How Your Communications Platform Can Drive Innovation
A cloud-based approach with open APIs is the path to creative use of communication and collaboration technologies -- and a better user experience.
Large enterprises often face problems when providing communications and collaboration (C&C) services to employees, workgroups, and business units. Technologies and infrastructure that worked in the past may not keep up with the C&C needs of the enterprise any longer. Business requirements also change so frequently that technological flexibility is now a requirement. Many enterprises overcome these challenges by using some sort of communications platform.
C&C platforms have become ubiquitous across the enterprise landscape, as numerous vendors provide unified communication solutions. However, existing UC solutions don't always provide the capabilities the enterprise really needs. In fact, many solutions create more long-term problems than the ones they are trying to solve. Examples include: being locked into one vendor's technologies, lacking the flexibility to incorporate new technologies, not being able to scale as required, an inability to use best-of-class or third-party apps, and so on.
As most large enterprises employ a mix of office-based and remote employees, these problems play a significant part in how productive those employees are, and communications and collaboration directly impacts that productivity. A recent IBM study indicates that 94% of users were impacted by a lack of effective communication and collaboration, resulting in a potential loss of up to $13,000/employee/year. A recent IDC forecast indicates that the mobile worker population will grow to more than 105 million by 2020, so you can see how having effective C&C tools is critical. Without efficient C&C, everyone from employees to business units is affected, innovation is stifled, and the bottom line is negatively impacted.
What should an enterprise look for in a C&C solution to provide these capabilities? A C&C platform must:
- Be cloud-based
- Have open APIs and SDKs, allowing the enterprise to develop quickly and deploy its own new apps as needed
- Enable the enterprise to take a best-of-breed, best-in-class approach to choosing and using third-party apps
- Work with existing legacy technologies
- Allow the enterprise to make use of and easily incorporate new technologies
- Be flexible, adaptable, and scalable to support future needs
For communications and collaboration in the enterprise to truly be effective, a solution must allow the enterprise to customize and manage its own communication services, instead of having those be managed by the vendor. Through this type of solution, the enterprise is then able to develop contextual communications -- customized communication services such as voice, video, and messaging built into the service or application in use.
Contextual communication is already familiar to consumers through features such as "click to chat" and "push button to talk" capabilities built into apps and websites. Sadly, while these consumer-led technologies are readily available, they have not been widely embraced within the enterprise due to the prevalence there of older technologies, outdated infrastructure, and closed technological ecosystems that prohibit adoption.
Technological innovation is passing the enterprise by, causing missed opportunities for innovation. By not having the infrastructure in place to take advantage of and provide these types of features, the enterprise effectively stifles innovation and misses out on a quick and way of providing services that benefit both employees and customers -- all of which can directly impact the bottom line. In fact, a 2007 Gartner study showed that "by embracing and leveraging employee experimentation and experience with consumer technologies, enterprises can enjoy a significant addition to the resources they can apply to evaluating innovation."
The benefits of contextual communications are many; increased productivity, better use of available resources, and more efficient communication and collaboration are just a few examples. Embedding C&C tools such as voice, video, and chat inside the applications, devices, and tools they already use helps employees improve their productivity while enriching their communication experience. Customizable user experiences can be designed with applications to support specific needs, or third-party applications that provide those features can be integrated into the existing system. The enterprise benefits because efficiencies are improved through services optimized for the business. It also drives innovation, as the enterprise can develop new features and services as needed.
This freedom to innovate allows the enterprise to develop and provide new ways for customers to communicate and interact with the business. The benefit of this is that customers are more satisfied as they are more easily able to interact with your business, which leads to increased customer retention, which in turn drives increased customer sales.
In summary, building C&C tools into the tools, devices, and applications that your employees and customers use on a regular basis, as well as using your C&C platform to drive innovation, can positively impact your business and provide a competitive advantage.