SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Brian Riggs
Brian is a member of Ovum's Enterprise team, tracking emerging trends, technologies, and market dynamics in the unified communications and...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Brian Riggs | February 13, 2017 |

 
   

Line Between UC, Team Collaboration Blurring

Line Between UC, Team Collaboration Blurring ...if not disappearing altogether

...if not disappearing altogether

A couple years ago when team collaboration apps first entered the scene pretty much every conversation I had about them needed to be prefaced by how they're different from UC in general and corporate IM in particular.

It was -- and in some cases still is -- a useful starting point for discussions. After all, both take the form of desktop, Web, and mobile apps that let individuals or small groups of workers message each other and (depending on the app) share screens, launch VoIP and video calls, and access a more or less similar set of communications and collaboration features.

UC vendors tend to draw a distinction between venerable old corporate IM apps and shiny new team collaboration apps. The one is for quick, typically internal, often informal, communications. The other is more project-oriented, with conversations and documents shared in a persistent digital workspace.

However, this distinction is blurring... and for some it's disappearing entirely.

Examples of corporate IM and team collaboration apps

Keep Separate, Use Both
For the past 10 or so years buddy list-driven IM apps have been the launch pad from which end users fire off text-based chat, VoIP, desktop video, and screen-sharing sessions that are fundamental to the UC experience. Enterprises and SMBs have made significant investments in this software, whether in the form of corporate IM software deployed on premises or more advanced (and more expensive) hosted services plans that deliver more than just telephony.

Generally speaking, UC solutions vendors want to ensure customers that their money was well spent... that they can continue using the same UC tools they have invested in while adding new team collaboration apps to the mix as needed.

This has resulted in experts giving advice of this sort: "Use Cisco Jabber for real-time collaboration, Cisco Spark for team-collaboration, and Cisco WebEx for meeting-collaboration. Having all three of these tools in your collaboration toolbox keeps your communication clear and constant, making your business and project successful."

And in a Microsoft context: "Do you prefer brief, face-to-face meetings before getting to work? Then, Skype for Business might be the solution. But if your team prefers quick check-in's [sic] and persistent, ongoing conversations (especially about information that isn't time-sensitive), then Microsoft Teams would probably be the best fit."

This "different apps for different types of collaboration" is all well and good for you, me, and other folks who enjoy mulling over these sorts of things. But not all users will spend time thinking it through. Many will just want to get on with their jobs without fussing over which messaging app is appropriate for each and every message they want to jot off.

Similar pushback can come from CIOs and IT departments for whom comms and collaboration is just one of many other things about which they need to worry. Investing in and supporting two or three or more messaging apps could result in all sorts of complications relating to deployment, training, and support.

One's As Good As the Other
The reason I'm thinking about this now is some conversations I had with Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise. The company rebooted its team collaboration app strategy late last year when it released Rainbow. It's still something of a work in progress. The free plan launched and the more feature-rich paid plan is coming soon. The Web and mobile apps currently lack some essential features, which, again, will be addressed by midyear.

Source: Rainbow blog

Overall it either has or will soon have many of the trappings you'd expect from a team collaboration app: persistent, shared workspaces; file storage; app integrations; etc. Like Spark, Rainbow has optional integration with on-prem telephony systems for PSTN calling. Unlike Spark, this hybrid configuration supports multiple vendors' systems, namely those from Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, Cisco, Unify, and soon, Avaya. I'll go into a bit more detail soon on it when I revise my team collaboration overview for the third time.

But what I'd like to hone in on here is how Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise isn't going through the usual "use IM for this and team apps for that" gyrations. It's telling customers that if they're looking for an IT-friendly alternative to Slack, then they should use Rainbow. And if they're looking for a UC client that does regular traditional IM and presence, then they should use Rainbow. After all, Rainbow users can see each other's presence, and if the app integrates with a PBX, then that presence info takes into account whether people are on the phone. Chat sessions are essentially shared workspaces with just one individual. But outside of the workspace being persistent, how different is that from a regular IM session?

Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, of course, has long had a UC app -- OpenTouch Conversation -- that does corporate IM. It's the standard way its enterprise and SMB customers get corporate IM on both desktop PCs and mobile devices. It is now positioning Rainbow as an alternative to this. Instead of purchasing OpenTouch and running it on a server, customers can instead subscribe to Rainbow and use it as their UC app.

At a technical level, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise isn't doing anything fancy here. It doesn't offer one Rainbow plan that's UC-centric and another that's just for team collaboration. There's just the one app developed by a company that's being less prescriptive of how its customer use it. Would there be any difference if a Cisco customer used Spark instead of Jabber for internal IM, or a Microsoft customer used Teams instead of Skype for Business? I really don't think so. The difference lies more in how vendors are advising their customers on where new team collaboration apps fit into the larger spectrum of UC software and services.

So which approach is better? Adopt a discrete team collaboration app, and teach users when and when not to use it instead of corporate IM or other messaging apps? There's considerable wisdom in selecting and employing the right tool for the job at hand. But there's also a danger in providing employees with too many and too specialized a set of tools. This will be a good option for businesses that have already deployed UC clients to many employees and now want to make team collaboration available to a subset of them.

Or is it better to provide users with one app that spans both traditional IM and new-fangled team collaboration? This will certainly be easier to adopt and deploy since you're consolidating multiple messaging apps into one. But it could confuse users not used to such an all-in-one approach to messaging. This will be best for businesses with little or no UC clients in use at present.

So one approach is as good as another depending on how widely an enterprise has deployed and employees use traditional UC apps.

Learn more about next-generation messaging and team collaboration trends and technologies at Enterprise Connect 2017, March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla. View the Next-Gen Messaging & Team Collaboration track, and register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event pass or a free Expo Plus pass.

Follow Brian Riggs on Twitter and Google+!
@brian_riggs
Brian Riggs on Google+





COMMENTS



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.