Sunday, November 14, 2010

The future of business intelligence (BI) is beyond DSS. It makes rich contextual collaboration (as in Avaya Flare) a reality

Business intelligence (BI) is the phrase used to describe data driven decision Support System (DSS). Large amount of data get analyzed. The systems help identify trends, relationship between data sets and identify anomalies. Results get represented as briefing books, through report and query tools and executive information systems.  Target audiences are analysts and selected executives supporting their decision processes. Collaborative decision making has been the new trend.  Gartner stated it in their strategic planning assumption: "In 2009, collaborative decision making will emerge as a new product category that combines social media software with BU platform capabilities."
What we are talking about in this blog goes way beyond this. The world of Business Intelligence is poised to change dramatically. Connected sensors and data collection are everywhere or can get easily created even by non-geeks.
Look at these stories:
  • Product and services rating systems are part of purchasing platforms (e.g. Amazon, trip-advisor).
  • Purchasing transaction data and credit card information are captured my many organizations.
  • Connected sensors or ID devices are being built into a multitude of products: From smart-phones, Bluetooth headsets, shoes (Nike), RFID tags embedded in car wheels (originally purposed to support the manufacturing process) to wireless scales
  • High end sensor technologies become available to everybody. A great example is computer vision programmable & usable by nonprogrammers (like openCV) - allowing computers to capture information and make decisions based on what they see. 
These input and sensor data get fed into on-line services. Over time these will turn into a sensor web with API's for automated access through other services. Plus all documents and communication in organizations become retrievable and searchable. As a consequence new services will appear leveraging all these data to provide business intelligence to a much broader audience in organizations and to the individual. Why is that relevant today?
Human's invented organization thousands of years ago because division of labor and specialization are key drivers for efficiency, quality and speed. However with the division of labor comes the need to collaborate - that is bridging the gaps between the individual specialists or specialist organizations. Making collaboration most effective is thus the next step in organizational development. Business Intelligence has the potential to supply the context information making the collaboration most effective - thus creating what I call "Contextual collaboration".
With that Business Intelligence will move substantial beyond its origin - Decision Support Systems (DSS).  New services will appear delivering contextual information to individuals and groups in an organization and in their private life. This will move BI out of the ivory tower of analysts and specialized executives - making it a main stream tool available to everyone. And personal BI sounds new or frightening? I bet you used it already and loved it: didn't you use personal BI last time when you purchased a product online - picking that product with the most stars in the online retailers customer ratings?
Key element of the Avaya Flare user experience is contextual collaboration. Information from BI systems can get fed to Avaya Flare - presenting the information required to make collaboration most effective. 

Please leave comments on my Avaya blog
Keywords: Contextual Collaboration, Business collaboration, Collaboration software, Project collaboration, Team collaboration, Web based collaboration, Collaboration tool, Collaboration, Collaboration strategy, Collaboration management, Collaboration strategies, Collaborate, Online collaboration, Collaboration technology, Collaborative tools, Hosted collaboration, Collaboration open source, Group collaboration, Document collaboration, Google collaboration, Web collaboration

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why was Android used to implement Avaya Flare?

Network world reported in his article “New Avaya device takes on Cisco (Apple, too) in tablet war" on Avaya Flare.

They call it “a powerful  Android-based touchscreen tablet that support new communications software to rival Cisco’s recently announced communication tablet Cius”.  And move on to describe the user experience “Members are drawn in from a Rolodex of contacts listed on the right of the screen and dragged into a spotlight at the center, representing the conference”.
In the comments section at network world readers asked: why was Android used to implement Avaya Flare? The reasons are
1)   Android is an open platform. The tablet thus can run 10.000’s of standard applications off the shelf
2)   There is a large Android developer community – so it’s easy for an Avaya customer to find someone building special applications for the customers business context. In addition leveraging Avaya Ace no special telecom skills are needed to write applications.
3)   Android did give my development team a jumpstart. Many functions we had to develop in projects before were available right out of the standard Android load.
4)   Last – but not least – its fun to develop with new technologies. Our developers love to learn new things and apply it to our customer’s business environment. As a consequence we have a motivated and energized team.
Let me know what your thoughts on the use of Android are! Here as well as on the Avaya blog at
Christian von Reventlow, VP new Products at Avaya, Inventor of Avaya Flare.

