For the many, not the few: A UC how-to

Is UC a has-been?

The household names of unified communications have spent the last ten years clawing back control of a market that for a short while, was the playground of truly tech savvy, innovative start-ups – for once. Can’t beat them? Offer a cheque they can’t refuse.

Once acquired, the solutions of these tech giants did do what it said on the tin… as long as customers were prepared to pay a heft price tag and never err from whatever vendor they had stumbled across, always, of course, including enforced investment in thousands of the most expensive paperweights ever made: the IP desktop phone. Stories told of flexibility, integration and collaboration, became the stuff of myth and legend. Oh, and the ever-present branding teams.

As a result of this, the term ‘unified communications’ seems nothing more than a marketing buzzword that has been thrown around like it’s going out of fashion. Instead of unified communications, the constituent human parts of the enterprise and even the c-suite, opt instead to splatter their comms across a cacophony of free platforms, including WhatsApp, Skype, Snapchat and DropBox. An absolute dream for their run-ragged CTOs in the advent of GDPR, of course.

>See also: The next era of unified communications

This may seem facetious, but for IT teams this is of course a serious issue. How do UCs deliver a means by which employees can effectively collaborate in a coherent, efficient way on a platform that is both affordable and secure? And, no-one else has to tempt maybe 100 users out of WhatsApp and onto approved, secure company comms.

More importantly, it’s usually the onus of the IT department alone to account for the whereabouts and security of all that corporate data flying contrapuntal through the ether.

So, ‘strong and stable’ superpowers might still have the majority market share, but they’re definitely not winning the race.

But what will take their place?

The irony is, for a UC to go big, they need to return to small, change the language and de-corporatise. For IT to achieve better, nimbler, cost-effective comms they should be considering how to follow these five points.

1. Preparing to dis-unify strategic supplies. The IT department might think vendor proliferation is the last thing they must do, but they need at least one more. They should task the vendor with knitting together an existing, telephony-centric solution while expanding services and improving the user experience.

2. Open up. Openness is the key to success moving forward. Open APIs and ready-made integration capable of joining up the dots is key to achieving the bespoke technical collaboration organisations have dreamed of. The IT department should keep their options open and should not settle for anything that doesn’t work for them.

>See also: How to consolidate business priorities through unified communications

3. Think: mobile first. The phrase has been banded around enough to warrant the title ‘cliché’, but clichés often stem from the truth and in this situation that is certainly the case. A user’s first experience is their smartphone. It’s their pocket office, sanding the edges between work and home.

4. To make UC a compelling option, the solution offered must be mobile. This may be stating the obvious, but this is why UC integration is so expensive. Working back to the desktop from the mobile is the way to ensure a solution becomes indispensable to users.

5. UX is the key. A well-designed user experience is essential. With all the tweeting, Snapchatting, WhatsApping and even Facebook messaging flying around, IT needs to compete with something that feels equally intuitive; that means it’s streamlined, de-cluttered and contextualised. Part of that also means finding a solution open enough for users to integrate with their social life.

Own the cloud to rule the skies. For UC organisations to become the leaders, they should utilise the cloud to its fullest, for their exact needs and their exact ends. Only then will this tie comms together on any and every device users need.

What constitutes ‘good’?

Here are some sure-fire signs:

The existing telephony kit stays, if they want it to. Shocking but true, there is such a thing as interoperability. This means a solution that’s integrated, but not in a vertical sense. It allows the use of multiple vendors, choosing the equipment, software or solution that works for each respective function, and it’ll play nicely with the other machines in the office. Dependence on one vendor then becomes a bygone, to be replaced by a multitude of cloud-based vendors that reflect tastes, needs, working styles and priorities.

It’s definitely collaborative communications in the widest sense. Today, that can mean video conferencing, chat and sharing across messages, voice, video and cloud-based file sharing, securely, on every device used by the company, regardless of whether it’s personal or company owned.

>See also: The future of unified communications

Threaded communications feature – or will soon. Not only will it allow collaboration regardless of device, but those collaborations will be recorded, logged and referenced. Densely packed brainstorms, complex meetings; even training sessions and seminars delivered remotely will be as accessible as call history logs are today. That “now where were we” conversation becomes a thing of the past, as does the dreaded minute-keeping baton that’s so often passed from hand to reluctant hand.

Last, but most definitely not least – it’s actually used, and loved by the smart, professional people within the organisation.

So it’s unified, and it’s communications. But like the words ‘strong and stable’ of a certain 2017 campaign, the understanding of those words no longer bear any resemblance to their meaning.


Sourced by Todd Carothers, Executive Vice President of Sales & Marketing, CounterPath


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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