UCC 2015: the Year of the User
As UCC solutions mature, conversations turn away from the tools themselves and toward what really matters most -- the user experience.
If I had to pick one important takeaway from the Enterprise Connect conference held earlier this month in Orlando, it's that 2015 is "the Year of the User" -- optimizing the user experience and maximizing user adoption, that is.
As the UC industry has matured, we generally no longer have to explain the value of VoIP, presence and IM, Web conferencing, and document sharing -- businesses "get it." The focus now has to be on ensuring a positive experience so that users will want to use the technologies and solutions their companies provide, rather than going around IT and bringing in their own solutions.
Workers want tools that help them do their jobs more effectively, and want these tools to be easy to use while providing a positive experience. The whole BYOD trend is predicated on the fact that if businesses don't give workers the tools and user experience they want, employees will simply use the tools they prefer. Unfortunately, these selections are generally consumer-oriented and, as such, not too secure. Businesses realize that to be most effective while ensuring privacy and security they need to provide enterprise-grade tools that provide the user experiences workers expect.
At Enterprise Connect, I was heartened to hear so many discussions focused not on the technology, but rather on the next step -- enhancing the user experience and increasing user adoption of the technologies. This demonstrates the relative maturity of UCC solutions, and will help to drive market growth as more users demand these types of solutions.
The user experience is perhaps the most critical element of a UCC deployment. Too often I see sales professionals concentrate on the underlying technology rather than how these solutions can solve business problems and provide the desired business outcomes and results. Workers aren't interested in the technology. Rather users care about how technology helps them do their jobs more effectively, while CXOs are interested in outcomes relevant to their specific business.
Viewing UCC solutions from the user, not IT, perspective is key. No one says, "I need a UC solution providing single number reach and mobile extension." Instead, a user might say, "It's hard for my clients to reach me when I'm away from the office, and I need a better way of staying connected." As opposed to IT professionals that are generally focused on reducing operational management costs, line-of-business executives are trying to improve productivity and remove roadblocks that impede better efficiencies. This requires a user focus, which in turn requires a great user experience.
We're starting to see more and more solutions focused on the user and the user experience. Solutions like Cisco Spark (formerly Project Squared) and Unify Circuit (formerly Project Ansible) aim to enhance the user experience by enabling people to communicate and collaborate in a way that makes sense to them and ties in with other tools they use throughout the day.
When Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group, introduced Project Squared, he claimed that it's an "order of magnitude better experience for the user," and that it provides a "delightful" user experience." Similarly, when Unify introduced Project Ansible, it frequently used the phrase "joy of use." Likewise, Avaya's new mantra is "engagement," which it describes as a "positive value-creating relationship you have that is active, collaborative, and experiential" and "where natural communications preferences co-exist with enterprise requirements to forge deeper connections between people and unlock higher levels of productivity and profitability."
For users, an "engaged," "joyful," and "delightful" experience is marked by things like the ease of bringing participants, no matter where they're located, into Web collaboration sessions and by having ready access to documents and other resources during virtual team meetings. Providing such positive user experiences is one of the ways to help drive user adoption.
Companies have invested significant time and money in their UCC solutions, and now have to figure out ways to ensure user adoption. Increasing user adoption requires organizations to consider a variety of strategic and tactical steps, as presented at my Enterprise Connect session, "How to Drive User Adoption of UC," but providing the right tools with a good user experience is essential.
I look forward to seeing new and enhanced solutions focusing on the user in 2015, and have high hopes for the Year of the User.