Tags: Contextual Collaboration, Business collaboration, Collaboration software, Project collaboration, Team collaboration, Web based collaboration, Collaboration tool, Collaboration, Collaboration strategy, Collaboration management, Collaboration strategies, Collaborate, Online collaboration, Collaboration technology, Collaborative tools, Hosted collaboration, Collaboration open source, Group collaboration, Document collaboration, Google collaboration, Web collaboration

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Just released my baby: the Avaya Flare User Experience and the Avaya Desktop Video Device. An Android tablet with HD Video conferencing

Avaya yesterday released the results of my work from the last year: the Avaya Flare User Experience and the Avaya Desktop Video Device. Its an Android tablet with HD Video conferening. iI got created through my MoJo project which some of you know.

It's build to make collaboration really easy:
1) A user experience that is intuitive, fun and easy to use. It has consistently rated 8.5+ out of 10 in wow factor and 9+ our of 10 in ease of use. And it takes less than 5 seconds to figure out how it works.
2) It integrates stereo voice, HD video conferencing, Web conferencing & document sharing, email, instant messaging, Facebook, Linked_In, PC screensharing, remote access to your office PC and desktop virtualization.
3) It brings contextual collaboration to life - automatically showing information relvant for the specific context. For example for people it shows previous communication you had with that person, documents you might have worked on or where the person lives.

Special thanks to all of you - customers, business partners, Avaya Associates and friends and family who helped and worked day and night to create Avaya Flare - both the user experience as well as the Android based HD video collaboration tablet!
Check the user experience out at Guided tour of the Avaya Flare user experience.

Plus see how our customers use the device in the videos:
An executive using Avaya Flare,
Higher customer satisfaction in financial institutions using Avaya Flare and
Using Avaya Flare in a doctors office to solve medical issues faster

I want to evolve the user experience and capabilities of Avaya Flare. Thus please let me know what you like and what you want to get improved. Plus let me know new ideas you might have. Pls post a comment so that we can discuss.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Practical Video Guide on Contextual Collaboration. Part 1 Introduction

Practical Video Guide on Contextual Collaboration. This blog series covers how to use technology to leverage context to make collaboration more productive.

Part 1: Definition of contextual collaboration.

This video explains the concept of contextual collaboration: All collaboration happens in a context. Examples are
1) if you reach out to a person by phone your relationship to the person is the context
2) if you have a team meeting your team might be the context
3) If you send an email to a customer the customer relationship is the context.
Your collaboration will be more productive if you have all relevant information for that context readily available. Thats why we talk about Contextual Collaboration.

The blog series covers
1) Whats relevant in various contexts
2) Technologies which you can use to make contextual collaboration more productive
3) How to deploy it in your enterprise and private life such that true value is created.

Part 1 of the practical video guide on Contextual Collaboration: Use the context to make your collaboration more productive. from Christian von Reventlow on Vimeo.

Pls leave comments on my Avaya blog or
and my private blog

Or reach out to me at or mailto:vonreventlow@yahoo.comand follow me on twitter

Monday, April 12, 2010

Enterprise 'Chat Roulette': Planning For Unplanned Collaboration (Part 3 in a Series)

(This is part 3 in the "Contextual Collaboration" series. Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.)

Series Summary: Modern enterprise collaboration technologies have been designed to address the need for workers to efficiently and productively collaborate using realtime communication solutions. However, despite hundreds of collaboration solutions deployed and used, most businesses are still losing productivity. Why is this happening? In this "Contextual Collaboration" series I explore how the "Loss of Context" in business communications affects and limits the productivity gains promised by business collaboration technologies. With "context" as a filter, the series explores which collaboration technologies are able to deliver measurable productivity gains, which ones actually make the problem worse and what kind of new solutions are needed as the nature of work and life change in the face of a constantly changing enterprise business landscape.

In prior posts in the series I explored the growing realization by all of us that information has become too abundant. Enterprise workers are overloaded by "Too Much Information"(TMI) and we all struggle daily just to sort through it. After all the sorting few of us time left to actually process all the information and effectively act on it. The result is that much of the information we do manage to process can lose it's context before it can be leveraged. Without context, information cannot be effectively assessed and incorporated into some productive action. 

