March 25, 2009
I imagine that I’m not alone in that I depend on several communication clients: Outlook for email, Jive & SharePoint for collaboration, Tweetdeck for Twitter, Trillian (Y!, Live, GTalk, and Office Communicator if the network isn’t letting Trillian work) for IM, iPhone for text messaging, WordPress for my blog, and Netvibes for feeds.
I’m not sure that integrating all of these communication channels requires integration at the protocol or web services level. That might be nice, if possible…but it probably isn’t.
What I do believe is that we need to keep track of all of our conversations in a better client. So, to restate the title of this post in a different way:
Why isn’t there one communication client that works with all these protocols?
Why all the fuss? Why do I care? Why should you care? Why is this painful?
Let’s take Twitter as an example. I have no archive of my previous Tweets; nothing in a usable way as I do for sent email. I can’t see threaded discussion like I can with collaboration software. I’ve seen attempts at it, but nothing that can be depended on for business. Email, on the otherhand, solved these problems long ago — and did it on the client side.
It seems to me that, after looking at the components of the various message formats, they share a common pattern. They are either single part or multi-part discussions:
Single part examples:
• Blog posts
• Collaboration Software
Some have attachments. Some have addresses. Some have meta data like tags. I don’t think I’m oversimplifying it in believing a single data entry form could cover them all.
As a communicator, I need solutions that allow me to live a layer above the protocols. Don’t get me wrong…I’m not a luddite…and am always trying to stay ontop of what is the latest and greatest tool for my trade. I just want software to do the heavy lifting of staying on top of protocols for me.
Who do I think is best positioned to create the universal communication client?
Microsoft’s Outlook already integrates RSS feeds. They also have a calendar, address book, and project management features. Now they just need IM, Twitter, mobile, and a blog editor. The drawbacks are that it’s not consistent between Mac and PC and, even with the advances with their 2007 release, still needs a more refined UX.
Tweetdeck is on it’s way with support for multiple services such as Twitter, 12seconds.tv, Scoop, and more. They have good integration for adjacent services like URL shortening and media sharing. All they need now is a feed reader, IM, blog editor, and mobile integration. My biggest concern is that it’s an AIR client, which is a resource hog and it is notorious for memory leaks.
The biggest challenge to figuring out how to integrate all of these messages is how to bring them into a unified view. This problem doesn’t emerge until one attempts to unify the inbox…have you ever tried to use ALL the services available with Exchange Server in only outlook? If I have to switch between applications or inboxes within the system, then it doesn’t really help me see my communications any more clearly.
We need visibility, which ideally means our theoretical inbox is just a view for the linked conversation that exists in a central, scannable place. We need the ability to track open conversations and prioritization of what we read and respond to. Tracking means we need conversations to be logged in our CRM system. We also need analytics to know how our communication supports or detracts from our business objectives which helps up prioritize. To effectively prioritize we need more robust filtering and linked messaging.
At the moment, I can use a number of free and paid tools to help me listen. I wish they were powering my feed reader. I also wish I had those kind of tools for Twitter, email, SMS, and IM.
In addition to the universal communicator, we need to employ tactics that cut down on bad communications, such as writing good emails, collaborating on documents using wikis, and not emailing stand-alone files. But, those tactics are the subject of other blogs posts.
Universal Communication Client Business Requirements:
Supports linked conversations
Tracks and prioritizes open conversations
Supports CRM integration
Works with analytics tool
Allows for easy filtering
If you could order this dream communicator, what else would you define as the business requirements?