As I\u2019ve covered the communications and collaboration space for many years, the one thing that\u2019s been hard to accomplish throughout all the iterations of the technology is the establishment of a true contextual conversational environment with a robust community engine. Now we\u2019ve had products, especially in the social software wave that were marketed for internal communities and external communities, but they lacked the necessary modes of communication, identity and policy protocols to really make it work. It\u2019s not enough to market a collaboration platform as having community features, the people engaged on the platform have to feel like they\u2019re part of a community. Connectivity via that community concept is critical for internal communication and collaboration to be effective. Collaboration tools have to be in the flow of how people actually work. If they are above flow and require people to do too much context switching, adoption will suffer.\nIn a recent conversation with Simon Cross from the Workplace by Facebook product team, we discussed the key announcements that are coming out of Flow this week, the Workplace by Facebook first global conference. It speaks to where I think the collaboration space is headed with all its multiple players and vendors. As Cross went through the key announcements we discussed the critical feedback from early beta customers.\nWorkplace by Facebook announcements\nFacebook is announcing at the Flow event:\n\nGlobally releasing Safety Check for businesses.\n\nDeployed via Workplace chat, the update aims to ensure employers know of the safety of their staff during situations where lives could be at risk.\nSimilar to the consumer version of Safety Check you may be familiar with, it is not geo-targeted. The tool is deployed by organizations directly based on the location of an employee's whereabouts.\nAny assistance requested from an employee in need is run by the organization deploying the tool.\n\n\nWorkplace chat updates including:\n\nMulti-company chat, video & voice calling:\u00a0Members of a multi-company group (MCG) will be able to kick-off group and 1-on-1 chats with other members of the group whether they are a part of the same company or not. They'll also be able to video or voice call other organizations, now moving Workplace into the unified communications (UC) space.\nDo-not-disturb:\u00a0Employees can determine times they won't receive notifications from Workplace. They can 'snooze' notifications for a few hours, or it can be set for specific days\/time (for example, every weekday after 6 pm).\nPinning:\u00a0Users will be able to \u201cpin\u201d a message to the top of a chat thread.\nMark as important:\u00a0Will allow group admins to take an existing group post and promote it to the top of the News Feed for a customized period of time.\nReplies:\u00a0Users can reply directly to specific messages within the chat group, so it is clear which part of the conversation they are referring to (similar to WhatsApp).\n\n\nAn announcement about the strength of the Facebook machine learning technology, called Work Graph.\n\nMachine learning technology is the tech behind Workplace, surfacing the most relevant and interesting items to users first.\n\n\nA new security center, a portal where admins can check their company's security settings.\n\nI listed all that to provide the context of our discussion and where I believe the collaboration space is headed. In traditional terms, the ability to collaborate across multiple companies with chat, voice and video calling would be referred to as UC. However, we are seeing the evolution moving beyond UC. UC never fully arrived at its \u201cunified\u201d moniker fully.\nGoing beyond UC\nUC, and its recasting into the Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) market, has been mired by what seems like legacy technology and an old school way of looking at communications and collaboration. Better yet, a dated way at looking at how people collaborate and interact. At the center of UC or UCC is the people that are actually doing the interacting. Traditionally, too much focus was placed on the session, endpoints and technology at the expense of actually supporting how people really work. Communications sessions begin and end. Gone are the artifacts of that interaction that may be valuable and provide needed context or information for a business process or workflow.\nAlso, UC or UCC did not make it easy to build communities internally or across companies. Increasingly, when speaking with CIOs, IT and lines of business leaders responsible for communications and collaboration, they all cite the growing need for connectivity and fostering a collaborative culture and environment. This need is increasingly guiding technology purchases in this space.\nEnter conversational environments and workspaces\nUC, UCC and older forms of collaboration technology are giving way to what I refer to as conversational workspaces or environments. Enterprise connectivity, building communities and fostering a collaborative culture relies upon contextual, conversational flows across all business domains, processes and workflows. That also has to extend beyond the walls of the enterprise to customers, business partners, suppliers and all participants in the ecosystem.\nSo as I look at the Workplace by Facebook announcements and the focus on allowing users to freely communicate (across modalities), collaborate, connect and build communities, there is a distinct shift towards conversational experiences. While I\u2019ve been referring to the Workplace by Facebook announcements here, there is an emerging market evolving with a vast number of players, focusing on digital workplace connectivity and improving how people get work done. This is an increasingly competitive space, which will help to keep vendors honest and give business decision makers options.\nFinal recommendations\nEnterprise leaders and decision makers have to focus workplace collaboration strategies and investments on people requirements for getting their work done. Technology investments have to support contextual and conversational flows across business processes and workflows. Connectivity and communications have to be frictionless for easy community building internal to and external to the organization. It bears repeating, enterprise users have to find it easy to not only build communities, but that they are part of a community. Investments in workplace conversational environments have to be about people, connectivity and fostering a culture of collaboration.