Reflections on BroadSoft Connections
Cisco's intent to acquire BroadSoft had been on everyone's tongue this week at BroadSoft's annual partner conference in Phoenix (and much covered on No Jitter). But, that's not the only news of the week. BroadSoft also has made major product enhancements, some of which I'll discuss in this article (I'm steering clear of its CC-One enhancements, leaving that discussion to my contact center industry colleagues).
Like Microsoft and Cisco, BroadSoft offers a UC client -- UC-One -- and a team collaboration client --Team-One. Also like the messaging from its competitors, BroadSoft's marketing message is that some users will prefer the UC client and some will need and want the team collaboration client. Personally, I'm not convinced the dual-client solution is in the user's best interest for any of these offers. What I really like about BroadSoft's approach, however, is the focus on integrating components of these two products together. For example, a UC-One user invited to a Team-One workspace as a guest can be a fully functional member of the team. The workspace shows up in the UC-One interface and looks like it would if the person were using the Team-One interface.
Similarly, Team-One users can see presence status of UC-One users, and vice versa, and they can call others in their organization or dial out to the PSTN from within the Team-One client experience.
Both solutions allow third parties to participate in meetings, and Team-One enables third-party team workspace participation without requiring a login or the need to sign up for a free or paid account.
UC-One also offers a number of interesting built-in features. For example, it includes a compelling SMS capability that allows users to send SMS messages that show up on the other end as being from their work numbers. Likewise, inbound SMS messages to the work phone number show up in the UC-One interface.
In addition, BroadSoft demoed a capability that automatically puts a mobile device on Do Not Disturb mode when a service worker places the device face down. The idea being, of course, that messages and calls do not disturb a worker while on task.
New Meetings Capability
A common "Meet" capability underlies both UC-One and Team-One, allowing users of either tool to participate in HD video, wideband audio, and screen sharing sessions regardless of which client a person happens to use. I like this level of interoperability between a traditional UC interface and a team collaboration interface. Furthermore, external participants can easily connect via WebRTC.
Hub Integration and Hub AI
BroadSoft Hub is a mechanism for integrating third-party information or services into UC-One and Team-One. Examples include Outlook email and calendar, Google email and calendar, Salesforce, Twitter, and other external solutions. Demos I saw featured two types of integration. One type of integration provided the ability to view information within the UC-One or Team-One interfaces. For example, you can see your emails and/or your calendar from within these apps so you don't need to context shift to an email client or webpage if you just need to read or view these items.
Even more powerful is that Hub surfaces information related to a team or a conversation. For example, when you're viewing a team workspace, Hub will surface all the documents, email messages, and relevant content associated with the participants in this workspace. (By the way, Team-One market messaging doesn't disparage email, it embraces it as a useful teaming capability.) Users can fine-tune what they see by focusing in on the communications they have had with the entire team or with a subset of team members. For example, a team lead may have interactions with smaller groups within a team, or even with individuals, and the interface allows surfacing information sorted at this level of granularity. BroadSoft claims this search capability is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and is context sensitive, so we'll be looking to understand how this really works.
BroadSoft unveiled a new Hub capability, branded Hub AI. Hub AI is an intelligent assistant trained with a communications-related lexicon that understands natural language (spoken speech). If you're speaking to your Hub AI assistant on a mobile device, you'd be able to schedule team meetings, resolve schedule conflicts, and place calls via UC-One. Hub AI currently supports 25 other capabilities but BroadSoft hasn't yet published a list of these. The product is in use within BroadSoft Labs, and will soon roll out for BroadSoft's own internal use before going external to friendly alpha testers.
As an aside, the level of in-house developed AI technology in the Hub assistant is substantial. For the "easy stuff" -- speech to text and text to speech -- the company relies on Google and Amazon functionality via APIs. However, for understanding the "intent" of the words spoken, BroadSoft Labs has developed an extensible representation model that customers will be able to use themselves. I believe the ability for enterprises or partners to add additional "intents" specific to their own business processes and data integrations will prove to be an extremely valuable capability.
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