Next-Gen Unified Communications & Collaboration is All About Convergence

Next-Gen Unified Communications & Collaboration is All About Convergence

I’m a big fan of “The Office,” both U.K. and U.S. In season 7 of the U.S. series, temp-turned-boss-turned-con Ryan (portrayed by the ever-talented B.J. Novak) announces a new social networking site he has launched called “WUPHF.” The platform delivers real-time notifications across every fathomable communication channel so that users are always in the know (think simultaneous ring on steroids).

The idea is meant to draw laughs, but the general concept of WUPHF is quite telling of the decade that would follow. One marked by social proliferation, mobile sophistication, and an evolving workforce that has nearly eliminated the distinction between corporate and personal technology. In 2010, the idea was comical. In 2018, a dose of reality as organizations work to improve communications as a critical driver of digital transformation. Consider that:

In an age of new preferences, standards and possibilities, an inevitable shift is occurring in enterprise communications. Organizations are realizing that just as they need to deliver digital experiences in the ways consumers demand, they must empower employees to innovate and disrupt. Yet this is a delicate balance to strike.

Context-Driven Communications

At a time when it’s incredibly easy to oversubscribe to communications, organizations must be careful not to connect employees to the point of counterproductivity (which is exactly where WUPHF goes wrong). Rather than inundating employees with communications, employers should focus on delivering user-defined experiences that meet exact needs and circumstances. This is truly the only way to make employees’ day-to-day lives simpler, easier and more productive.

Consider the benefits of this contextualization in healthcare, where personnel could be quickly rallied based on communication preferences or work status to improve care coordination and patient value. In financial services—a quickly digitizing industry with the rise of online-only providers—employees can choose from an array of adaptable communications regardless of location. In hospitality—where 60% of execs believe the inability of staff to effectively communicate diminishes the guest experience—teams can better connect to maximize efficiency and overall quality. Context creates more value, period.

A True Mobile-First Environment

The notion of anywhere, anytime, always-on work is rapidly maturing. I remember 20 years ago, serving as VP of Business Development at Priority Call Management, how difficult it was to enable something as simple as on-the-fly conferencing. Businesses still operated in a PSTN world where access to Wi-Fi was nowhere near as robust (the World Wide Web had only been made publicly available a few years earlier) and deployments became too expensive far too quickly.

Since then, there have been radical changes in the ways companies and people work. Today, my office is Boston. Tomorrow, it could be Avaya’s Santa Clara headquarters. Next week, in Rome overlooking the beautiful Spanish Steps. Technology has evolved to the point where the same great experience can be had across any device, anywhere, at any point in time with zero compromise. This takes the concept of WUPHF to the next level: instead of a simple mobile notification, users can enjoy a 360-degree, device-agnostic mobile collaboration experience.

Ease-of-Use

How is it that my 8-year-old daughter can easily FaceTime her nonna in Montreal, yet companies struggle to support seamless communications for employees? Usability remains a significant challenge, though it seems we’re moving in the right direction with the consumerization of work. By this, I mean the rise of Tinder- and Uber-like apps for business (for example, HR app Cocoon, touted as “Tinder for Recruiters”). Enterprise software is increasingly embodying these consumer apps, reshaping the role of IT and the processes it manages to support internal communications.

At the heart of these efforts should be platform consolidation. Personalized, digitized collaboration means communicating within the framework of what you’re doing using preferred apps and interfaces. There’s no value in employees toggling between multiple disparate tools to get the job done (in fact, studies show doing so can waste as much as one hour per day per employee). Open communications infrastructure is key for flexibly integrating collaboration tools, as well as building new services to future-proof communications.

The Answer: Convergence

Time for the million-dollar question: how can organizations make this next-gen communications environment a reality?

It all boils down to the convergence of unified communications and collaboration. Done right, this combination allows employees to leverage the real-time communications they know and love in a more intentional and strategic way to drive extraordinary customer and business outcomes. If only the team at Dunder Mifflin had this kind of technology at their fingertips (though, surely Michael would find a way to sabotage their productivity).

Companies need to do more than just “deploy a UC product.” They must reimagine possibilities, break traditional siloes, and have the courage to disrupt. Call me biased, but these are all things I believe Avaya does best as a prominent UC&C leader. And I’m evangelizing this message to customers, partners, and organizations around the globe.

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