Team collaboration capabilities were integral to many of the new solutions highlighted at the recent Enterprise Connect in Orlando, FL. This fast-emerging category continues to evolve in the form of stand-alone tools for teamwork, but we’re also beginning to see the integration of team capabilities into other business communications applications. Recently, Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider RingCentral released two new integrated solutions: the “collaborative” RingCentral Contact Center and the stand-alone RingCentral Meetings that integrate with the company’s Glip team messaging application.
Team-based applications have emerged in the business environment as an effective way to communicate, collaborate and manage projects. Today’s knowledge workers are often spread among different locations, working remotely from a home office or frequently on the road and often not even working within the same organization. With a team-based tool, users simply log into a virtual “room” or space where they can easily share together in real-time with others on the team, accessing multiple technologies such as messaging, audio, video, multi-party meetings and content sharing within a single user interface. This concept of centralizing a particular project’s related conversations, interactions and documentation can really make a difference in the successful management and completion of a project.
Team collaboration – also referred to by many other names, including “virtual workspaces,” “persistent workspaces,” “virtual rooms,” “workstream messaging” and “team messaging” – is gaining traction. In a recent survey of 500 IT and business professionals across 12 countries, research firm Nemertes found that adoption continues to increase, with 80% of the participants in the study using, evaluating or planning to use a team collaboration application. Document Sharing and having a central repository for finding project-related documents emerged as the “most important” function within a team space.
Perhaps even more telling is the growth in actual usage as reported by the various providers of these teamwork applications. Microsoft’s chat-based workspace Teams, just one year old, is now in use at 200,000 organizations, up from 125,000 organizations in September 2017. Today, 50,000+ paying companies use Slack’s teamwork app (Slack also has a freemium service); the company reported six million daily active users and more than two million paying users as of last September 2017, up from five million daily users and 1.5 million paid users just nine months before that. Facebook reports more than 30,000 organizations are using its Workplace enterprise team collaboration tool, doubling the usage over a six-month period.
While the RingCentral cloud-based team messaging capability Glip will continue to be available stand-alone with or without a subscription to RingCentral Office UCaaS, the company has begun to incorporate this functionality into its other cloud-based services. The first integrated solutions to rollout are in the areas of contact center and online meetings, with the RingCentral Office user interface to follow soon.
RingCentral’s new “collaborative” Contact Center adds the company’s Glip team messaging application (acquired in 2015) to the RingCentral Contact Center service (built on inContact technology). The idea here is to facilitate communication among contact center agents and knowledge experts across an enterprise in order to resolve customer issues quickly. All teams and individuals defined in Glip are brought into the contact center environment. Agents have access to the full range of Glip features, including team chat, video chat, file sharing and storage, calendar sync and task management. Customers can be part of a Glip team too. When invited to join Glip, customers will be able to share files and communicate with experts and agents in the team via chat, with the option to elevate this chat conversation to a phone call or video as needed. This Glip “expert connect” functionality is included at no extra charge with RingCentral Contact Center Basic, Advanced and Ultimate plans.
A related service called RingCentral Pulse (planned for general availability in third quarter of 2018) will add automated key performance indicator (KPI) bots to monitor call center metrics in real time. RingCentral Glip teams will receive alerts and notifications when KPIs are not being met, and key personnel can then take immediate action. Also with Pulse, all contact center agent groups that are defined in the contact center application will appear as Teams in RingCentral Glip (Team Sync). There will be no additional charge for the Pulse capabilities.
RingCentral Meetings is a new stand-alone web and video meetings solution aimed at businesses not yet ready to replace their current telephony solution (i.e. not yet ready to subscribe to RingCentral Office), but which have a need for an online meeting capability. Meetings combines web meetings (based on technology from Zoom) and team collaboration (based on RingCentral’s Glip) into an easily accessed, subscription-based service. Meeting participants will be able to seamlessly transition from a Glip chat conversation to an online meeting to share screens and discuss projects live. Participants can share files from services like Dropbox, share animated online GIF files and save all messages and content on Glip, or opt to have these automatically deleted after a certain period of time.
Meetings comes in three editions (Free, Essentials and Advanced), each of which enables access to video, group chats and content sharing for up to 100 participants per conference. Essentials ($14.99/user/month) adds unlimited meeting duration, phone support, reports and access to Glip team messaging. Advanced ($19.99/user/month) includes a dashboard for real-time usage and adoption reporting, administration (roles and permissions) and a Service Level Agreement (SLA). A business can flexibly mix and match editions within the organization as needed, assigning the Free version to some users and paid versions (Essentials or Advanced) to others.
While no RingCentral Office subscription is required to use Meetings, customers can easily upgrade to the RingCentral Office telephony service later by simply contacting their account manager to add Office features to their account (cloud telephony, fax, SMS, etc.).
More to Come
Other vendors and providers are also moving in this direction, introducing new integrations between team collaboration tools and their business communications applications and services. Microsoft is currently in the process of evolving Teams as the primary user interface for Office 365, over time integrating all of the Skype for Business Online features (telephony, conferencing and chat) into the Microsoft Teams collaborative app that centralizes a project’s related conversations, interactions and documentation; feature parity is occurring in waves throughout 2018. Avaya is enhancing the Avaya Equinox Experience (its desktop and mobile client application) to include the features and functionality of its cloud-based team collaboration capability called Spaces (based on technology from Avaya’s subsidiary Zang). 8×8 hints that one of the new features of its forthcoming X Series will be a new internally-developed team messaging solution integrated into its unified desktop and mobile experience; the advanced X Series packages will also include 8×8’s Sameroom interoperability platform that connects disparate team messaging solutions. Stay tuned.