“Phone calls are almost 140 yrs old and SMS is 22 years old. Astonishing that such antique products are still mainstays of many telco’s revenues.”
That’s a tweet I read last week from @disruptivedean that inspired this blog. While we know that voice is not going away, we do know that the revenues from it are on a downward spiral. We’re mobile, social, global and very fast-paced. We have many tools at our disposal today that we’re getting from providers other than the telephone company, including the new team collaboration apps – and yes, that includes Slack whose valuation hit the news feeds the day I started noodling on this post.
There are over 1 billion mobile workers around the globe, most of them using free or “freemium” apps at work whether sanctioned or not. The headlines will tell you that Internet-based apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, Join.me, Gmail, Hangouts and more are eating away at telco revenues. But if you look at the numbers, they’re actually not. They are however taking away users, which of course is significant – a new generation of users who are looking for a different approach to workplace communications.
Like it or not, social networking is becoming embedded in the way we communicate, and the new cloud-based team collaboration apps are built around this principle. They provide a more flexible, multi-modal and contextual communication fabric, beyond just “voice and SMS.” Frankly, I see this type of solution as a good model for replacing traditional business communications, in many instances.
Team Collaboration Apps – Two Main Categories:
Currently, I feel that these apps are coming out of two very different places. The first is from the traditional communication software vendors such as Cisco, Microsoft and Unify, who have launched cloud-based team collaboration apps called, respectively, Spark, Skype for Business and Circuit. As befits their heritage, these solutions tend to focus on voice and video first, and the user experience is driven from the contact list (born out of the familiar phone directory.)
Features such as group messaging, multiparty voice and video, content sharing, information management and more are some of the key attributes. Mobile capability is certainly there, with differing levels of sophistication. They are meant to integrate with the vendor’s own communications platform or server, for maximum functionality including PSTN support for inbound and outbound calling.
The second category comes from the new entrants such as Glip, Slack, and Hipchat who offer collaboration apps that focus on team / project management features first, and voice / video second. The starting point for these tools is information, not contacts. Features such as group messaging, document collaboration, task and information management,archiving and search, shared calendars, and in some cases project planning, are at the top of the list.
They also emphasize integration with third-party “OTT” services such as DropBox, Twitter, Github, Google (Docs and Hangouts) and more, and support mobile from the get-go with native apps. They’re not concerned with the existing business phone system, focusing squarely on easy-to-use collaboration within the enterprise. And perhaps most importantly, they can easily be implemented at the departmental or team level, unlike the first category.
In summary, we have two very different models but with the same underlying principle – that of cloud-based, social, mobile team collaboration that ties together remote and distributed workers across devices, with new functionality that speaks to today’s work environment.
What’s your opinion on these new team collaboration tools in the workplace? Will they replace or augment traditional business comms? Will telcos bring up the rear, so to speak, and launch a defensive play themselves?
Holly Dowden, VP Marketing @mportal
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