What makes this problem especially acute is many of us now work "remotely" in a "satellite offices" or fully independently in "virtual offices" (VO). In more and more industries a growing population of workers are now classified as "Virtual Office workers" with no official, company-owned office to go to every day to do their work. Virtual office workers often initially like the flexibility and reduced commuting time of "VO". But there significant drawbacks to VO.  VO workers lose the benefit of co-located co-workers that they can conveniently collaborate with to help process and act on the business information tsunami. 

In this post I explore one possible technology idea/solution for this face-to-face collaboration problem. The solution is aimed at recapturing what I call the "unplanned productivity" or "emergent productivity" effect that comes from office workers being able to draw on the knowledge and expertise of co-located co-workers. To get started let me explain a little more what do I mean by "Emergent Productivity.

In the past almost everyone went to an office to work with dozens, hundreds or even thousands of coworkers all in the same building, or complex of buildings.  In that settings you and your coworkers would be would be regularly "running into each other in the halls". It was taken for granted that you were always going to be having both planned and unplanned, face-to-face meetings with your coworkers "at the office". It's been widely known for a long time that the most effective and productive meetings were very often those that were not preplanned. These chance, informal hallway meetings were in many cases the most productive minutes in our whole day. They would often result in punctuated leaps in insight or progress due to the unstructured format of the meetings.

We have all experienced this "hallway effect" in the past and for the most part we took for granted how beneficial those meetings were. This is "Emergent Productivity". Simply put it's "Teamwork". But with the explosion of globalization and distributed teams this kind of "Emergent Productivity" is now almost an extinct animal. How do we recapture this effect without rolling back the clock and re-populating all those empty office buildings we all see with the "Space Available" signs in the windows?

A Solution(?): The "Emergent productivity" solution I'm thinking of is something I call "Enterprise Chat Roulette". This solution would be a business-focused solution based on the popular, though controversial, consumer/personal internet service called "Chat Roulette". Chat Roulette is a free website for people who can, on their personal time, get connected randomly with other Chat Roulette users for webcam-based conversations. At any point either user may leave the current chat, by closing the current session. In doing that another random connection is started. As you might imagine, because of the lack of oversight, transparency and rules, there can be a wide variation in the "quality" and type of interactions that are enabled by this solution.

The idea for "Enterprise Chat Roulette"(ECR) is to take the same basic "Chat Roulette" concept and add in transparency, oversight and rules and apply it in a business collaboration context. The rules for ECR would be designed so each ECR solution could be leveraged in an professional, enterprise setting. Properly designed I believe ECR solutions could be used to recreate some of the benefits I discussed above that come out of unplanned face-to-face interactions in the workplace.

The main class of ECR solutions I'm thinking of would be used by businesses to automatically and intelligently connect distributed team members into semi-randomly generated audio/video/whiteboard chat sessions. These sessions would happen at semi-random times throughout the day of each worker. There could be no set agenda planned for these chats, or the system might have very broad topics set for a given chat session. This could simulate and stimulate a completely off the cuff and ad-hoc, face-to-face conversation of the type we used to experience when we all worked together in office buildings. It's perhaps a "non-PC" way to put this but it would be something of an "e-Harmony Speed Collaboration" service for co-workers who are not co-located.

The possibilities here are extensive. For example: The system might be designed to automatically schedule a certain amount of time for every team-member on their daily calendar as "virtual hallway" time. The users would sign in to the "ECR-bridge" and then be connected by the system to one or more co-workers via multimedia session. Before a session starts the system might display to each participant some basic data on the person(s) you are going to be connected to including initially name, role, etc. It could capture how many times you had spoken in the past and a summary of topics discussed on those past ECR conversations.

The system would also then provide some context on what the person or persons are working on in their role for the team. The two or more people brought together on the ECR chat would enter the chat sessions and start talking and/or typing about work topics of interest. Discussions on general personal topics would likely be welcome and even encouraged as part of the team building process. ECR sessions could even be scheduled at lunch/dinner/breakfast times of day if the team members are in timezones where meal times line up. In those cases participants could actually have a "virtual meal" together while chatting. For example you may have one person eating breakfast and another dinner if they are 10 hours apart. The chat sessions could be set for a variety of lengths depending on the desired collaboration and could be extended by certain amounts by mutual agreement if participants have a lot to discuss.

