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In Conversation with Alan Lepofsky of Constellation Research on the Future of Workplace Collaboration


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Here at RingCentral, we are busy with the final preparations for our annual conference, ConnectCentral 2018. At the event this year, we look forward to great discussions on how to harness the power of cloud communications and collaboration technology to unite people, ideas, and businesses globally. As we’ve built our narrative, agenda, and content for the conference, I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with the industry’s leading voices on the future of work.

It’s in this context that I recently sat down with Alan Lepofsky, VP and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, who will be speaking at ConnectCentral  on Wednesday, November 14. For nearly two decades, Alan has explored the collaboration software industry. He is a thought leader on the future of work, specifically on integrated collaboration, business processes, and digital transformation. This makes him uniquely qualified to talk about the state of communications and collaboration in the workplace today. Here are some excerpts from my conversation with Alan.

What trends to do you see impacting the way people communicate and collaborate?

Alan: For decades, the case has been that the tools we use in our consumer lives—text messaging, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter—eventually trickle into our work lives. That was true in the early days of chat clients, and now it’s happening with social networking and group messaging.

Recently, we have seen people becoming more comfortable sharing information more openly, with a greater number now contributing than was the case previously. At the same time, simple text-based messages are no longer enough as more engaging forms of communication such as Emojis, animated gifs, videos, or even 360-degree videos allow people to better convey their ideas and stories.

Businesses should be aware of this development as they plan their future communications and collaboration strategies.

What are the barriers to productivity for employees today?

Alan: The short answer is that we’re simply overwhelmed with too much information shared in too many places. For example, as we must process more information each day and use more and more applications, our information becomes scattered. We don’t know where we posted things, or where comments were made. That’s a big problem. At Constellation Research, we break down team collaboration–limiting factors into four categories:

  1. Quality of information
  2. Quantity of channels that information is coming from and the challenge of managing where information is shared
  3. Quantity of people with which we interact and the challenge of managing each relationship
  4. Frequency with which direction, asks, and notifications and interruptions are delivered

Combined, all of these challenges can make employees feel overwhelmed, to say the least.

Where is the biggest win today in solving these challenges?  

Alan: If you are looking for one initial strategic win to make the biggest impact on your organization, start by looking for opportunities to provide a lot more context to what employees are working on. If people have access to the right information, people, and conversations related to the moment, then the overload fades away—for example, imagine an inbox only showing messages based on the people or subjects of your next upcoming meeting. The ability to deliver only the most relevant information is going to become even more critical in the future.

What are you the most hopeful about the future?

Alan: Over the last decade or so, we’ve talked a lot about mobile, social, and cloud. While these have all been important foundational changes, they haven’t fundamentally changed the way we work. More or less, we use similar applications, but on different devices. We store the same data, just not on our hard drive but instead in a data center somewhere else. That’s all about to change.

Artificial intelligence is poised to augment, enhance, and improve the way employees get their jobs done. The science fiction dream of personal digital assistants is coming true. What if your software understood the trends, patterns, and preferences of the way you worked? What if your software could proactively and creatively help you get your job done? In the next three to five years, software is going to change far more than it has in the last ten. I can’t wait until these tools become a standard part of the employee tool set.

This is a just a teaser of what Alan will talk about at ConnectCentral. At the conference, he’ll share his thoughts on innovating for the future of work, and moderate a panel of experts that will discuss AI, analytics, and creativity to drive business success. To hear more directly from Alan, join us at ConnectCentral 2018 in San Francisco.

Visit to learn more and register.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Originally published Oct 31, 2018, updated Dec 30, 2022

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