As I look out at the landscape of the uber-digital workplace market, it is clear that we are shifting towards conversational environments, with newer interfaces, in what is emerging to be new conversational workspace platforms, that are being launched by a plethora of providers from startups to established collaboration players.
I’ve covered the collaboration market for many years and we are witnessing a sea change and a paradigm shift, not only in technology, but also in user expectations of technology. With all the new tools emerging in the collaboration space, let’s not forget what is at the heart of all of this, people want to get their work done better and more efficiently.
And the conversation flow is key to collaboration in their work processes. This is no longer about the future of work, but about getting work done in the here and now.
So as we look at what I’ve been referring to now as conversational workspaces, they are increasingly being characterized by a targeted focus on the conversation between individuals, applications and chatbots as essential for both internal and external communications and collaboration.
Conversations are persistent and in the context of work processes with the related content artifacts and data. Artificial intelligence is also being infused to support automation, better decision making and thus intelligent conversations. The mix of internal and external facing interactions is resulting in a collaboration lifecycle that has dual outcomes of both improved employee and customer experiences respectively. And the idea that the two are inextricably linked.
I won’t go too much further into that here, but suffice it to say that we can all agree that the customer experience is ultimately king, queen, president, prime minister, chief cook and bottle washer!
Now I’ve mentioned the conversational workspace platform providers before in other articles, but it bears repeating this list for context, and to convey the growing number of them and the expansion of this market. In no particular order, ranging from startups to traditional collaboration providers (who are now pivoting and starting to do non-traditional things), we see emerging: Slack, Atlassian Stride, Microsoft Teams, Workplace by Facebook, Unify Circuit, Cisco Spark, RingCentral Glip, 8×8 Sameroom, MindLink, IBM Watson Workspace, ALE Rainbow, Fuze, Google Hangouts Chat, BroadSoft team-one, Zinc, Lua and Maxine by Intrprtr_. I’m also privy to even newer emerging offerings that I’m not at liberty to name just yet.
Clearly, this space is already emerging quickly, with a diverse set of providers. As the market gets crowded, some providers are starting to focus on specific niches to carve out their own space for a bit of elbow room, like Lua, with healthcare-focused features.
The other hurdle that new emerging providers such as Slack and Facebook are realizing and starting to address, is the issue of enterprise grade scale and security, while still supporting integrations into critical business workflows and applications.
The advantage that established communications and collaboration providers such as Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Unify have is a historically proven story around enterprise grade scale and security. This becomes ever important with these cloud based applications.
However, traditional providers can’t force a grassroots movement like what happened with Slack, they will have to focus messaging on business apps and workflow integration to reach lines of business leaders who are focused on business outcomes and helping people get their jobs done in specific processes. It has to resonate with those folks. The tools will have to come down into the flow of how people actually work. On the other hand, emerging players like Slack have to address the enterprise in regards to scale, security, compliance and admin controls.
User adoption has been the critical measure of success with conversational workspace tools. So while younger providers enjoy departmental or team based grassroots success and traditional providers have established strategies for enterprise grade offerings and penetration into IT, both will have to strike gold with a balanced attack of addressing lines of business workflows and needs along with a strong story for IT around scale and security. Messaging will have to resonate with business users as well as IT leaders to achieve long term user adoption success.
Overall, investments in digital workplace technologies have to center around creating and supporting user conversational environments and experiences. Therefore, digital workplace technology initiatives and investments around conversational workspace offerings have to be purposeful. At the heart of that purpose has to be a drive towards supporting conversational environments and experiences within critical business workflows and processes. Business workflows are non-existent without people. They require collaboration, cooperation and coordination at every stage.
Conversations happen throughout the lifecycle of a process and is critical to its success and efficiency. Increasingly, those conversations include people, machines, chatbots and other applications. Investments will have to focus on the entirety of all the moving parts that need to converse with each other.
At the end of the day this is about outcomes. Conversations in real-time and at the right time are critical to achieving measurable business outcomes.