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Are SharePoint and Connections the New UC Clients?

A few weeks back, Eric Krapf asked, "Is Skype the Next SharePoint?" This was based on an interview with Microsoft’s CFO where the interviewer was trying to suss out Microsoft's directions with Skype. The guarded answer seemed to be that Skype will be part of Microsoft's Office suite to advance Microsoft's solutions for communication, collaboration and social networking.

However, perhaps another question we really want to be asking here on NoJitter is whether Microsoft's SharePoint (with or without Skype) and IBM's Connections are the new UC clients. Certainly, both Microsoft and IBM are demonstrating the evolution of work as based on these products, not on separate information and communication and social applications. Cisco seems to believe this is the direction of the future, too, as they are actively investing and marketing their new Jabber client which is the confluence of Cisco's Jabber acquisition, Quad social workspace, and WebEx meeting system.

It is notable that Microsoft, IBM and Cisco are emphasizing this direction with their cloud-based combinations of UC and collaborative workspaces (via Microsoft Office 365 and IBM Lotus Live and Cisco WebEx).

The reason for this evolution to the collaborative workspace is that how we work is changing rapidly, especially for the information workers and knowledge workers who make up about 25% of the workforce (US Ref: Bureau of Labor Statistics). No longer must the information used in the job and the communications tools needed for the job considered as two separate domains with separate tools or endpoint devices. And no longer must the information and the tools be accessed from a business office building. With the removal of those constraints, productivity grows and business processes are accelerated and optimized.

Now, collaborative workspaces are being fully enabled with communications tools and social networking capabilities. The communication tools are very much UC tools--including Presence, Instant Messaging, user profiles and pictures, blog posting and wikis, as well as live communications: voice, video, document sharing, and on-line meetings).

And, with few limitations, these integrated workspaces can be accessed from almost any device and from almost anywhere, with security via encrypted information and communications. Thus, the future of productive work, available now, for results-oriented information and knowledge workers, sure looks to be a communication-enabled collaborative (and social) workspace.

More detail how IBM and Microsoft are advancing these solutions is available in this UCStrategies post. It may also be worth looking at this excellent blog post by Chris Stegh of Enabling Technologies which describes how this all works with Microsoft SharePoint and at this YouTube video of IBM Connections users.

In summary, the world of collaboration is changing thanks to the inclusion of Unified Communications and Social Networking functionality. The challenge to all of us in the enterprise communications and UC market is to embrace this delivery of communications as part of a business process, rather than as a separate silo which requires the user to switch from one application to another. This means we will have to work collaboratively with the vendors and the IT managers of collaborative workspaces, content management and social networking technologies if we want to produce high-return, competitive and relevant solutions for our customers who employ knowledge workers.

Hope to see you soon in a UC-equipped collaborative workspace.