The past five years have changed unified communications considerably. Where once UC encompassed tasks associated with basic PBX and telephony, most organizations now consider UC to be a full suite of services that foster collaboration.
UC puts a circle around voice, audio/video conferencing, messaging, mobility, chat, call center operations, reporting/analytics, and even workstream collaboration (Cisco Spark and Slack) and contact centers. And there is little doubt that UC’s portfolio will continue to grow.
The UC Problem Holding Organizations Back
Many organizations wrestle with UC – especially as an on-premises operation. Though UC is rich with features, businesses find it difficult to deploy and maintain even a fraction of available functionality. They wind up keeping UC homogenous or in silos because integration between multiple vendor platforms is a complex and time-consuming proposition.
Even in the service arena, IT has struggled to fulfill the “unified” aspect of UC, subscribing to myriad services that tick the boxes but don’t communicate with one another. For instance, organizations might have chat and audio/video conferencing services, but unless they are connected, users can’t create a streamlined process to improve workflow.
Adapting for UC Preferences and Accessibility
Users are astute and know when UC lacks a unified aspect. The problem becomes even more apparent when users try to access the same application from different devices or even different geographies and discover they don’t have the same capabilities. Maybe users can record from a desktop but not from a tablet. Or maybe the accounts receivable department at headquarters can perform call routing but a field sales office cannot. These seemingly innocuous discrepancies can impact how an organization does business.
As if this weren’t enough of a headache, organizations now are faced with user preference – where employees want to use the apps with which they are most comfortable. While one group might be partial to a certain chat app, others might have affinity for another. To ensure optimal collaboration and productivity, IT must figure out a way for the chat apps to interact and remain compliant with corporate and industry regulations.
Benefits of UC with Single User Experience
Businesses faced with these requirements often feel stuck and adopt a single UC platform, missing out on the opportunity for best-of-breed solutions. Instead, organizations should consider a UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS) that offers a consistent user experience.
With a single user experience UCaaS, users enter a single sign-on portal that has integrated best-of-breed UC in a seamless fashion. All employees, no matter what device they access the portal from, experience the UC with the same features and functionality.
The single user experience UCaaS is far from cookie cutter, though. UCaaS providers study the client workflow and user preference and then stitch together the appropriate services as a customized, holistic solution. In other words, the provider doesn’t take a solution and make it fit; the provider fits the solution to the client.
The architecture that surrounds the multitude of services in a single user experience UCaaS supports anywhere, any device collaboration. Take, for instance, a technology company that has 10,000 users, with only 4,000 in the U.S. To achieve what they thought to be UC, they stood up separate PBXs across the globe, including Hong Kong and Mexico. This approach created a nightmare as users implemented different tools with different capabilities and realized the limitations of their local communications providers. Workers, despite having UC, were more disconnected than ever.
The company abandoned their PBX approach and adopted a cohesive user experience UCaaS to bridge the divide. During the discovery and pre-integration phases, it became obvious that the UCaaS would need to foster a culture change. For instance, IM required a greater emphasis because workers across time zones preferred it for real-time collaboration. Also, as users began to understand they all had the same access at the same quality of service, they increased their use in conferencing and other latency-sensitive tools. Overall, the business has become much more effective in its day-to-day operations.
As unified communications broadens in scope, organizations must realize that homogenous on-premises solutions, siloed on-premises solutions, and subscriptions to a multitude of services do not offer a single user experience. Only a UCaaS tailored to business and user needs will enable organizations to extract every bit of value out of unified communications.