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Talking Teamwork, Minus Collaboration

As the battle to win the team collaboration software market accelerates, the focus has been on how team workspace functionality enhances the collaborative event experience that has developed out of the last 10 years of unified communications, video, text, etc. (often called meetings by the vendors). These collaborative event solutions have dramatically enhanced our ability to interact remotely and virtually over distance. At Enterprise Connect 2018, in our Cisco versus Microsoft session, Brent Kelly and I argued that in order for a team collaboration solution to be compelling for various enterprise use cases it needs to meet three important conditions. There must be:

  • A defined group of people
  • A defined topic
  • Contextual continuity of events, interactions, and information over time

Brent recently wrote on this topic for No Jitter; I'll zero in on where team workspaces can be applied for business value.

A major recent evolution of team collaboration tools is the capability to use team spaces to organize business processes, or more likely micro-processes. With a team workspace capability, a business activity can be efficiently organized around the capabilities of team software. Further, integrating these team collaboration solutions with other applications and data can rapidly drive better outcomes. For example, a customer issue can be referred to a team space where the members are experts who can promptly interact and rapidly propose a solution.

However, while a portion of users of event collaboration tools will arguably need these team collaboration tools, what about the employees who do not have a need for online collaboration capabilities? Should/could the team workspace capabilities apply to these workers, too?

For those of us who are knowledge workers and depend on the capabilities of collaboration tools to do our daily jobs, the question likely seems a bit strange. However, it is a critical point. In the white paper on the Knowledge, Information and Service Structure (KISS) methodology, the different types of workers are described. Using the quantization of worker types, an analysis of the North American market yields an interesting view of the need for tools.

The percentage of knowledge workers is defined based on a range of U.S. and international metrics. The result is that in North America, there are an estimated 22% of workers that fit into the knowledge worker class (compared to about 15% globally). This means that of the approximately 200 million active workers in the U.S., about 44 million are knowledge workers, the remaining 156 million workers are employed where collaboration tools are either not required or are integrated into a formal business process (contact center expert escalation, field service support, for example).


While many of these workers may not use the remote capabilities of collaboration tools, the team workspace capability may have significant value, even without the accompanying collaboration tools. Take an intensive care ward in a hospital as an example. For a group of patients, there are typically three shifts (sometimes four) of nurses covering those beds. A team workspace could be used to manage all the information about each patient as they go through the process of checking vitals and interacting in the care unit. These employees, who would be classified as information workers, would never collaborate electronically. After a 10-hour shift when a nurse leaves for home, he or she will not typically communicate with the office. However, in the hour of overlap between shifts, the nurses collaborate face to face. In this case, the team capabilities are all related to the defined group, the defined topic, and the contextual continuity and records.

Another example could be a UPS driver/route. If the route is turned into a team workspace, all the potential drivers on that route could become team members. In this case, the team workspace would function as a place to input information about the route -- delivery issues, security gate codes, dangerous dogs, etc. -- to be shared across all drivers. In the event that a driver goes on vacation and a replacement driver is assigned to the route, that new driver would be able to catch up on everything they need to know about the new route. Again, there is little need for a virtual collaboration event between the replacement driver and the regular driver who is on vacation, but the value of team capabilities is still clear.

As these two examples highlight, using team workspace technology to operationalize these micro-business processes is a clear way to extend the available market from the 22% of workers who are knowledge workers, to the remaining 78%. Another key question is whether bundling of the collaborative event and the team capability into a single license is better than a-la-carte ordering that enables organization to buy the team capability without purchasing the event collaboration functionality. The idea of team workspaces without the collaboration component can have huge impacts on adoption, business impact, and competitive choices.

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