Question: What Is Watson Workspace?

T. Banting
T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

  • IBM has much to do to ensure Watson Workspace is comparable to other competing services already established in the market prior to its mid-2017 release.
  • IBM’s unique differentiation is in the power of Watson Workspace Services APIs – utilized in Watson Workspace and made extensible to other platforms.

With IBM Connect 2017 (IBM’s conference dedicated to all things collaborative) at a close, I have some time to digest and share my reflections regarding Watson Workspace. Anchoring on the Watson brand (yes, that 2011 computer champion from Jeopardy!), Workspace is one of a long line of collaborative team apps made famous by market-making vendor Slack. Currently in private preview, Watson Workspace is far from a finished service; indeed, compared to many of its counterparts that offer real-time communication alongside collaboration (e.g., Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise Rainbow, Cisco Spark, Slack, Unify Circuit, etc.), Watson Workspace could be dismissed as a rudimentary persistent chat service. However, IBM is leveraging its Watson might to differentiate through ‘cognitive’ computing (as opposed to the artificially intelligent bots offered by all too many vendors), while integrating with other companies such as Box, GENBAND, Cisco, Vidyo, Zoom and over 500 ecosystem partners exposed through IFTT, Workato and Sapho web automation services.

IBM offers cognitive collaboration APIs not only to its own service (Watson Workspace), but also to other competing solutions through extensible Watson Workspace Services. Consequently, Watson Workspace Services can provide summaries of chat interactions through natural language processing (NLP) parsing to identify questions, decisions and action points (known as ‘moments’ in IBM parlance), without the need for users to scroll up and scour text to understand the context of multiple pages of chat. Simply put, Watson Workspace and Workspace Services look to understand business conversation (using IBM’s core Watson cognitive APIs) and act on your team’s behalf. Consequently, this frees up valuable headspace so your collective gray matter can be used for having ideas and making progress rather than wasting time re-reading messages. IBM’s desire is to make teams more productive through cognitive services offered within Watson Workspace or leveraged through Watson Workspace Services by other vendors. While this ‘coopetition’ (a portmanteau of cooperation and competition) seems strange to some, IBM wins either way, as calls to these APIs incur a transaction fee rather like that of CPaaS vendors which charge $0.0075 per message sent through an SMS API.

Being the forerunner in a new market category does not necessarily guarantee long-term success; indeed, innovative late movers can redefine the category on their terms by influencing and reshaping the new market to their strengths. So, for the $800 clue in ‘Business’ – “It thinks for your teams so that you don’t have to” – the response is: “What is Watson Workspace?”

What do you think?

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