Facebook Grows up and Goes to Work, but Will It Win Over Businesses?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• As Facebook is nearing the limit of consumer advertising, the company is turning its focus on the business market as an alternative revenue stream.

• Facebook’s Workplace and WhatsApp Business are likely to become a disruptive force to the communications and collaboration, and contact center markets.

According to Facebook, the average person spends 50 minutes a day on its Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger platforms. There’s no question that the rise of platforms like Facebook has a transformative effect on the way we interact socially; however, it is nearing the limit of consumer advertising as a source of revenue, Facebook is turning its focus on the business market as an alternative revenue stream. In October 2016, Facebook introduced Workplace by Facebook, a mobile and web-based service offering the best of Facebook for the business world. Incorporating News Feeds, Groups, Events; audio, video and messaging plus live streaming; the company has mustered a prodigious toolset to offer prospective customers. The company has amassed a large number of household names as customers: Booking.com, Columbia Sportswear, Danone, and Starbucks are all using Workplace by Facebook to connect, share ideas, and collaborate. Furthermore, Facebook has revealed it is working on an enterprise messaging service (known as WhatsApp Business), and trialing with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Yoox Net-a-Porter Group. When brought to market, WhatsApp Business could be considered a prime channel for customer service, sales and marketing, and support given the apps 1 billion daily active users. Consequently, Facebook is likely to be an increasingly disruptive force to not only traditional communications and team collaboration vendors (Atlassian, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Slack, Unify and others), plus the contact center market. Read more of this post

What Does Microsoft Need to Do to Win in Collaboration and Communications?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Microsoft needs to consolidate and rationalize Office 365’s overlapping functionality to avoid the potential chaos associated with having too much choice in its portfolio.

• Microsoft should decouple telephony from Skype for Business, add PSTN calling to Teams and end-of-life Skype for Business online to differentiate in the team collaboration platform market.

With Microsoft Ignite about to start in Florida (25th September), it’s interesting to try to read behind the lines of some of the sessions and speculate as to how Microsoft really will start ‘to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more’. At the moment, it’s hard to achieve more when Office 365 contains so much feature and functionality overlap between products such as Office 365 Groups, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and Yammer. Read more of this post

I Can’t Hear Myself Think! – The Cost of Lost Productivity in Open Offices

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • A 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that workers lost as much as 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions.
  • Companies should carefully consider sound masking and headsets with active noise cancellation (ANC) to maximize productivity for the various environments and work styles of their employees.

In open office environments today, many workers try to screen out distractions by immersing themselves in music underneath their personal headphones in an attempt to concentrate. Office acoustics definitely influence an organization’s efficiency; a 2014 study by Steelcase and Ipsos found that workers lost as much as 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions. Unfortunately, many companies adopt open office environments, as many as 70% of U.S. offices according to the International Facilities Management Association. That equates to days of lost productivity. Why then do we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars designing offices and equipping employees with the latest and greatest productivity tools only to ignore the working environment our employees have to endure? Read more of this post

‘Mitel or MI-o-Tel?’ – Adding a Voice to IoT

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Mitel is offering a cloud-based platform that integrates Internet of Things (IoT) technology with call routing and call control applications.
  • Hub One is working with Mitel to voice-enable IoT devices at Charles De Gaulle airport and provides text-to-speech alerts on the opening of defibrillator cabinets.

At its Elite conference in San Antonio last week, Mitel disclosed details of its platform that integrates IoT technology with call routing and call control platforms. Utilizing IoT APIs that plug into its interaction engine and business rules engine, Mitel demonstrated how IoT can be integrated with real-time communications to literally give IoT devices a voice. On stage, Mitel showed how Amazon Alexa, mapped to Mitel’s AWS-based cloud service, could trigger mass notification messages to interested parties. While this specific demonstration sent out multiple notifications of bad weather alerts to those attending a picnic (very pertinent given San Antonio’s weather!), Mitel’s IoT infrastructure is being utilized in perhaps a less frivolous way at France’s largest and most important airport – Charles De Gaulle (CDG). Read more of this post

Enterprise Connect 2017 – IT Needs to Act Less Like Vader and More Like Yoda!

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Enterprise Connect 2017 focused around three common themes: cloud, collaboration as-a-service (CPaaS) and team collaboration apps.

• IT needs to act as ambassadors for the users they support to counter the potential issues associated with shadow IT.

Despite being a predominantly technical event, Enterprise Connect 2017 saw vendors concentrating on more business focused messaging and the value that IT departments can offer to enterprises. As both a speaker and attendee at Orlando last week, three key themes stood out to me as a focus for organizations in 2017. Read more of this post

Google and Microsoft: Suite Spots for Team Collaboration Apps?

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• There will be a resurgence in the suite versus best-of-breed debate, as organizations look to simplify and rationalize their IT environments.

• A combined ‘best-of-suites’ approach is likely to dominate until vendors can eliminate redundant functionality and provide better integration within their single offering.

