A collaboration event framework can be used to schedule and automatically invoke a collaboration event. An event coordinator may schedule a collaboration event, and the framework will automatically initiate contact with event participants using participant contact preferences. Participants can be asked to enter an identifier to verify the participant's identity. An event coordinator may be presented with a display that indicates the status of participants of the collaboration event. A system administrator may review all scheduled collaboration events to determine resource shortages.
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The present disclosure relates generally to scheduling and initiating collaboration events. In particular, one embodiment relates to a framework for scheduling resources and automatically invoking a collaboration event using preferences provided by the collaboration event participants.
The use of collaboration tools (teleconference, web-conference, instant chat, video conference etc) is essential to enable effective and efficient communications amongst employees, vendors, customers, suppliers, and any other participants that need to communicate in order to get the business of the organization done. Well organized meetings that use these collaboration techniques, that are started on time with all required and essential participants, should produce better results than meetings that are not organized effectively, and/or initiated on time, and/or don't have all the relevant/important participants available. For an organization in which collaboration meetings are started late, the cost in terms of loss of employee productivity and employee costs can amount to significant sums of money when accumulated over a period of time.
When scheduling an event, the person organizing the meeting can use email to determine participants' availability for the meeting. An email can be sent to all participants suggesting a time for the meeting (or polling participants for the most suitable time for that meeting) and participants are required to confirm if that timeslot would work for them. The participants would respond indicating whether they can attend or not and/or will offer alternative timeslots. This iterative cycle continues until a timeslot can be found where all participants can be scheduled for that meeting.
With the advent of calendaring applications, the scheduling of meetings has become easier and more efficient, as the availability of the required participants for a particular time during the week can be looked up in a shared calendaring application at the time the meeting is being created. There is no time lost in arranging the meeting as is the case described above in which email is used to coordinate participant availability and eventual meeting time. Moreover, calendaring applications, based on participants availability, can automatically find/search the first available time slot that all participants are available, making it easier to schedule a meeting.
Once a meeting slot has been identified at which all participants can participate, then the meeting can be created in the calendaring application and all participants can be informed of the meeting details. That is, the meeting appointment will appear in the participants calendar view for that day.
Although calendaring applications have made it easier to schedule collaboration events and notify participants of the events, many problems still exist when the time for the meeting actually arrives. For example, a meeting that is to be held via a telephone conference facility (i.e. participants dial-in using their telephone, mobile phone or IP Phone) may have a phone number and passcode for that meeting provided to the attendees of that meeting via the calendar invite. Likewise if the meeting is to be via a video conference then details of the video conference session ID and passcode are provided for participants in the calendar invite. Also if the meeting is a through the use of a web conference then a web conference id and passcode is provided in the calendar invite. However, such a scheme assumes that the collaboration event participants will have access to their calendaring application in order to retrieve the various call in numbers and conference passcodes. With the increasing mobility of today's workforce, collaboration participants may be attending meetings from any number of locations where they lack access to their calendaring applications. Furthermore, the manual process by which collaboration even participants join a collaboration event is prone to user error which not only increases the amount of time wasted in joining a collaboration event, but also increases the user's frustration level if multiple attempts at joining the event are required.
A further problem occurs when a subset of participants have joined the collaboration event. It is unclear at the start of the event who else will be joining the collaboration session and typically all participants will wait a few minutes, allowing “grace time” for all participants to join the event before a critical mass is present to make it worthwhile to commence the event. The need for participants to look up calendar invites, look up call details, and dial into meetings or invoke URLs to launch collaboration sessions, and then wait for some arbitrary time for all participants to join before starting the event all lead to inefficiencies, loss of productivity and directly to an opportunity cost (i.e. the economic cost of not being able to do something more effective with their time while waiting for participants to join the collaboration session). Though the loss of productivity may be a few minutes or more for the event as a whole, when multiplied by the number of participants in the event and then multiplied again by the many tens, hundreds or thousands of events that take place within an organization in a year, the costs can be quite significant.
Another problem present with calendaring solutions as they exist today is even when details of a collaboration session are entered for a meeting in the calendaring system, the collaboration resources required at the time of the meeting are not known. That is, current calendaring systems do not indicate what network resources, for example, are required for the organization at a given time during the day. If, for example, several hundred users of a conference call facility all dial into a collaboration event simultaneously and the system does not have sufficient bandwidth (lines) to make all those connections, then participants are waiting on busy signals and need to dial in again for their connection to be made. Likewise if many web-conferences are scheduled to take place at the same time a similar situation can occur. It would be useful for network and systems administrators to know in advance what the demands will be on the network so that they can ensure that the collaboration systems demands on the network can be met (or prioritized).
