The future of enterprise messaging: Four essential capabilities

Businesses operate under the assumption that the tools available to their employees are effective enough to help them get work done. But the way people work today challenges this view. With the overwhelming amount of information, communications and applications people are required to use every day, we struggle to be productive.

Business decision-makers began to see the first signs of this phenomenon when the tracking and management of work emails became oppressive. That is when enterprise messaging began to gain traction. Today, however, the rising volume of messages and message threads pose a problem as obstructive to workplace productivity as emails once were.

With that said, enterprise messaging is positioned far more strongly than email to adapt and thrive going forward. Gartner estimates that the worldwide workstream messaging market will approach $4.9 billion in revenues by 2021. In recent years, companies that have succeeded in the field of enterprise messaging layered collaboration features (file sharing and the like) on their thread-centric apps. But adding content sharing features to a chat stream will not be enough for knowledge workers. To increase user adoption and improve ROI there are 4 capabilities that team collaboration applications must deliver. 

Built-in artificial intelligence capabilities

The average worker spends two hours per day just looking for information, two-and-a-half hours in meetings or scheduling meetings, and another two hours sending and responding to email. It doesn’t take a mathematician to calculate that these time-wasters eat up much of the workday, and messaging apps offer little reprieve, if they continue to burden workers with having to manually filter through content, communications and notifications.

G2 Crowd’s chief research officer Michael Fauscette noted in its December 2016 survey that AI is the answer to the sorting pain point: "If I can teach a machine what I am interested in, in various contexts, then it can filter information for me. AI is great for filtering and I think that this is the way that things will have to go."

Imagine how a collaboration app with the ability to search cloud applications to find content relevant to a given conversation - documents, messages, even social profiles - can help a team work more effectively and easily. Automating this search reduces the distractions and loss of productivity that can result from failed attempts to multi-task.

AI can address many productivity pain points. Most notably it can be applied to the amount of time workers must dedicate each day to the “orchestration” of work, rather than to work itself. A messaging-based collaboration app with built-in AI can dramatically reduce the productivity time suck.

Evolution to virtual workspaces

Team collaboration applications must continue to evolve when it comes to eliminating or decreasing time-wasting activities. For this reason, virtual workspaces are core to the future of team collaboration.

 

In the past, workflows across teams, individuals and systems came together in a scattershot of emails, hallway conversations and other interactions. This work style made a lot of sense when coworkers were in the same building, sharing cubicles or going to lunch together. In today’s world of remote working, distributed teams and outsourcing to external players, meetings have proliferated not because they advance ideas and productivity, but to simply get everyone on the same page.

Forty-five per cent of workers feel overwhelmed by the number of meetings they have to attend. And they don’t view most of these meetings as valuable. The average worker spends 31 hours every month in unproductive meetings, which directly and very negatively impacts the business bottom line.

Virtual workspaces offer an always-on, persistent environment that ensures all team members are working with the same, single truth for all information and communication.

Corporate recruiting is a great example of public/private workspace applications. Just post a link in a recruiting ad and applicants can instantly connect for a virtual conversation with company staff. University campuses are an example of a physical place where a virtual space could instantly create tight communities of prospective students.

Effectively an on-demand, lightweight, virtual workspace becomes the future unit of communication and collaboration that can reduce, if not eliminate, the volume of unproductive meetings.

Telephony and UC integration a must

While most team collaboration apps support some form of video conferencing, few offer outbound voice calling to the telephony network. And when they do, these capabilities are not really integrated into the workstream. Instead they pop the user out into a separate experience, one that is user- or person-centric and not team- or workspace-centric.

Dialling into a conference call through one application, while taking notes in another, then sharing your notes via a third leaves users to deal with a distracting proliferation of tools, forcing them to spend additional time organising information. Sending team members hunting through a calendar appointment or an email inbox to find a link to a third-party app, seriously interrupts the flow of business interactions and conversations. Ask yourself: when was the last time you participated in a video conference that started on time?

Important calling connectivity available with the click of a button is the ideal experience. A full integration with telephony and unified communications allows a user to easily join high-quality voice and video calls right from the team workspace. This means that the user does not have to switch between apps or even open a new window to fully participate in a call. And it is not necessary to know the details of the host’s calling profile because the experience is owned by the virtual workspace.

Task Management for simplified workflow

Team collaboration is, by nature, all about getting work done. And getting work done is all about people, assignments and tasks. Yet many enterprise messaging apps talk about their use as a collaboration tool solely on the basis of bringing people together in a chat. A conversation, however multi-threaded, is not a task management tool. And searching through dozens of messages cannot provide a team member a snapshot of what work has been assigned, what work is in process, what is due and what is done.

Providing business users with the ability to easily capture, assign and track tasks – from within their team collaboration app – significantly simplifies the workflow process and bolsters productivity. With task tracking, a marketing and communications manager can coordinate an entire event in a single virtual workspace without needing to open a second app for activity management functions. An accounting group can manage the month-end closing process with clear assignments for accruals and reconciliations. An engineering team can run all their sprints in well-organised workspaces with tasks indicating the goals and due dates of the sprint.

The application(s) that will ultimately win make users more effective and improve the ROI for collaboration will most likely need to include these AI and task management capabilities, seamless telephony integration and an organisational model that can replace face-to-face meetings with virtual workspaces.

Tony Lopresti is VP and GM, BroadSoft Team Collaboration
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