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Unified Communications. What Does it Really Mean?

A Business Development Manager’s perspective

Over my many years of involvement with selling technology solutions, Unified Communications and Collaboration has taken a front seat in a number of opportunities that I have worked on.

However, after all these years, with such an ever changing landscape that has moved on from delivering VoIP through to delivering all sorts of mobile apps… what does Unified Communications and Collaboration really mean?

Search the internet and you’ll find a variety of different spins on what Gartner define it to be – “Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) describes the combination of communications and collaboration technologies.” Yes technology plays a major part, but in my experience UC&C transcends the boundaries of the traditional technology features and benefits conversation; “With Microsoft Lync you can have…”, “Cisco Jabber enables you to….” “Avaya’s contact centre is….” and so on and so forth. What many vendors, partners and even IT leaders fail to recognise is that collaboration means different things to different people. For that reason, the introduction of such technologies needs to be embraced at a senior level, involving the key stakeholders to help create a strategic approach for the organisation.

At the heart of any strategy there needs to be a clearly defined goal, something that the organisation wants/needs to achieve. Cisco hit the nail on the head back in 2013 in one of their white papers; their research highlighted that creating speed and flexibility are the most important challenges, in terms of differentiating from competition in just about every industry across the globe. Every organisation, no matter what vertical, are all having to face similar challenges primarily driven by three factors:

  • Increased competition
  • The need to focus on core competencies and partners to fill skills gaps
  • The internet, open systems and automation have changed the way in which we communicate, people want to do business in a more interactive manner and in a social media format

So, how can an organisation address the aforementioned factors? In my mind collaboration is a start. Collaboration is a belief, a vision and more importantly an architecture to enable an organisation to adapt to fast changing market trends and pressures, to help it become far more agile. Effective collaboration helps an organisation significantly reduce response and resolution times, in a multitude of scenarios and circumstances. So using this as a platform, I think we can start to dissect collaboration, taking it away from technology and aligning it to a culture and a series of processes. What can encourage teams to work smarter?

For collaboration to succeed a business needs to have a culture of openness, flexibility and above all else a commitment to achieving the same goals. Without these, there is little trust and human nature will dictate that employees will be less inclined to share information and work together regularly. By encouraging this philosophy and adopting a culture of shared goals, employees are empowered to ask the question and tap into the specialised knowledge and skill sets available in other parts of the business, not to mention utilising external partnerships. Now, think about how this applies to the organisation you work for, I am sure there are some people that will categorically want to keep information as close to their chest as possible. Without incentivising them and creating a reason for them to embrace shared goals, how can you get them to collaborate, irrespective of whether your business utilises applications from Microsoft, Cisco, or Avaya etc?

So my advice would be, when you are looking to evaluate a collaboration solution, take the time to step away from the features and benefits of what different vendors can provide. Look further into how your business operates, what processes are in place and how can they be improved? Ultimately is there a structure and are there processes in place to support whatever collaboration tools you have or may decide to adopt? Does your business empower your employees to share? That is what will create innovation, make you more agile and quite bluntly that is what will differentiate you from your competition. For example, how many times have you been a customer and been on hold for too long, how many times have you been a customer and told that you have to wait days/weeks for departments to talk before you get what you need? The technology is just the enabler and a small, albeit very important, part of the jigsaw.

So what are your next steps? If you are at the beginning of your collaboration journey or even half way through, it’s an excellent time to further explore what you can do. Forfusion can help you as part of that journey. Through our discovery sessions we provide a strategic, consultative and specialised service to demonstrate how collaboration can help you reach those business objectives. Whether it be improving agility, increasing your competitive advantage or enhancing your customer relationships, contact us today to start your path to a more collaborative workplace.

Categorised Under: Unified Communications

1st Jul 2014