When I started in this space 17 years ago, it was dominated by copper circuit switched networks and there really wasn’t much that was unified. Fortunately things have come a long way since those days and now technology leaders can be overwhelmed with choice from the market with everyone claiming a new mouse trap or a better shiny widget.
As the industry has transformed into the packet switched and VOIP era it has also bought with it the era of true unified communications. Initially, dominated by the traditional telecommunications, providers with proprietary protocols had limited features and little to no external integration. Now the market space is filled with an abundance of software that can provide many means of communication across many platforms.
Understand what Problem you are Trying to Solve
There are many great benefits in the business world by unifying your business communications but it isn’t a one size fits all equation. Small software startups will have vastly different needs that a large multi-national. Understanding the collaboration culture within your business is critical to understand how much of the problem you are solving is through technology and how much is through changing people's behaviour.
The technology can be great at closing the geographic gap with remote and virtual teams, features such as video, chat and sharing capability are non negotiable when leading remote teams.
However if there is not a sharing and collaboration culture embedded in business you may need to invest more time in the people than the technology if you want the change to be successful.
As the industry has transformed into the packet switched and VOIP era it has also bought with it the era of true unified communications
Simplify Accessibility to Drive Adoption
No matter what platform you chose, the rate of adoption will always be the one that is the easiest to use with the most intuitive interfaces to minimise the learning curve.
To drive ease of accessibility tight integration with your productivity suite of choice is essential. As this space was maturing there were many stand alone software packages, some linked with legacy voice hardware to provide a level of Computer Telephony Integration (CTI). In this day and age the successful tools are completely software driven, highly integrated directly with all your favourite productivity applications, not just mail, but documents for sharing as well. With the true omni-channel experience, one is able to escalate from email to chat to voice to video inside a single intuitive interface.
Device Ubiquity is King
Gone are the days where applications are focused on the desktop user experience, we live in a mobile world where everyone is on the move and expect the same capability on the device in their pocket as they did on their desktop a decade ago.
Did you know that this year the millennials have overtaken Gen X as the largest generation in the workforce? They are also the most mobility focused generation that have grown up with mobile device mindset. Any UC solution must be a platform that can be delivered across devices, platforms and operating systems. Mobiles in the enterprise are expected to be a BYOD world and must be able to be easily integrated to users personal mobiles through web or app based interfaces.
What’s next for Unified Communications?
As the name suggests and technology improves, the trend we are seeing is unifying not only synchronous communication but also asynchronous communication and event data from your favourite applications and tools such as project management, CRM and ERP platforms.
With the rise of central communications platforms such as Slack and Flock that are highly integrated through APIs, teams now can have notifications, sharing, productivity detail all in one central mobile enabled platform.
As our reliance on voice only as a channel reduces an increase in non voice channels becomes more critical to increase productivity, reduce interruptions and optimise our teams outputs.
I look forward to see what the future holds; will it be artificial intelligence, augmented or virtual reality? If the last decade is anything to go by all we do know if that it will be a drastically different landscape than we know today. Wherever we end up we will be more interconnected than we have ever been.