Embodiments of the present invention attempt to solve these and other problems individually and collectively.
Systems and methods in accordance with various embodiments provide for a collaboration event scheduling framework. Such a framework allows a collaboration event coordinator to schedule collaboration events using one or more collaboration resources, such as telephone conferencing, web conferencing, or video conferencing. The framework can be integrated with existing participant calendaring applications, such that the collaboration event coordinator can determine the availability of participants of the event. At the time of the collaboration event, the framework can initiate contact with the various participants of the event, using event access preferences that have been specified by the participant. Participants may be required to enter a personal identifier to verify the identity of the participant joining the collaboration event. Advantageously, the participant will only require a single identifier to verify his identity, as opposed to a separate identifier for each collaboration event.
Furthermore, a framework as described herein can allow a collaboration event system administrator to review all scheduled collaboration events to determine resource requirements for all scheduled collaboration events. The collaboration event scheduling framework may be integrated with other systems within an organization, such that the framework has access to the information necessary to schedule and initiate collaboration events.
In one embodiment, a method of using a collaboration services framework to automatically schedule and invoke a collaboration event is disclosed. The collaboration services framework may receive a request from a collaboration event coordinator for a collaboration event. The request may include a date and time for the collaboration event, a list of participants of the collaboration event, and at least one access resource type to be used for the collaboration event. The information contained in the request for the collaboration event may be stored in a scheduled collaboration events database. Each participant's access resource type preferences for joining a collaboration event may be determined. At the scheduled date and time of the collaboration event, contact with each participant may be attempted by using each participant's access resource type preferences. The collaboration services framework may grant access to a collaboration event in response to receiving an identifier from each participant that verifies the participant's identity. The identifier can be associated with the participant, and not the scheduled collaboration event.
A collaboration services platform may further provide a system administrator an interface to the scheduled collaboration events database which allows the system administrator to view access resource type requirements for all scheduled collaboration events. The resource requirements can be analyzed to determine sufficient resources are available for all collaboration events, and if insufficient resources are available, the events can be prioritized. Prioritization can be based on event participants, subject matter of the event, or an expected return on investment of the event. If insufficient resources are available, the collaboration event coordinator can be notified such that the event can be rescheduled or modified to use different access resources. In the alternative, the system administrator may attempt to add additional access resources.
A collaboration services platform can additionally provide the event coordinator with an interface to display which collaboration event participants have joined the event. The interface can further provide the event coordinator with information regarding which participants are currently in the process of joining the event or have failed to join the event. Participants to the event can be joined using access resource preferences that they have previously defined. The access resources preferences can be defined in an order, such that the collaboration platform can attempt to join participants using access resources that are most preferred by the participant, and using less preferred access resources when the participant can not be contacted. If a participant can not be contacted via one of the access resource preferences, but is currently logged into the organizations computer network, the participant may be sent an instant message informing him of the scheduled event.
In addition to other methods that can be used in accordance with these and other embodiments, there also are a number of systems, computer products, and other such aspects for implementing, practicing, performing, or otherwise utilizing aspects of the various embodiments.
A further understanding of the nature and the advantages of the inventions disclosed herein may be realized by reference of the remaining portions of the specification and the attached drawings.
Various embodiments in accordance with the present invention will be described with reference to the drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a collaboration event scheduling framework;
FIG. 2 depicts an exemplary screen shot of a page to schedule a collaboration event;
FIG. 3 depicts an exemplary collaboration event meeting notice;
FIG. 4 depicts an exemplary collaboration event dashboard;
FIG. 5 depicts an exemplary contact preferences screen;
FIG. 6 depicts and exemplary instant message screen;
FIG. 7 depicts an exemplary collaboration resource dashboard;
FIG. 8 depicts a targeted view of a collaboration resource dashboard;
FIG. 9 is a block diagram illustrating components of an exemplary operating environment in which various embodiments may be implemented; and
FIG. 10 illustrates an exemplary computer system in which various embodiments may be implemented.
Systems and methods in accordance with various embodiments can take advantage of a framework or other such component for scheduling and invoking collaboration events to alleviate the problems mentioned above is presented. A framework useful for scheduling and invoking collaboration events may be integrated with or embedded within a calendaring system. Such a framework can also leverage information from other organization systems, such as employee directories maintained in human resources systems. When a collaboration event is set up via the calendaring application, an event coordinator should not have to enter event specific details regarding the collaboration event. For example, in the case of a telephone conference, the event coordinator will not need to specify conference call phone in numbers or passcodes. For a web conference, the event coordinator will not need to specify log in urls, event identifiers, or passcodes.
