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    As a collaboration analyst, one of the most frequently asked questions I get from organizations is, "What apps or tools should we be evaluating?"

    I always respond with a follow-up question, "Well, what business problems are you trying to solve?" I do this in order to steer the conversation toward thinking about the actual solution to the problem—rather than applying generic applications or products. Enterprise leaders and decision makers have to focus workplace collaboration strategies and investments around the requirements for people to get their work done.

    Technology investments have to support contextual and conversational flows across our business processes and workflows. Connectivity and communications have to be frictionless to promote a culture of collaboration that allows for easy community building, whether this occurs inside or outside of the organization.

    Investments in workplace collaboration tools should be about people, connectivity, fostering a culture of collaboration, and building a conversational enterprise.

    As enterprises look to build out their collaboration toolsets, it's important to first understand your core business needs and match those with technology capabilities.

    So, what interesting applications are out there? There's a sea of collaboration apps that are being positioned for the workplace. Many collaboration tools cross many categories, but it's good to break it out into functional areas and how they fit into an overall business solution. Let’s think through this in the form of a couple categories or buckets of apps.

    Meeting Experience Solutions

    What's been referred to as web or video conferencing, I believe, needs to be rebranded to meeting experience solutions. This is being driven by the very real need of providing better meeting experiences for both attendees and planners.

    The overarching force behind it all is the ever-growing momentum to support better conversational experiences for improving productivity in people’s work processes. Effective communication and collaboration is critical for business workflows, processes, and creating conversational enterprises.

    Here are a few meeting experience solutions that I think should be on your radar.
    The other big bucket of collaboration offerings are those that I group into an emerging space called conversational workspaces or environments. These offerings often tie into larger productivity suites or platforms with deep integrations into business applications and processes. These enable communications and collaboration in business workflows. This growing conversational workspaces market is characterized by products with the following core features, functionality, and capabilities:
    • Messaging
    • Persistent chat
    • Content sharing
    • Video and voice communications (meeting experience solutions)
    • Administration controls and security
    • Search
    • Archiving (often via integration with a third party)
    • Integration into business applications (via open APIs)
    • Artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP)
    • Chatbots

    This overall space includes providers that also offer native meeting experience solutions, while others simply offer integrations with those meeting experience solutions, including the following representative vendors:

    My aim today was to give you some context and considerations around collaboration applications and the representative providers in this space. Remember, investments in workplace collaboration tools should be about people, connectivity, fostering a culture of collaboration, and building a conversational enterprise. Start from a solution-focused perspective, whether it be recruiting, customer support/experience, or employee engagement.

    David Mario Smith is Founder and Principal Analyst at InFlow Analysis. Dave is a Gartner veteran of over 16 years and an IT industry professional with 20 years of experience in the collaboration and workplace technology markets. For more information, visit http://inflowanalysis.com or follow him on Twitter @DaveMario.
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