This really is an online, automated version of the practice some businesses had in the past of doing "quad/trio lunches". These were lunches that were planned by randomly picking 3 or 4 coworkers in a large office to go to lunch together. The choices would be made randomly from a pool of workers in an office that signed up for the program. This would give coworkers who aren't normally "lunch friends" a reason to go share a meal and get to know each other better. The goal was to build strong coworker relationships and thereby build a stronger and more productive team.

I believe that ECR collaboration solutions like these could be designed and implemented to recapture some of this same value using modern collaboration technologies. What do you think? Could you see yourself signing up with your virtual coworkers in an ECR pool that would automatically and intelligently help you build and maintain work and even work/personal relationships across  continents, cultures and timezones?

What are some of the other scenarios you can think of for using this ECR concept to help you, your team and your company more productive? 

Looking forward to your ideas and comments.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Contextual Collaboration. (Part 2 in a Series) What Are Businesses Searching For?

(This is part 2 in the "Contextual Collaboration" series. Read Part 1 here.)

The Question: As business leaders we are constantly being asked to generate more value from the teams we lead. One promising way to do that is to engender a culture of productive collaboration. The challenge is how to make that happen. What are business leaders perceiving to be the key elements of great collaboration? This is the question I want to address today.

The Background: After the recession’s focus on trimming down the costs all business have had to become very lean on resources. All business leaders are being asked to get more done with their reduced workforces.  The traditional approach to getting work done of "ramping up staff" and "sending the over the top" is no longer an option. Today's leaders have to find non-linear solutions that generate high productivity with small teams. This recession is forcing businesses to rediscover the non-linear leverage of productive teaming and collaboration.

To investigate this question I began researching what businesses are looking for in collaboration technologies and solutions.  My jump off point for this investigation was to look at what people were searching for related to "business collaboration". Using Google's ad-words keyword suggestion tool I was able to identify the key themes people are searching. Here is what popped out as the top 25 most searched for keyword phrases related to "business collaboration": 

Business Collaboration

Advertiser Competition
Local Search Volume: December
Global Monthly Search Volume
open source
supply chain
document management
team building
content management
best practices
supply chain management
project management software
business process
knowledge management
value chain
web conferencing
enterprise content management
collaboration software
sharepoint wiki

The highest ranking areas (Blue) show key areas where people are looking for better collaboration technologies with the keyword "Technology" right at the top. Everyone is looking for the "technology silver bullet".  Right after "technology" are "open source", "SW development", "logistics",  and "innovation".

Next in the rankings we find the tools, methods and practices people believe will help to achieve better collaboration. Bundling closely related searches and ranking by search volume the key pain points are as follows.

1) Work Flow and Business process
2) Document and Content Management,
3) Team work and team building,
4) Conferencing
5) Collaboration
6) Knowledge Management
7) Portals, Wiki’s
8) Groupware

The thing that immediately jumps out of this data for me is it looks like businesses are struggling with managing information and workflow in team contexts and are searching for solutions specific to team environments. I believe much of this is a result of a ramp up in use of highly distributed teams and the deep cuts in staff size.

In the past a lot of information would get processed and problems solved by having face to face interactions in a common office location where communication fidelity was high. Even more important than face-to-face planned meetings it was the random "chance" meetings that are now fully lost and had something to do with a big part of business productivity. These chance meetings often were the most important meetings that allowed work teams and individuals to address issues before they even emerged as problems. Now we have globally distributed teams spanning continents and cultures and all that sorting through info that was done in these face to face encounters has been lost. It's clear businesses are struggling with teaming and process topics in the workplace. They are looking hard for technology to solve these productivity problems for them in the context of the new "globally distributed workplace".

Is the only solution a return to the days of large office buildings full of hundreds or thousands of centrally located workers? I don't think so. I think globally distributed and "virtual" workforces can work. But we need some new types of collaboration solutions for the enterprise worker and also some new "best practices" in using the collaboration technologies we already have. I'm convinced the teaming benefits of regular chance encounters, and the organic productivity those encounters delivered, can be recaptured.

In this series on Contextual Collaboration I started by talking about how "context" is critical for businesses and individuals in managing the information overload problem. In this post I looked at the specific areas in which businesses are suffering from a lack of collaboration productivity. The next step is to start looking at specific approaches to implementing collaboration using context as the key tool for delivering truly productive collaboration with small and/distributed teams?