Recently, there have been some significant advances in the team collaboration space from Google and Microsoft. This burgeoning market has seen some early pioneers (e.g., Slack and Atlassian HipChat), garner considerable success; however, history oftentimes shows that latecomers grow to dominate markets and both Google and Microsoft have advantages that do not apply to the likes of these first movers. Google and Microsoft have significant customer bases, strategic partnerships, plus the combined assets of their respective G Suite and Office 365 services. Indeed, application and service integration is a key selection criteria for team collaboration apps and consequently, purchases are likely to be influenced by a customer’s preference for a specific office productivity suite vendor. Read more of this post

Question: What Is Watson Workspace?

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • IBM has much to do to ensure Watson Workspace is comparable to other competing services already established in the market prior to its mid-2017 release.
  • IBM’s unique differentiation is in the power of Watson Workspace Services APIs – utilized in Watson Workspace and made extensible to other platforms.

With IBM Connect 2017 (IBM’s conference dedicated to all things collaborative) at a close, I have some time to digest and share my reflections regarding Watson Workspace. Anchoring on the Watson brand (yes, that 2011 computer champion from Jeopardy!), Workspace is one of a long line of collaborative team apps made famous by market-making vendor Slack. Currently in private preview, Watson Workspace is far from a finished service; indeed, compared to many of its counterparts that offer real-time communication alongside collaboration (e.g., Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Rainbow, Cisco Spark, Slack, Unify Circuit, etc.), Watson Workspace could be dismissed as a rudimentary persistent chat service. However, IBM is leveraging its Watson might to differentiate through ‘cognitive’ computing (as opposed to the artificially intelligent bots offered by all too many vendors), while integrating with other companies such as Box, GENBAND, Cisco, Vidyo, Zoom and over 500 ecosystem partners exposed through IFTT, Workato and Sapho web automation services. Read more of this post

2017 – The Year of Integrated Communications and Re-platforming

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• 2017 is likely to see more innovation in the field of integrated communications (embedding click to collaborate functionality within business applications) which may incorporate Communications as-a-Platform (CPaaS).

• In order to support digital transformation initiatives, enterprises will be faced with a re-platforming choice – arguably this is likely to be a cloud-based team collaboration application.

Season greetings! It’s that time of the year where analysts start looking towards the year ahead and dust off their crystal ball to offer vendors and customers an insight into what’s to come. As we look at 2017, two key collaboration and communications trends emerge:

1. There is a move away from innovation in united communications (UC) and towards a new category of integrated communications.

This trend is triggered by the need for companies to squeeze additional productivity from their businesses and this is driving a need for integrated communications. This is not merely limited to providing click to collaborate features in office productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and Google G Suite), but also to home-grown applications and mobile apps. Consequently, this requires an extensive range of APIs for developers to leverage and potentially, a new platform: CPaaS. This has the potential to disrupt the traditional UC market considerably which has hitherto focused on the unification of numerous real-time modalities (voice, video, instant messaging and conferencing) into one client. CPaaS essentially allows developers to embed real-time communications functionality directly into business applications, circumventing the need for premises-based PBXs or UC servers.

Read more of this post

Platform, Person, Place: The Recipe for Productivity

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• Organizations should understand how employees work, what they need to do their job effectively, and where they need to work to ascertain what they need to be more productive.

• Organizations should only consider new collaboration and communications applications with the endorsement of their employees.

Many workplaces face daunting challenges today, including employee engagement, time management, and overwhelming workloads. And unfortunately, many vendors sell collaboration and communications technology as a panacea and not the business tool it really is. Communications and collaboration today is a combination of synchronous (i.e., communicating at the same time), and asynchronous tools; however, forcing people to use a tool that does not fit their personal preference inhibits their productivity. Some companies still try to force employees to adhere to standard platforms (e.g., email, unified communications, corporate intranet, etc.); however, consumer technology has made a strong presence in our everyday lives and subsequently, has made its way into businesses too – not only in terms of hardware preferences (e.g., smartphones and tablets), but also services. In an attempt to make themselves more productive employees are circumventing IT and embracing non-sanctioned applications (e.g. Skype, Facetime, HipChat, Slack, etc.), a phenomenon known as ‘shadow IT’. Read more of this post

Cisco Live! 2016: Partners, Bots and Spark, Oh My! – Cisco’s Yellow Brick Road to Magical Experiences

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • Cisco is partnering with IBM (enhancing e-mail social networking, collaborative team spaces, cognitive computing and analytics) to compete more effectively against competitors such as Microsoft.
  • Cisco’s partnership with Apple will bring native dialing through iOS release 10 and integrate the iPhone within the Cisco infrastructure, thus improving business communications.

In L. Frank Baum’s first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy follows the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City, where everyone wears green-tinted eyeglasses to protect their eyes from the “brightness and glory” of the city. What it actually does is make everything appear green when the Emerald City is, in fact, “no more green than any other city.” At Cisco Live! 2016 in Las Vegas, Cisco’s vision for the future appears crystal clear and in little need of eyewear. Read more of this post