The organizer should simply be allowed to specify what collaboration resources would be required for the meeting. For example, if a meeting is to be set up between a manager and his direct reports across multiple geographic locations, the manager can simply identify the participants to be invited and also identify which collaboration resources will be required for the meeting. The manager can select the collaboration technique to be teleconference only, or web-conference and teleconference, or video-conference etc. Whichever technique is most suitable for the event can be chosen. Once all the participants (according to their availability) and collaboration resources are identified, the meeting can then be created/saved in the calendaring application. The conference call facility number or web-conference number and pass-code or meeting id are not entered by the organizer of the event.
The framework itself, at the time that the event is scheduled to start, can be configured to automatically call any or all of the participants to join the collaboration event. For example, in the case of a teleconference, a teleconference meeting space is created by the framework using a conference call facility. The framework then simultaneously calls all the participants automatically to join the event. The participants do not initiate the call. This means that the participants do not need to check their calendars for the meeting invite nor do they need to look up the conference call dial-in and login details which could result in delays in joining the meeting. With the embedded framework, the framework does all the work of automatically dialing in the participants at the correct time. Similarly, if a web-conference collaboration resource is identified for that meeting the embedded framework can invoke the web-conference session and launch the web-conference on the computers that the participants are logged into on the network.
For security purposes, the participants can be requested to enter a passcode to join the collaboration session. The passcode is not a passcode created by the event organizer (as this would require looking up the pass-code in the calendar invite) but is a passcode that is unique to the participant and is registered with the embedded framework. Once the participants enter their own passcodes, the embedded framework will check if each participant is on the list of attendees for the meeting and permit or reject access to the appropriate collaboration event.
Unlike prior methods/solutions an advantage of various approaches outlined in this disclosure is that meeting participants are not required to check their calendars for meetings, or remember conference call numbers or remember passcodes other than their own unique passcode. The calendaring application with the embedded framework will “call” (via the appropriate collaboration resource) the participants that have been scheduled to be at that event at the right time. Furthermore the participant is not required to enter a meeting ID and meeting passcode at all.
The embedded framework in this embodiment knows what access resources to use to join participants to a collaboration event. The participants may keep their access resource information up-to date for collaboration purposes. This information may be retrieved from an HR system or any other such system that is accessible to the embedded framework. Furthermore the contact preferences for the participants can also be stored. For example, if the attendee can be contacted by office phone and mobile phone and prefers to be contacted in that order, when the collaboration event is initiated, the framework can call the participant on the office phone first and if and only if there is no response, the framework can call the participant on his mobile phone. The sequence/priority order can be based on user preferences that are maintained by the user or can be specified by business policy.
When a web-conference collaboration event has been scheduled, a framework can be configured to first determine whether all participants are able to collaborate via a web-conference. For example, the event coordinator must be available online. The framework will track the organizers' “presence” on the network. At the time of the scheduled collaboration session the organizer and all participants are alerted of the meeting via a dialog box. The dialog box could inform the participant that a collaboration event he is scheduled to attend has started. The participant could be further prompted to enter his identification code to verify his identity.
An alert to join the event can be delivered to the computer on the network that that the participant is currently logged into. The user may then accept the invitation to join and is immediately connected into the collaboration session. Likewise for a video conference, a similar alert can be sent to the computer that the attendee is logged in from
In all cases, the participant is not required to look up any collaboration details (i.e. conference call numbers or URL pointing to a web-conference or video conference session). Nor is the participant required to enter in a meeting id or pass-code. This allows collaboration events to be much more effective and will permit events to be invoked much more efficiently than by each attendee manually invoking and joining the event. This saves time, ensures meetings are started on time, and consequently increases the probability of a more productive and effective meeting/collaboration event.
The framework in this example can also provide the coordinator of the event a dashboard that shows which participants have joined the meeting and through which collaboration method (i.e. teleconference, or web-conference or video conference etc). The dashboard can also show who is still being contacted by the framework (i.e. pending participants). For example if the framework calls a participant by phone to join an event, but his line is busy, the dashboard can present that information/status to the coordinator. The framework can identify the status of how many times a participant has been called unsuccessfully and on which numbers (office, mobile, home etc.). If a key participant for a particular meeting is not reachable as indicated by the status on the dashboard, the meeting coordinator can cancel the meeting, rather than having many participants waste time waiting for the key participant. The dashboard indicates which of the participants are connected to the collaboration session through which of the permitted collaboration mechanisms—telephone, cell phone, video conference, web-conference etc. The organizer does not need to do a roll-call of who is currently joined to the collaboration event. The information regarding currently joined participants is available to the meeting coordinator via the collaboration status dashboard.
