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How to Navigate the Path to a More Collaborative Future: Page 2 of 2

A one-size-fits-all, inflexible user interface never works.
Better workflows mean greater creativity, responsiveness, productivity, and all-around efficiency for workgroups or departments. And scaling those workflows across the business can make a major difference for the bottom line. However, it only works if the majority of employees come along on the journey.


Talking to people, singly and in groups, is still a huge part of any workflow, right? The younger and tech savvy will most likely eagerly adopt a comms app on a mobile device or laptop. Clicking to conference comes naturally. Other demographics will ask, “Why reinvent the telephone?” There’s no overall right or wrong.


It’s the same with messaging. Contextual or threaded messaging is a brilliant tool for creating and sustaining a conversation around an object, process, theme -- just about any context you like. For such a simple dish, the range of flavors is pretty surprising. Just when you think that all conceivable recipes have been explored, along comes another to sweep through the market. The list of ingredients on paper may look pretty similar, but the unique flavor comes out in the bake.


The learning point is that you don’t need to choose one flavor over another -- Slack over Microsoft Teams, for example. Instead, how about a flavor specifically cooked up for your business, your users, and your workflows? The winner is the solution that brings a dynamic and responsive user interface to collaboration so that everyone from age 18 to 70+ can leverage the same tool, catered to their workflows. Some just want to dial, others want to mostly text and do video calls, and others look to live in collaboration rooms. The point is that a single interface is in order, but it needs to bend to the unique requirements of the entire user base.


Hard versus soft; cloud versus on premises; fixed versus mobile
The consensus among enterprises is that the days of the desk phone, the on-premises PBX, and maybe even the telepresence suite are numbered. The greatest influencers here are changes in demographics and work patterns.


Maybe we should lay the blame on the tantalizing prospect of a Star Trek-style holodeck for the idea that we have to go to a special place, at an appointed time, for a virtual boardroom-style meeting in order to collaborate. I’m sure we’ve all experienced them -- and possibly watched in 8K detail as colleagues looked not at the camera, but instead gazed steadily at the mobile device in their laps, where the real work was getting done.


The point is that work is getting ever more flexible, distributed, and mobile, driven largely by changing expectations for the workplace and the nature of work as a whole. Everything about this new style of working points ultimately to mobility, the cloud, apps, and softphones on smart devices. Your challenge is how to get there on your terms.


Your peers tell me that you can freeze investment in still-useful, on-premises solutions or business critical infrastructure, and choose the cloud to pioneer innovative new collaboration options. Telephony is the classic case. With a number of the new collaboration solutions, it’s possible to integrate cloud-based conferencing and messaging with on-premises PBX in-house calling. With this approach, your compliance and continuity risks are mitigated. You can test and learn. And over time, the balance can shift until you meet all your needs from the cloud.


I earlier provided desk phones as an example of a touchpoint where a one-size user interface doesn’t fit all needs. The consensus is that it’s probably a waste of time to convince committed users to give up their desk phones. It’s definitely a waste of time to train millennials to use one. And there are many examples now of large enterprises going fully mobile and BYOD.

For instance, we’re working with large financial institutions that have enabled swaths of employees to communicate with colleagues and customers using only mobile devices. In these cases, the role prescribes the workflows, which determine the choice of tech. Throw into the mix employees working from home on Chromebooks or virtual endpoints, and you have yet another, different set of users with similar but not identical workflows.


These two newer deployment scenarios must work in conjunction with the old school, enterprise-based desktop deployments. However, that kind of elasticity can command a high cost. To help mitigate that, look to choose soft over hard – collaboration software that embraces all platforms with a consistent user experience – and prioritize cloud over on-premises deployments.


In summary, the path to collaboration nirvana can be tricky. The caretakers of the industry bringing solutions to market seem to be driving their own agendas of vertically integrating their own offerings instead of being inclusive of other solutions. On the other side, specialist vendors in one facet of collaboration are struggling to offer holistic solutions that meet an enterprise’s broad needs. Fortunately, for today’s users, the best path forward can come through offerings that combine the entire sphere of communications and collaboration solutions in a dynamic and customizable user experience.