Dave Michels
Dave Michels is a Principal Analyst at TalkingPointz. His unique perspective on unified communications comes from a career involving telecommunications...
Read Full Bio >>

Dave Michels | August 27, 2015 |


'WCC' Makes Communications Strategic Again

'WCC' Makes Communications Strategic Again UC, messaging, and content together comprise a workstream, and that becomes a place where work gets done.

UC, messaging, and content together comprise a workstream, and that becomes a place where work gets done.

Categories make products easy to understand. Bicycles are different than vacuum cleaners despite the fact that bikes come in so many varieties. In our industry, we generally understand product categories such as UC, email, and Wi-Fi, but we're having a hard time agreeing on how to categorize the newfangled types of collaboration tools like Cisco Spark, Acano coSpace, Unify Circuit, Interactive Intelligence PureCloud, and several more.

These solutions sit at the intersection of several established categories including collaboration, conferencing, telephony, messaging, and social networking. That's the short version. The extended version is much broader and can include note taking, presentation, task management, and content management. So referring to them as "collaboration apps" is too general and "UC" too narrow.

Some folks lump these tools into a category called "team collaboration," while others use the label "continuous communications." But, as I've written previously, I (along with fellow No Jitter blogger Zeus Kerravala, with ZK Research) prefer the category label "workstream communications and collaboration," or WCC.

A few of the common characteristics of WCC tools are persistent messaging for asynchronous communications; video conferencing and often voice capabilities for real-time communications; and rich content-sharing capabilities. These tools tend to offer native support for multi-organizational use, powerful search, and mobility, and most services use a freemium model. Some of the offerings today don't have all of these in place yet, but their developers are generally working toward them.

But rather than focus on the products and services, I'd like to focus on the name of the general category, and why I prefer WCC.

Team Collaboration
Look up collaboration in the dictionary and you'll find it defined as two or more people taking action to create something. That's a broad definition, often used to describe efforts outside of communications, such as musicians collaborating on a new album. We either work independently or collaboratively, and the latter case involves at least one other person. The term "team" often implies a group of more than two, but two people can make up a team -- consider beach volleyball as an example. All communications and all collaboration directly or indirectly involves two or more participants.

Team collaboration attempts to distinguish against one-to-one communications such as traditional IM and phone calls. The problem is most IM solutions already support group chat, and all phone systems support conferencing. The "team" in team collaboration does not emphasize anything different than UC, video conferencing, or social network applications.

Unless we interpret team to imply larger groups, of course all of these new tools are just as effective with small groups or two-person teams. The distinguishing value-add of team in team collaboration is effectively meaningless. At best, team collaboration is a redundant and repetitive term. Use team collaboration to describe people working on two-wheeled bicycles.

Continuous Collaboration
I like this term better because it is collaboration with a twist. The twist, or emphasis, is immediacy.

In the past, real-time communications were fast (instant), and asynchronous communications were slow. One hundred years ago, people sent messages to each other via ship, covered wagon, and even pony, knowing they would take weeks or months for delivery. Messages were used for communications, but not particularly for conversations.

Today we converse with messaging across multiple locations and devices without skipping a beat. In fact, messaging is often the preferred means of communication. For the past decade we have been happy with IM, but that is a narrowly defined modality. It is now increasingly common to converse across multiple modalities including messaging, voice, video, and content across devices regardless of location.

The problem with continuous collaboration is it puts too much focus on communications. Too often, communications technologies, such as UC, sit on the periphery of where the work gets done. For knowledge workers, that's usually email or line-of-business applications.

Email has been a critical application in the enterprise for decades. Email is our to-do list and our filing system. It is where we ask and answer questions and how we share content. UC is important, like copiers and printers, but not mission critical (many exceptions exist including contact centers). The power of these solutions lies in combining communications and collaboration with job workflow.

Workstream Communications and Collaboration
While email has been an important tool for decades, frustration with it is increasing. There's a fine line between a productivity tool and a burden, and email has crossed it. One of the most consistently cited benefits of these new systems is a reduction in email messages. Email isn't going away, but the flow of work is moving out of it. That's because these new solutions are far better at organization, and bind conversations and content in one place -- effectively delivering on the UC promise of contextual communications.

UC, messaging, and content in one place becomes a place where work gets done. There is no need to scatter conversations (and conversation history) across multiple apps. There's no reason to use different tools for one-to-one and group interactions. There's no reason to switch to different apps based on location or device. There's no reason to switch tools for internal and external use cases. These new solutions enable current interactions, archive past conversations, and facilitate ongoing collaboration.

In some cases, WCC also facilitates work getting done quicker through shared task management and tracking. At the same time, it reduces email traffic and the associated time in processing it. Some customers report the drop as high as 50%.

Zeus and I have been using the term WCC, and we are glad to see its use expanding. Redbooth (selected for Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect 2015 and as a Cool Vendor by Gartner, writes on its site that WCC is: "Maximizing team productivity and accountability at work." Glip, now a part of RingCentral, posted that WCC is "a better way for employees to keep in constant communication within the flow of their work."

A sample Redbooth workstream

The space is growing rapidly -- many familiar brands are moving toward it, new names are emerging, and solutions are coming from other established categories. These solutions are highly innovative with new features being introduced rapidly. The differences between offers are significant. For example, Interactive is leveraging contact center expertise with PureCloud and Biba is leveraging its expertise in Web conferencing. Regardless of the approach, customers are being wowed by this category of solutions.

WCC is making communications strategic again.

Dave Michels is a contributing editor and analyst at TalkingPointz.

See related posts:


Enterprise Connect Orlando 2017
March 27-30 | Orlando, FL
Connect with the Entire Enterprise Communications & Collaboration Ecosystem

Stay Up-to-Date: Hear industry visionaries in Keynotes and General Sessions delivering the latest insight on UC, mobility, collaboration and cloud

Grow Your Network: Connect with the largest gathering of enterprise IT and business leaders and influencers

Learn From Industry Leaders: Attend a full range of Conference Sessions, Free Programs and Special Events

Evaluate All Your Options: Engage with 190+ of the leading equipment, software and service providers

Have Fun! Mingle with sponsors, exhibitors, attendees, guest speakers and industry players during evening receptions

Special Offer - Save $200 Off Advance Rates

Register now with code NOJITTEREB to save $200 Off Advance Rates or get a FREE Expo Pass!

March 8, 2017

Enterprise IT's ability to innovate is critical to the success of the business -- 80% of CIOs agree. But the CIO role has never been more challenging than it is today, with rising operational respo

February 22, 2017

Sick of video call technology that make participants look like they're in the witness protection program? Turns out youre not alone. Poor-quality video solutions can give users an unprofessional ap

February 7, 2017

Securing voice communications used to be very simple since it was generally a closed system. However, with unified communications (UC) you no longer have the walled protection offered by a dedicate

February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.