The incomparable TED conference got off to a roaring start. The theme is ostensibly Technology, Entertainment and Design, and the format is a set of short presentation on an eclectic variety of topics giving people plenty to talk about during the longer than average breaks. Of course a primary benefit is the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.
Some things I learned at lunch before the conference started:
Scott Cook sees an opportuity for Intuit to help consumers manage health care the same way it helped them manage personal finance. He also described how QuckBase has quietly become an enterprise-grade version of what Lotus Notes was before it became too complex for mere mortals to use it to build applications.
Jay Walker is trying to figure out how to improve the health care by getting people to take more interest in self-preservation.
Sunny Bates sold her search firm to start something to connect donors to worthy casues.
Some of the interesting talks on the first day:
Robert Wright, author of Non-Zero turned out to be quite an entaining speaker.
What strikes us about the demo we witnessed, besides the functionality and speed of the application and its integration into both Outlook and SalesForce, is that Convoq’s sales, marketing, and development strategy is taking the company in a new direction, one that really promises to grow the market for conferencing and collaboration by tailoring the application to the needs of specific communities using specific tools.
Ask most people who invented the mouse and windowing and they will probably tell you Microsoft, Apple or, if they think they are up on their history, Xerox PARC. A lot of things did come from PARC, such as Ethernet, the laser printer, and WYSIWYG text editors, but the original inventor of most of today's collaborative technologies is Douglas Engelbart whose NLS ("oNLine System") at the Stanford Research Institute in 1962 was the first known implementation of hyperlinks, the mouse, raster-scan displays, windowing, shared screens, on-line presentations, and many other capabilities we take for granted.
By the time we founded Convoq in 2002, tools which could be used for collaboration included not only the ability to share documents via email and databases, but also to communicate in real time using video text, voice, and video. As these technologies became widely available, they enabled some really interesting opportunities combined them with other applications that enable people to do their everyday work.
The term Contextual Collaboration was coined by Matt Cain of Meta Group in 1999 to describe the weaving of collaboration tools into business applications. As commonly understood today, the term usually implies incorporating the following capabilities into an application: • Presence – the ability to see who is online or active within the application • Real-time communication – through text, voice, video or other media. • Sharing – being able to show another person the information on your desktop. The idea is that while you are engaged in a task, e.g. editing a document, you can quickly and easily bring in a colleague to help you accomplish that task. With contextual collaboration you can do this from with the application you were using. Instead of opening another window and copy the relevant information, the computer takes care of transferring the data.
Convoq applied the principles of Contextual Collaboration in adding its instant Messaging, presence, and meeting tools to Salesforce. The design principles were: • Salespeople should be able to stay with the familiar context of Salesforce when they needed to initiate an online meeting. • A meeting can be initiated from any place in Salesforce that displays an individual’s contact information. • While in a meeting, the salesperson should be able to retrieve information from Saleforce. • Upon conclusion of the meeting, information about the meeting should be automatically stored back in Saleforce. By following these rules, the resulting system makes online meetings a natural extension of the tools that are already familiar to the salesperson. Rather than copying an individual’s contact information to a separate invitation form, the salesperson needs merely to click on a link. Rather than fill out a lengthy form at the conclusion of the meeting, the system automatically captures information, resulting in more productive salespeople and more satisfied sales management.
Future releases of SellASAP will carry the Contextual Collaboration concept further, for example displaying presence information for individuals and automating incoming as well as outgoing communications.