Friday, March 10, 2017

Team Collaboration

As enterprises increasingly hire talent globally, building high-performance global teams has become a critical success factor. Traditional collaboration tools (email, file sharing, web conferencing, etc.) are struggling to meet the rapidly evolving requirements for seamless virtual team interaction.

A new generation of team collaboration tools has emerged since early 2014. The leading function in these new tools is the persistent conversation space (referred to as “channel” or “room”) followed by file sharing and app / bot libraries (used for example for integrations with other tools). Audio / video communication is sometimes embedded and sometimes provided via integration with another service provider.

The emerging Team Collaboration market segment is a result of the collision of two trends:

1) The rise of persistent collaboration spaces to support Agile and DevOps

The software development community uses a lot of tools (mostly in the Cloud) that make Agile software development easier: tools for tracking bugs and features (like Jira), tools for code management (like GitHub and Bitbucket), etc. Global development and operations (DevOps) teams require a persistent collaboration environment, well integrated with development tools. Slack, HipChat, and other tools are trying to meet the requirement. Since voice and video can be quite disruptive, the focus is on persistent messaging (some say “persistent chat”). Deep integration with software development tools is essential.

While the concept emerged in software development, it is transferable to other types of teams and we are already seeing options for Marketing, Creative, Project Management, etc. as well as integrations with business applications required for such teams to successfully collaborate.   

2) The rise of messaging in the UCC space

Enterprise Unified Communication shifted its focus from voice to video (video conferencing) and then to content sharing (web conferencing) in pursuit of better collaboration / higher employee productivity. The latest shift is happening right now and is about elevating messaging to a primary collaboration mode. The trend probably started first when Microsoft based Lync predecessor LCS on instant messaging and presence (rather than on email, voice, or video) but the reason for that radical shift today is the new messaging wave that is coming from the consumer space, where free messaging mobile applications led to service providers cutting the cost for SMS, and to everybody messaging everybody all the time. Employees are increasingly bringing their consumer messaging habits into the enterprise and are increasingly using messaging apps like Wechat, Whatsapp, and Facebook Messenger for business purposes…

The enterprises’ need for more control over security and account administration led to UC vendors developing messaging-focused team collaboration tools such as Cisco Spark, Microsoft Teams, Unify Circuit, and Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow. While messaging is the key functionality is the persistent collaboration spaces, UC vendors leveraged their know-how in voice and video and integrated these functions into the team collaboration tools. They also built bridges to existing (“legacy”) applications to guarantee customer investment protection and are working on customer migration stories.

Integrations with software development tools and business applications are still a challenge for the UC industry and there is considerable investment to partner / build integrations and close the gap.   


Enterprises are looking for ways to leverage team collaboration tools without adding complexity to their already complex collaboration environments. The market is very new and quite fragmented, with each vendor covering certain use cases a little bit better than the rest. In general, UC vendors are providing better integrations with their UC stacks while newcomers focus on developing rich integration capabilities with development tools and business applications.

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