Two chance happenings in the Web convinced me that when a Web site is presence-aware and aware of the context the users are working in – hey presto – you have something almost as useful as tele-transportation.
First happening: While remote members of the development team and I were in an SAP StreamWork activity with the context of deciding on the next steps in a new product development, Richard Hirsch (one of the design partner council) sent a chat message with a really nice compliment about the work we were doing – completely out of the blue!
Because we were doing a web conference at the time, the message was appreciated by each and everyone one of the contributing team. So much more effective than forwarding an e-mail.
Second happening: In a Web conference where my SVP addressed his entire team he paused because he was not totally sure of one (minor) fact – I was webbed-in remotely, so I just posted a “Yes” back in the chat window. It’s a sign of the Facebook/Twitter times that everyone nowadays is comfortable with the “chatter” of background streams so being able to chat in a private stream is non-disruptive. Apart from a short giggle – SVP “I stand supported”, the web broadcast continued uninterrupted.
Presence-aware and context-aware is the Web equivalent of being in the same (Web) place at the same time. This is the equivalent of bumping into a colleague in the coffee corner, car park, iPad queue…. and it is the ideal opportunity of exchanging ideas and making real progress in short burst of focus.
That is what I so like about working in SAP StreamWork. You don’t have the uncertainty as with generic online chat or telephone where there’s an element of “is this a good time or will I disturb my colleague’s work?”. I can see that they are in StreamWork already and this is a good time to get their attention. Now I can get the expert opinion I need to solve the problem, reach a decision, determine the next action item or next steps in a process. It’s the difference between getting something done in a week or getting it finished right now.
Presence-aware merged with context-aware is technically nothing new (Gmail chat, forums, Facebook chat..) . But this makes it so much easier to find solutions; make breakthroughs; or even reach decisions. It’s a small step forward from read/write web – but such a huge added convenience that it’s worth taking into account when you plan what tools to use for what purpose. The more context-aware the meeting place is, the more likely you are to reach that magic moment of being in the right place at the right time with the right people.
SAP StreamWork got so it right by being not just read/write in the Web-Browser – but presence-aware, too.