Based on the information on the dashboard, the coordinator can decide when to start the event. If the dashboard shows that a key attendee is still in the process of being contacted then that information is known to the organizer. An additional advantage of the framework is that it can keep track of which participants actually joined the event. Again that information is presented to the organizer through the dashboard. If a participant was unable to attend a collaboration event, an alert can be sent to the participant indicating that they were invited to join an event, but the framework was not successful in connecting the attendee at that given time using the contact information and preferences that were provided by the participant.
In the case of a phone call, when an attempt to contact a participant fails and that participant's voicemail is reached, the embedded framework can leave a message using a text to speech mechanism indicating the event that the participant needs to join. If the call is answered by the participant he may be informed that the event has begun and can be prompted for his personal identifier to verify the participant's identity.
An additional benefit of such a framework is that as events, participants, and resources are being scheduled in advance through the calendaring system associated with the framework, the framework can provide useful information to system administrators. Demands that will be placed on the corporate infrastructure (telephone lines, network bandwidth etc.) at a particular time through-out the day can be identified. This information can be made available on an administrator's dashboard. This information is extremely useful for systems and network planning purposes as it permits administrators to bring more resources to bear during peak times or alternatively permits administrators to predict when performance degradation might occur if additional resources are not able to be put in place.
FIG. 1 depicts an exemplary embodiment of a collaboration event scheduling framework. Framework 100 may include an appointment calendaring and booking system 102 which may be used to schedule collaboration events. A collaboration event coordinator may use calendaring system 102 to determine the availability of participants of a collaboration event in order to schedule the event. In some embodiments, framework 100 may access external calendaring 102 applications. In other embodiments, calendaring 102 applications may be integrated within framework 100.
Once availability of participants of a collaboration event has been determined, an event coordinator may use a collaboration event scheduler 104 to schedule the event. In some embodiments, event scheduler 104 can be used to determine the type(s) of access resources that will be used for the collaboration event. For example, the event coordinator may specify that the collaboration event will be a telephone conference and a web conference. Any number of other access resources are contemplated within framework 100.
Once a collaboration event has been scheduled by an event coordinator, details of the preferences of participants of the event can be retrieved from a participant's preferences system 106. Participant preferences 106 can include contact information for each potential access resource that may be used for a collaboration event. For example, for a phone conference, the phone number for a participant can be specified. In some embodiments, the contact preferences may be modified by the participant to reflect that participant's preferences. In other embodiments, the preferences may be retrieved from external systems 108 maintained by the organization. The contact preferences 106 can be used by the framework 100 at the scheduled time of the collaboration event to contact the participants.
In addition to determining the participants' contact preferences, framework 100 may also store resource requirements for the collaboration event in a resource calendaring and booking system 110. Resource calendaring system 110 may be used to reserve resources, such as video conference facilities, required for the collaboration event. In some embodiments, resource calendaring systems 110 will be integrated with calendaring systems 102. In other embodiments, resource calendaring system 110 may be a stand alone system. Collaboration event scheduler 104 may also access resource calendaring systems 110 when scheduling collaboration events to determine if required resources for an event have already been reserved by other events. In such cases, event coordinators may be able to determine other times for the event when the required resources are available.
Once an event coordinator, using calendaring system 102 to identify participants of the event, participant preferences 106 to identify participants' contact preferences, and resource calendaring systems 110 to identify and reserve resources for the event, has scheduled an event, the scheduled collaboration event may be stored in a scheduled collaboration events repository 116 by the collaboration events framework 100. Scheduled collaboration events repository 116 may be used to store all scheduled events. When the time for a particular event has arrived, framework 100 may retrieve the details from the collaboration events repository 116 to initiate the event.
In some embodiments, framework 100 may also include a collaboration rules and policies system 112. A collaboration rules and policies system 112 can include rules specified by the organization regarding collaboration events. Such rules can include how events are prioritized, conditions necessary for events to proceed, and any other rules defined by the organization. Collaboration event rules and policies system 112 may be used by the framework 100 when scheduling collaboration events. Collaboration event rules and policies system 112 may also be used by system administrator systems 114 when resolving conflicts between multiple collaboration events. For example, if insufficient resources are available for all scheduled collaboration events, collaboration rules and policies systems 112 can be used to determine which events should be rescheduled or canceled.