Interoperability in 2021 will Drive Better Collaboration
In collaboration IT, interoperability usually happens when competitors work together.
When two competing systems work together, without regard to brand name, the end user’s outcome then becomes the same.
This is crucial for collaboration to enable, well, genuine collaboration.
Interoperability vs integration
Before we dive into who teamed up in 2019, it’s important to understand the difference between interoperability and integration.
Bobby Roberts summed this up nicely in his blog. Even though the article references the healthcare industry, his thoughts are still applicable to communication & collaboration:
“Interoperability isn’t integration.”
From Microsoft embedding its own apps into its collaboration software to Slack purchasing other apps to embed into Slack, the news circulating around this topic has been increasing.
Below is a timeline highlighting the interoperability announcements from the back of 2018 through to the most recent announcements, proving that it has become an increasing trend.
Federation for Microsoft Teams, Slack and Webex
Between the major team collaboration apps, it is estimated there are over 500 million users of Slack, Microsoft, and Cisco tools.
Within an organization, you rely on tools like Slack and Teams to chat together and collaborate in a productive manner.
But what happens when you need to chat with people outsideyour organization that use a different team collaboration app?
That’s why we created universal channels to improve intercompany collaboration.
Universal channels allow you to stay in one messaging tool and chat with your external business contacts as if they were a colleague.
By enabling clients, freelancers, and suppliers to chat in universal channels, everyone can collaborate together, share files, reply to message threads, and edit messages—all from their tool of choice.
Universal channels are available to install for Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Webex.
Slack and Microsoft Teams calling
You can now launch a Microsoft Teams call direct from your Slack workspace. So, there’s no more leaving one app to facilitate a call on another platform.
Users of Slack can join their colleagues or external contacts who use Teams with the click of the button.
To install, search “Microsoft Teams” in the Slack app directory.
You can find all six ways to connect Slack and Microsoft Teams in this post.
Cisco and Microsoft team up for video interoperability
As Microsoft Ignite kicked off in Orlando, Cisco announced the news that they had teamed up with Microsoft to deliver “Frictionless Collaboration in Multivendor Environments.”
Cisco and Microsoft are working together on a new approach that enables a direct guest join capability from one another’s video conferencing device to their respective meeting service web app. The feature is expected to be rolled out early 2020.
This means users will be able to join a Microsoft Teams meeting from a Webex Room Device.
Users also get the ability to join a Cisco Webex Meeting from a Microsoft Teams Room.
On why this interoperability is important, Webex SVP/GM, Sri Srinivasan, said:
“We both have a large base of customers who use Cisco and Microsoft products. Customers will benefit from a reliable interop solution using their existing Cisco video conferencing devices to seamlessly join a Microsoft Teams meeting, or using Cisco Webex Meetings to join a Microsoft Teams Room. “
Highfive meeting connector
Highfive vowed to break down the video collaboration interoperability blockade in September.
Citing the lack of universal dialing plan for video calls, Higfive has launched a meeting connector for any meeting.
“One room, one tap, one device”.
With the new Highfive meeting connector, you can join meetings hosted by providers like BlueJeans, Cisco Webex, or Zoom.
You can even sync with your Google Calendar or Outlook Calendar for seamless connections to your meeting.
Slack interoperability with Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft OneDrive
Slack introduced the ability for users to connect their Outlook calendar, send email to channels, preview entire PowerPoint and Word files, and start calls from Skype for Business – all within Slack.
In a move that recognizes that Microsoft Office 365 users are still opting for Slack over Microsoft Teams and that Slack users still require apps from the Office suite, Slack has pleased a lot of users by reducing app switching.
Cisco Webex with Office 365
During Enterprise Connect, Amy Chang led a Cisco keynote where she introduced interoperability between Cisco and Microsoft.
“We’re part of an ecosystem. Of course, our partners are using other software. We need to work with that software.”
Cisco demonstrated new capabilities where users of Webex can share, tweak, and review Microsoft documents via Office 365 interoperability within the Webex app.
Furthermore, Cisco showed users joining a Webex Meeting direct from a Microsoft Teams client.
