Alternate workforce communications

Over the last several weeks I have been researching the different alternate communication methods that are available for us to integrate into our HR product. By alternate I am referring to any communication method that is not traditional email or voice; such as 3G, GPRS, instant messaging, SMS, RSS feeds etc.

Currently our product allows tradition email notification of workflow activities using a standard SMTP gateway. This has worked well over the last 6 years, however with the advancement in technology we would like to expand the options available to our clients.

Instant Messaging (IM)
I started looking at IM last year when AOL and Yahoo announced their corporate messaging platforms, in fact we even initiated some discussions with Yahoo. As it turns out it was good we did not move then as both have since stopped their programs (News.com on Yahoo and AOL). These announcements are not the end of corporate IM, AOL is working with Reuters, WebEx and Lightbridge while Yahoo is yet to make a public move. IBM, Sun and Microsoft all offer options for the enterprise but they do not interoperate in the way people require for ad-hoc real time communications.

I have now begun looking at IMLogic’s new IMLinkage platform. This platform would allow us to build an IM interface that would interact with the IM networks and major corporate IM environments. One competitor to IMLogic is Jabber, further investigation is required.

SMS
Within Australia we have a very strong SMS uptake, and many organisations are using the technology. Today you can do almost anything via SMS; enter competitions, stock price updates, IM conversations, news headlines etc.

This one we have already done, within version 5 of the EmployeeConnect Portal is the ability to have SMS notifications of workflow activities and their are APIs for developers to use our SMS gateway to develop their own applications with SMS.

RSS Feeds
RSS feeds, or Real Simple Syndication feeds is an XML format for content syncidation, I wrote breifly about this a few days ago, however could there be other uses? Feeds of workflow activities, consolidated feeds of workflow, email, IM, SMS, and voice mail? There seems to be feed readers or news aggregators as they are also called for everything, why not have one that consolidates all of your messages into a single application.

Our applications could use RSS feeds in two ways. Firstly private notifications could be sent to users of their workflow, secondly changes in data and content could be published for users to see what is going on in the business. This is a future area of investigation for us.

3G & GPRS
Mobible phone technology is just keeps getting bigger and better, it seems everything is converging into the handset. I personally use a Motorola A920 from Three. Yes I have all of the same issues that everyone else has had with the network and the handset, but we are all early adopters of some very cool technology. If I could afford the bandwidth prices (and didn’t mind scrolling) I could do a vast amount of my work and research on my handset. Maybe I could even run our applications and apply for leave etc from my mobile handset.

We finally have Blackberry’s in Australia. For those of you unfamiliar have a look at RIM, the makers. I remember when they were first released in 2000 while I was working in Canada, they were cool then. It surprises me how sometimes Australia is right up front with technology take up and other times we are way behind. The good news is we now have them and I see more and more “suits” using them on the train everyday.

There are many ways that the convergence of technology into the handset will implact our products. From simple notifications to interaction with the complete application. Managers would have instant access to information about their organisations no matter if they are at home, in a board meeting or commuting. Employes could begin business processes from anywhere at anytime, through the integration of presence awareness they could instantly find an expert to help with process or policy questions.