Over at UCStrategies.com, group collaboration tools like Cisco's Spark and Unify's Circuit have been drawing quite a bit of attention from our team members -- and with good reason, given their capacity for moving UC in a new direction.
Tools like these really deal more with organizing projects than the core communications capabilities, which has led to some discussion about what we should call these new platforms. The original term was social collaboration, as these tools incorporate capabilities found in popular social platforms and the primary focus has been in creating mechanisms for better serving the needs of collaborative workgroups. Dave Michels, UCStrategies team member and analyst with TalkingPointz, found that term wanting, and came up with workstream communications and collaboration, or WCC, as a good alternative.
Reporting from late last year's Cisco Collaboration Summit, Blair Pleasant, UCStrategies co-founder, shared her thoughts on the tools category in her UCStrategies piece, "Cisco Sparks it Up at the Collaboration Summit." Clearly the main subject on Cisco's mind during the summit was Spark, and the enhancements it has added to the app over the past year. Headlining those are the messaging, calling, and meeting functions in Spark along with the developers' platform. (As usual, Blair brought her video camera along, so check out her video interviews with Ross Daniels, senior director of collaboration marketing; Jason Goecke, GM of the Tropo Business Unit; and Andy Dignan, senior director of cloud collaboration sales and go to market. )
In the piece, Blair highlighted the fact that Spark lacks presence capabilities, long thought to be one of the cornerstones of UC. Rowan Trollop, SVP and GM of the Collaboration Group at Cisco, and the rest of the team at Cisco, downplay its absence, but Blair called that into question. "I believe [presence is] very important for productive real-time communications," Blair wrote.
Blair also touched on one of the other questions surrounding these WCC tools, what we're now calling "room explosion," where each interaction opens another collaboration "room" (Cisco's term) with the result that key information might get lost in the morass leading to the same problems we have with email, the collaboration tool these systems were looking to displace. (For a related story, see this week's No Jitter post, "Migrating the Overload From Email to Team Space.")
In "Unify and Circuit Redux,"Jon Arnold, a UCStrategies team member, focused on Unify's Circuit, one of Spark's key competitors. Circuit has come a long way in the past year, he noted. Unify has now productized the offering with five distinct packages -- two free and three paid.
While Jon made mention of Spark, his real foil for Circuit is Slack. In particular, he observes that the "established" vendors are really playing catch up with the "disruptors," which appear to have a clearer vision of what users, particularly the younger set, wants in this type of tool. This is particularly true with regard to the number of partners with which Slack has integrated.
"Imitation is the best form of flattery," Jon wrote, "and while I can't say if Unify lifted a page out of Slack's playbook, it's clear that they have taken some cues from them and it's hard not to like 2016's Circuit."
What Unify really has going for it is the ability to scale, and that will be key for enterprise buyers, Jon pointed out. That's assuming Unify can sell enough users on Circuit that scale becomes an issue, something that I don't see being an immediate concern. I don't see organizations adopting tools like these across the board. Rather, I expect we'll see adoption on a more piecemeal basis with individual departments picking up on WCC tools geared toward their needs, and those pilot deployments then going viral.
In any event, we have two intelligent views of one of the most important developments in UC. These tools are important because they seem to be taking UC to a whole new place and both are fully cloud-based, which puts them in sync with one of the other big developments we are seeing. Finally, the fact that start-ups like Slack are throwing their hats in the ring makes WCC an area to keep an eye on.