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RingCentral Gets In Early On 'Workstream' Action

Last week, as reported on No Jitter, RingCentral acquired Glip to move into what's broadly known as the business messaging market. The solutions in this product class actually do much more than messaging and, after hours of discussions, my fellow industry watcher Dave Michels, TalkingPointz analyst, and I have settled on the name of "workstream collaboration and communications," or WCC.

As Dave pointed out on Monday in his No Jitter post, "Making Enterprise Communications More Than Unified," WCC solutions are designed for distributed and agile teams that need to make decisions or complete tasks quickly. Another important thing to understand about WCC is that the tools are rarely deployed as an IT initiative. Rather, the adoption tends to be viral by workers who want to use the tool instead of having the tool thrust upon them.


This is what makes RingCentral's decision to acquire Glip so interesting and forward looking. RingCentral has largely gone to market through IT departments with phone services, conferencing applications, and other offerings deployed companywide. Given the cloud communications provider's impressive growth over the past couple of years, why fix what isn't broken?

The answer is because RingCentral understands that in a mobile-first, cloud-driven world, Glip, Slack, Cisco Spark, Unify Circuit and similar tools are the shape of things to come in the collaboration industry. In a No Jitter post earlier this year, I wrote how digital transformation drives the need for a type of tool that addresses the needs of a fast-moving, agile team that needs to solve a problem and make a decision fast. Traditional collaboration tools such as email and chat are individual centric whereas WCC is team centric, which is why viral adoption is so high.

Glip is one of the better WCC tools available today in that it facilitates both internal and external collaboration. It also has an integrated corporate directory that shows presence status and its own calendar. It may seem counterintuitive that a vendor would offer a calendar when Google and Outlook have excellent options, the lightweight Glip app enables quick entry from within the tool and then directly syncs with Gmail and Outlook.

In addition to team communications, Glip has a number of integrated collaboration features such as project tracking, task management, file sharing, and note taking. Similar to the calendar, the integrated tools aren't designed to replace dedicated applications. For example, the file sharing doesn't have near the breadth of features as Box, nor can the project tracking features replace a true project management application. However, integration means team participants never need to leave Glip to use the features.

One of the challenges with collaborating today is the constant back and forth and flipping among applications. WCC solves this challenge. Don't get this confused with the original vision of UC that tried to create a single, all-powerful application that serves as a replacement for everything. WCC has all of the functions necessary for agile teams to collaborate and make quick decisions.

The combination of the two companies brings together Glip's cloud-based WCC product with RingCentral's best-in-class cloud UC suite. RingCentral should be able to leverage the two, creating a common back end and then delivering a consistent set of features to workers for individual productivity as well as team collaboration.

Consider a situation in which two users are chatting about a problem but decide they need to pull more people into the discussion. By having a common back end, a user could immediately and seamlessly shift from a one-on-one chat to a group session. This is particularly important when a worker is mobile. When I'm sitting at my desk, moving information from a chat window to a WCC application is inconvenient but not show stopping. However, it could be the latter when I'm mobile.

Think of a use case in which a salesperson who is on the way to visit a key client is chatting with a sales engineer about a problem the customer has. The sales engineer might then recommend that a technical expert as well as the external account manager be brought into the session. Working together, that on-the-fly team could quickly diagnose the problem, create a to-do list, and place supporting content in the workstream. When the salesperson arrives at the customer site, he or she knows exactly where to access all of the information rather than having to search for it in multiple tools.

UC has a tremendous amount of value, but the organizing principal is around individuals. Being able to compliment this with a tool that organizes information around teams enables workers to use the right tool based on what it is they are trying to accomplish. The combination of RingCentral and Glip will create a consistent, integrated experience.

I fully believe the WCC market, or team messaging as it has been called, is set to explode and RingCentral is the first UCaaS provider to see this and jump into the market. In doing so, it joins Cisco, Unify, and Interactive Intelligence as one of the only vendor that can potentially bridge the gap between traditional UC and WCC today.

I'm expecting this to be a big year for WCC as other traditional UC vendors and UCaaS providers jump into this hot market.

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