are so many market adjacencies adding voice and video capabilities- enterprise file sync and share vendors, social networking vendors etc.

There is but a sub-set of traditional UC vendors that are looking at the SoCoMo (Social, Collaborative, and Mobile) market. Strangely, some of the traditional email-oriented vendors have yet to make a dent in this market as well.

The barriers to entry are low, as companies can leverage existing IaaS platforms and spin up servers across the globe with new and valuable services. Perhaps this is why telephony vendors are struggling to get install bases to upgrade- businesses are looking for 10x productivity gains and not just shiny new phones or superfluous telephony features?
Art Rosenberg 10/15/2015 8:42:00 AM

I agree with Tim's view of conference calls as "meetings," which are often difficult to organize and a big waste of time and money. Who says they have to be synchronous anyway?

Meeting participants also need a lot of contextual information to make their involvement practical and with unlimited storage in service clouds, that capability has now become easier and practical. Throw in mobility on top of all this, and we now can collaborate more efficiently anytime, from anywhere in near-realtime.

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