Unified communications solutions are designed to simplify collaboration and reduce barriers. But more often than not, they end up tangled in a web of poorly integrated business applications.
Many employees carry their personal tech habits into the workplace, responding to new business challenges with the mantra, “there's an app for that.” Though most employees wouldn’t dream of getting through a day without apps for email, project management or file sharing, the overabundance of enterprise apps has created challenges of its own. When selecting a new UC solution to integrate with their existing business tools it's important for IT departments involved in the procurement process to keep these common developer requests in mind.
1. Reduce Friction Between Apps
Businesses already rely on many cloud-based services and applications, and this number is likely to grow as organizations seek out app-based solutions to long-standing challenges. As employees develop workflows that move across apps, this transition is far from fluid. Even when apps are developed by the same vendor, there is no guarantee that they will play nicely within a given company’s IT environment. Too often, end users sacrifice productivity to repeatedly sign into half a dozen business apps and services – an annoyance that encourages employees to reuse passwords and jeopardize sensitive business data.
Rather than placing the burden on internal developers to integrate a wide collection of apps, prioritize single sign-on (SSO) via widely supported formats like SAML. For example, a business using Google’s G-suite platform could access their UC solution with just two clicks and no additional sign-in step, the same way they switch between tools like email and calendars. This way, users need only authenticate to a single service before enjoying full access to all their business apps.
2. Minimize Internally Managed Infrastructure
The ability to internally develop, deploy and manage extensions to critical communication apps is a valuable advantage for an agile business. That said, there are practical limits on the number of plugins, extensions and add-ons an organization can reasonably manage. Small changes in an API can create internal chaos as developers rush to make adjustments to avoid downtime, and the continued costs of supporting internally managed integrations without vendor support can be extensive.
Organizations should prioritize UC solutions that integrate with existing tools, whether through a well-documented API or a pre-defined connection managed by the service provider. In the latter case, ensure that both the UC provider and the integrating platform are committed to maintaining compatibility. When integration is instead supported through an API, IT departments should bring developers into the procurement process to verify that the API documentation is complete and compatible with existing business applications.
3. Support Every Device
As business devices diversify beyond traditional workstations to include tablets and smartphones, employees need the flexibility and support to access their UC tools on any platform. Especially when integrated into an existing suite of business applications, users need the ability to communicate within the UC tool regardless of their device choice. For example, our Video Meeting Gateway provides video interconnection capabilities for users on any device within Microsoft’s Office 365 platform. Ensuring this level of integration via internal resources is extremely challenging and costly, making cross-device compatibility a must-have feature.
Internal developers are an invaluable resource to their organizations, but they can’t do everything alone. When organizations invest in UC solutions, developers should be looped into the process early on to sanity-check prospective tools and identify integration gaps. Broadly, organizations must focus on supporting integration with their existing systems, devices and infrastructure. With the combination of the right UC solution and internal expertise, businesses can maintain technology that fosters collaboration rather than gets in its way.