There was a significant increase in the adoption of team collaboration solutions in 2017. MZA, an analyst firm, reported triple year-over-year growth in revenue and active user base. The report highlighted that more and more organizations today are looking to consolidate communications tools/services and create a single point of access which can help them drive growth. But from the plethora of team collaboration solutions available in the market, they were looking to adopt only those solutions that come with features that provide persistency to an organization’s communications — with a searchable history of messages, 1:1 and group calling and video conferencing. Interestingly, a key differentiator for these organizations was — an all-encompassing team collaboration solution with features that provide a smooth process for integration with business tools and on-boarding to accelerate user adoption.
However, integration is not quite as abundant in team collaboration platforms as users and organizations would like. So the real question is — can UC players deliver a single, unified cloud offering, providing a complete set of real-time collaboration services and contact center to organizations of all sizes, from SMBs to global giants? How can they empower team communications and ultimately help solve business problems? Listed below are 3 key principles:
Key to breaking down those communication barriers
Though we have come a long way since SIP emerged in the late 90s, the same old business world glitches hinder us from achieving interoperability across the board.
We all have had those frustrating conference call experiences — where participants haven’t received the email invite or aren’t using the same communication tools as the meeting organizer; participants need to download screen-sharing apps, plug-ins that sometimes require special permissions, or other additional tools; one or more participants have the wrong passcode or ID to join the call and have to be re-contacted with the correct settings; call recording is an additional, disruptive step in the process.
Or our productivity has suffered due to inefficient messaging exchanges — meeting details and shared documents don’t exist in the same place. Clearing up the confusion takes a combination of email, IM, SMS, cloud storage, voice calls and even word-of-mouth conversations.
Also remote workers face multiple challenges — home computers don’t have the necessary applications and upgrades, collaboration tools aren’t integrated with video calling or messaging platforms, and shared documents are located in different user interfaces; in short resulting in unproductive work-at-home sessions.
In a heterogeneous, multivendor environment, the pursuit of interoperability across UC services, including team collaboration, has gained tremendous importance. Interoperability is central to breaking down the final barriers to seamless, intuitive communications within and among teams. Companies want a cohesive collaboration ecosystem and offering an UC environment that can interoperate horizontally across different vendors and platforms, and vertically up and down the technology stack. And this is what UC players should aim for.
2. Overlay Innovation
Reusing legacy equipment while benefitting from advanced services
Instead of trying to manage a hodgepodge of disparate collaboration products, organizations are seeking a network of integrated, interoperable tools available for every employee's disposal. In order to support seamless, universally adopted communications, UC innovators can focus on developing technologies that are designed to overlay, rather than replace existing infrastructure. Deployment of new services is simplified by implementing on top of or in parallel with existing communications infrastructure. It helps IT stay current with the latest services and features while eliminating technology complexity.
In this way, facing the prospect of an expensive or convoluted digital transformation project can become less daunting for end-user organizations. With the absence of overlapping technologies, it enables them to reap the benefits of UC interoperability instantly, without having to forklift existing systems.
Another essential tenet of the overlay approach is the capability to encompass team communications and collaboration tools across both desktop and mobile devices. The core features enabled by the service should incorporate team messaging and presence, integrated file transfer, HD voice and video calling, and screen-sharing capabilities — to help improve processes and increase productivity.
3. User Experience
A single interface for all team communications
We live in an age where people want to personalize their work-related communications experiences. An organization looking to deploy a unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solution needs to keep in mind that their service offers robust interoperability with existing calling platforms/PBXs across the market. It must also integrate with popular VoIP services. This enables organizations to retain infrastructure in place and — crucially — allow users to keep their single business number with them as a single identity.
Among the key benefits of the unified approach should be scalability and flexibility, enabling organizations to add and remove team members instantly. Clearly, the most advantageous architecture for this is a cloud-based subscription service, managed via an admin interface with easy drag-and-click options for non-technical administrators. One way in which UCC can help organizations achieve a seamless workflow is via a single user interface.
Instead of several collaboration solutions that involved disparate products, everything should be integrated into one common application that works seamlessly across all of your mobile and fixed devices. True collaboration can happen when all of these technologies — screen sharing, messaging, voice, and other communications services, unite in a single, accessible, user-friendly place. This approach supports the widest possible scope of organizational type. In particular, it enables SMB organizations to accelerate their adoption of UC, regardless of their legacy comms investments — all for the cost of a per-user subscription.
Application integrations can go beyond core communications platforms. The future will see increased integrations with CRM suites, cloud storage platforms, and other enterprise applications — all via the same single user interface across multiple desktop and mobile devices per user, with the cloud acting as the infrastructure platform.
Team collaboration promises to solve business world problems once and for all, but vertical-oriented solutions aren’t the only way. By utilizing existing infrastructure and ensuring interoperability, organizations can provide a single, cohesive UC experience. When it comes to UC adoption, this is the cornerstone for successful digital transformation.