Tom Nolle
Tom Nolle is the president and founder of CIMI Corporation and the principal consultant/analyst. Tom started his career as a...
Read Full Bio >>

Tom Nolle | August 21, 2014 |


How UC Vendors Could Make Collaboration Real

How UC Vendors Could Make Collaboration Real The vendors role may not be to do everything, but to orchestrate things to create the context of the job for the workers involved in the collaboration.

The vendors role may not be to do everything, but to orchestrate things to create the context of the job for the workers involved in the collaboration.

In my last blog, I talked about how collaboration depends not on communication but on context, and postulated that the problem with UC/UCC is that we're taking a tool-driven rather than a value-driven approach to helping workers do their jobs better. It's fair to ask whether traditional communications vendors should now fall on their swords, given their linkage to a wrong approach, or whether there's something constructive they could do. Well, maybe there is.

We could dissect a truly useful collaborative experience as a sequence of interactions built around a shared context. "Do you see this?" followed by the partner "seeing" it, followed by a response like "Oh, that's the wrong widget, you need to look more to the right." In this we can see an illustration of the way in which communication could be integrated with point-of-activity empowerment of workers. The question is whether we can make it happen technically, which has to start by asking what "context" is from a technical perspective.

Strictly defined, context is "the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed." To share those circumstances with another, you'd have to reconstruct at least the relevant aspects of those "circumstances" and recreate enough of the "setting" so that the collaborating parties could cooperate effectively. So what are those relevant aspects? There are three of them.

First, we'd have to understand the information context of the worker. Decades ago, I used to use the term "jobspace" to refer to the sum of information that surrounds a worker in support of a particular activity. Jobspace is created by applications and it's primarily a view of data or the result of a process. There's nothing about jobspace that a UC/UCC vendor would contribute.

The second thing is visual context, meaning what the worker is seeing. Sight is by far the dominant sense, offering the richest interpretation of our physical surroundings. We have to reflect sight in collaborative context, but remember that our goal is to define the setting of the worker, which means we have to combine sight with location, orientation, etc. Saying the worker sees a wall isn't very helpful, but saying they see a wall from this specific position, facing north, likely tells you what the wall is.

The third thing is mission context. What is the worker doing, or trying to do? You can't help someone if you don't understand their goal. This context is particularly important, or should be, for UC/UCC vendors aspiring to be context-relevant, because mission context is easily conveyed through communication, and is much more difficult to interpret at the machine level.

OK, let's assume that we have two people trying to collaborate and that we accept these relevant aspects of a setting as defining the context they'd like to share. How do they share it?

We live in an age of "orchestration", meaning that many of our revolutionary new concepts, including cloud deployment and SDN, involve marshalling resources to a task based on some kind of model of the desired outcome. This collaborative model would define the specific three relevant context aspects of the worker in terms of a collection of software actions. Want information context? You replicate the query the worker generated, or you share the worker's screen. Visual context? You look at what the camera on the worker's phone or tablet is showing. Mission context? You could view a work order if there was one, but you could also open a connection so you could ask the worker what they're trying to do. The notion of a collaborative model would be to set up all this context automatically when collaboration was needed, rather than expect the worker to orchestrate it on their own.

If you want to talk to somebody you send them an IM or call them. If you want to collaborate with them, might you not send them a collaborative model? Think of it as a kind of orchestration script that sets up connections (audio, video), calls up information, reads location and orientation and maps get the picture. It might be represented visually as a popup on a screen the same way an incoming call would be represented, but if it's "taken," i.e., accepted by the called party, then the orchestration script runs and establishes the collaborative model for the called party, so that party is now sharing context with the caller.

If you're a UC/UCC vendor or even a provider of UCaaS, you can't expect to provide all of the applications, location-based services (LBS) elements, devices, databases, and so forth that might be involved in our shared context; but you could provide for the exchange and execution of collaborative models. It's not a major step from sending an IM to sending a data element representing collaborative context orchestration so that the recipient can execute it and become fully and functionally linked with the initiating worker. Furthermore, traditional calling (voice and video), whiteboard, and even presence management could be made into subsets of this, so the orchestrated-context model could overlay current communications services.

Many of the major UC/UCC vendors had a lock on business voice communications, and they'd like a lock on UC/UCC. Given the real nature of collaboration, such a lock would have to come not by doing everything that collaborating workers do, but by orchestrating the context of the job for the workers involved in the collaboration. This is a logical, manageable task, and it may represent the best hope for relevance for the major players.

Follow Tom Nolle on Google+!
Tom Nolle on Google+


June 20, 2018

Your enterprise may have adopted SIP Trunks, but are you up to date on how the latest technology is driving evolution in approaches?

In this webinar, youll learn how the new generation of SI

June 6, 2018

The two largest strategic vendors-Cisco and Microsoft-have been busy making changes to their enterprise communications roadmaps, incorporating collaboration applications as fundamental components.

May 23, 2018

If Cisco is a critical strategic supplier for you, then its vital for you to understand the most recent announcements around Webex Teams, and how to build your migration path for the next generatio

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
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.