Webex Meetings and Google Cloud
During the same keynote, Cisco also revealed scheduling and joining Webex Meetings is now possible via Google Calendar.
Pexip and Video merge
Both companies are innovators in enterprise collaboration with specialist knowledge of cloud video conferencing and messaging.
Pexip partnered with Google Cloud this year to deliver interoperability to Hangouts Meet. Following the merger with Videxio, they plan to continue into the world of collaboration apps.
According to CEO of Pexip, Odd Sverre Ostile, the alliance between Pexip and Videxio will open the door to a new product portfolio for the joint company.
The Videxio brand has been dropped but both companies live on as Pexip.
Interoperability between Cisco Jabber and Webex
Back in August 2017, Cisco announced Spark and Jabber interoperability.
With the introduction of Webex Calling, following the acquisition of BroadSoft, Jabber users feared they would be left without a method of messaging their Webex colleague.
As outlined in a May product update, with the Cisco Webex / Jabber Interop setting enabled, you can send or receive messages between Webex and Jabber apps.
Jabber users can also see the presence of Cisco Webex users.
Microsoft Teams and Skype for Business become interoperable
As we eagerly followed the Teams roadmap, Microsoft announced these two clients can co-exist for a given user.
“TeamsInteropPolicy” will be retired soon, and its functionality is being consolidated into “TeamsUpgradePolicy”.
Interoperability will be managed using “coexistence mode.” Selection of the user’s mode will govern routing of incoming calls and chats.
Interoperability is crucial for collaboration
Without interoperability in collaboration, businesses won’t be able to fully leverage all the great communication platforms that exist today.
Their features and functionality will simply remain in silos or exist in a binary “select only one” environment.
The likelihood that businesses go back to pick just one communication and collaboration platform seems unlikely at this point.
The industry, and customers alike, has come around to the notion that one-size-does-not-fit-all.
Katherine Finnell pointed this out in 2017:
“A lack of interoperability among multiple team chat applications on smartphones and desktops can vex end users”.
At the time of writing, it was plainly obvious that collaboration platforms were locked down and designed to keep you in one place.
Fast forward to today.
Now, interoperability is beginning to happen within collaboration.
In a recent blog, Jonathan Rosenberg, the former VP and CTO of collaboration at Cisco, mentioned that Cisco simply couldn’t live without Microsoft.
Imagine a world where Cisco and Microsoft could play together.
Interoperability across the board
All the big players are beginning to realize the need for interoperability, at some level.
Stating that most, if not all, customers that Cisco sells to have Microsoft products.
Rosenberg believes the real question people should be asking is around “can this work together in my system?” ie – interoperability.
Slack is pushing its own integration agenda with its ever-growing app directory.
There are over 1350 apps in the Slack app store today.
This is more than any of the major messaging players, which is a big draw for enterprises.
There are apps like the Cisco Webex Bot for Slack that takes steps for interoperability, but the focus is clearly on besting app integration.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is taking a more passive approach, letting everybody interoperate with them.
For example, opening up APIs to let Cisco CUCM work with Skype for Business.
Recognition for interoperability is clear, however, in Microsoft’s interoperability statement:
“Interoperability allows disparate information systems from multiple vendors to readily work together and exchange data”.
“Google is continuing to improve its collaboration products, but it still needs to integrate them with Gmail better,” said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, “for example, users should be able to launch a chat from a Gmail thread.”
There is simply no point in purchasing new IT if you are still stuck in one silo.
In the messaging world, you don’t want your users to change platforms every time they need to chat with a colleague that prefers a different platform.
Mio’s chat platform interoperability literally solves this problem.
Mio is simple to set up:
- Sync all the chat apps your teams use by creating your Mio Hub
- Team members in your Mio Hub can immediately chat in DMs or groups with members on other platforms
- File sharing, threaded messages, reactions and the ability to edit and delete messages are all supported
- New channels or spaces an employee is invited to will be synced in the primary chat platform they prefer to use.
To find out more about Mio’s chat platform interoperability, check out this demo video of cross-platform messaging.