What's your take on this topic? Do the collaboration technologies you have at your fingertips today actually address the problems you face? Or do they perhaps even make them worse? How do you think we can "think differently" about how we design, deploy, use and support collaboration technologies so we can "resolve" this age old problem? Is "context" the key" Will it turn loosely bound, distributed teams into powerhouses of productivity?

Add your comments and continue this discussion.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Contextual Collaboration? What's That? (Part 1 in a Series)

Executive Summary: Collaboration & communication seem to happen as individual events. For example: I make a call, I get an email. These are individual events. However from the user’s perspective they always happen in a context. Examples for context might be the person I am working with, a project, a workflow, a relationship I have, a customer, a meeting I am preparing. Communication becomes relevant through its context.  And communication creates business value due to its context. Contextual collaboration is aimed at maximizing the business value created by collaboration. Collaboration gets more difficult due to the multitude of different collaboration technologies. Plus the sheer amount of information flowing in or on your disposal makes it more challenging. Contextual filtering becomes the key.

The Details: Collaboration and Collaboration technologies have been a hot topic of focus in enterprise business discussion for more than 5 years now. That focus is now growing even more intense. With the economy driving businesses to go to even more highly distributed workforce models, collaboration technologies and solutions are no longer "nice to have" solutions. They are now becoming critical to business success as companies try and manage their far-flung workforces.

When people think of "collaboration technologies" they may think of a whole range of multimedia, real-time communication solutions. People can do affordable, real-time collaboration every day using one or more of the following collaboration technologies; email, instant messaging, telephones, cellphones, text messaging, voice conferencing, white-boarding, wikis, video conferencing, Skype, Google Docs, Sharepoint, Basecamp,, Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIN, Google Buzz, Google Wave, etc, etc. This is only a partial list of all the various choices people have as they embark on surfing the real-time, hyper-dimensional state of the internet that Vonage co-founder and Twitter investor Jeff Pulver calls "The State of Now".

So what's the problem with this picture? Simply stated we now have a "Realtime Collaboration Overload" problem. Jeff Pulver's "State of Now", as exciting as that state is, is largely a "State of TMI"(Too Much Information). We have WAY too many overlapping and uncoordinated technology choices for real-time collaboration. We used to complain about "phone tag" as being non-productive. Now we have to play tag on dozens of collaboration channels simultaneously; (Cellphone-tag, desktop-phone-tag, Google Voice-tag, Skype-tag, Email-tag(X4 email addresses), IM-tag(X4 IM id's), Facebook-tag, GoogleBuzz-Tag, Wave-tag, Linked-Tag, Blog-comment-tag, etc, etc, etc.

How do we stop this insanity? If it continues we may all start contemplating the thought of a shaving our heads, donning flowing orange robes and running off to live in one room shacks on  mountain-tops to get away from the rushing flood of communication and information. 

The answer I think lies in "context". Every communication session request you get and accept or decline and every piece of information information you bathe in each day has some small or large amount of context in which it lives for you personally. 

Clay Shirkey has said "The problem is not information overload, the problem is filter failure." That's where context comes in. A focus on paying attention to and managing context, lets call it "Contextual Collaboration", has the potential to help us all achieve "Filter Success" in our many daily collaborations. So what is it?

Contextual collaboration is managed approach to collaborative technologies that involves embedding all the relevant applications, such as word processors, enterprise instant messaging (EIM), shared calendars, and groupware, into a unified user interface to aggregate, coordinate, and thereby enhance, collaboration. This means that from within any of the applications people could communicate and instantly share any resources at their disposal without having to manage multiple independent thread of collaboration across multiple independent collaboration channels. The goal of contextual collaboration is to make online collaboration between people anywhere in the world as simple and intuitive and focused as it is to work with people in the same room.

The concept sounds wonderful. But the problem is both broad in scope and deep in complexity. There are thousands of different collaboration scenarios and collaboration technology choices available to us. So how do we get started? 

To explore this I'll be writing an entire series of blogs that start to dig into the roots of the collaboration overload problem and start to propose focused solutions that use "context" as the core filtering mechanism. In the next blog in this series I'll explore more about the specific pain points businesses are trying to alleviate with collaboration technologies.

Are you in a "State of Overload" with all the collaborations and collaborations technologies you have raining down on you daily? How is it affecting you and what remedies, if any, do you use in trying to manage this problem? 
Let me know what your views and experiences are! Leave a comment on the blog or feel freee to send me email at or my personal email
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