Solving Business Problems with Principled UC Approach
In 2017 we saw a significant increase in the adoption of team collaboration solutions, with at least one analyst firm, MZA, reporting triple year-over-year growth in revenue and active user base. Organizations looking to consolidate communications tools and services and create a single point of access were key to the growth, MZA said.
“Common across a variety of team collaboration solutions on the market today are features that provide persistency to an organization’s communications -- with a searchable history of messages, 1:1 and group calling, and conferencing,” said Tim Gelardi, senior analyst for MZA. He added that a key differentiator would be any features that “provide a smooth process for integration with business tools and onboarding to accelerate user adoption.”
Alas, integration is not quite as abundant in team collaboration platforms as users and organizations would like.
Egalitarian Principles at Risk of Erosion
When SIP emerged in the late 1990s, the promise was interoperability across the board -- devices, services, and platforms working together without any friction. Those founding principles echoed the egalitarian principles of the Internet itself, namely, to avoid getting locked into proprietary architectures, and benefit instead from mixing and matching a personal choice of communications solutions.
Since then, however, the quest for open standards has stalled. Major UC players have put vertical spins on team collaboration rather than risk losing ground to one another through an open access free-for-all. This quest for market advantage, while introducing some compelling solutions, has been at the cost of achieving interoperability across UC services.
The Same Old Business World Glitches Show No Sign of Abating
The pursuit of interoperability across UC services, including team collaboration, is so important because interoperability is central to breaking down the final barriers to seamless, intuitive communications within and among teams.
At stake are the kind of business problems that, after 20 years of innovation, still hinder conferencing, messaging, remote work, and meetings:
- Frustrating Conference Call Experiences -- 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.
- Inefficient Messaging Exchanges -- meeting details and shared documents don’t exist in the same place, and clearing up the confusion takes a combination of email, IM, SMS, cloud storage, voice calls, and even word-of-mouth conversations.
- Unproductive Work-At-Home Sessions -- 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.
Overlay Innovation -- Staying True to Open Principles
Changing this state of affairs requires a UC-centric digital transformation. In a 2017 survey of more than 700 IT leaders, Nemertes Research found that companies with successful digital transformation initiatives had invested in UC and collaboration 72% more than those that weren’t successful. So, the link is clearly there.
But with advances in technology and new ways of looking at the overall communications landscape, we can still have interoperability across UC services. We can still design amazing experiences that make organizations, employees, and consumers more productive.
Kicking against the trend toward a vertical approach and closed, proprietary architectures are UC innovators whose developments attempt to live up to the founding principles of SIP -- achieving an interoperable UC experience without the open standards the industry initially hoped for. These technologies are designed to overlay, rather than replace, existing infrastructure. Instead of facing the prospect of an expensive or convoluted digital transformation project, end user organizations that adopt this approach can reap the benefits of UC interoperability immediately, and in a manner that is completely non-disruptive to their existing assets.
What to Consider When Evaluating an Overlay Solution
Among the key benefits of the overlay 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.
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.
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.
In terms of technical integrations, the service overlay needs robust interoperability with existing calling platforms/PBXs across the market, and 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.
Application integrations can go beyond core communications platforms. The future for this kind of overlay technology 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 overlaying existing infrastructure, organizations can take advantage of the cloud and provide a single, coherent experience across a multitude of integrated UCC functions.