Changing the Way We Collaborate
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.