The 2018 UC Expo, (the annual Unified Communications show), came at an interesting time for suppliers, customers and recommending consultants alike. With much talk about “UC” and agile working and a myriad of competing products, selecting a unique offering is increasingly difficult. Stopping by a number of stands, all suppliers appear to be offering the same thing and few customers have the time to be able to fully understand the depth of what is being offered.
Article written by Nick Henley, Unified Communications Consultant at Cordless...
The Unified Comms challenge: A product-led mindset
Previously, we have often asked ourselves the wrong questions about UC by assuming we need new technology, investing in it and then asking: how do we then join these up? If we’re asking that question, then we’re already too late. This product-led approach and search for that ‘silver bullet’ technology that will unify our systems could lead to a wild and costly goose-chase.
“Agility, flexibility, collaboration” and essentially, all things Unified are the marketing words.
But what does that mean? To make any of those comments truly work, they need to appeal to the workplace and the requirement that exists. Nobody buys technology for technology's sake, so unless a provider is able to clearly match features to requirements, the technology becomes subjective and unlikely to embed properly within an organisation.
Working with organisations when gathering their business requirements, it is clear that a pattern is emerging, in that the technology and vendor is secondary to the need. By that we can say that a customer who is truly looking to create a positive workplace environment will describe the experience that they are looking for before they mention a vendor or product. As consultants therefore, it is important that we put the tech to one side for a moment and understand what can be achieved and then discuss the technology involved.
If we were to suggest that you procure a product that you can’t see or touch, the conversation is probably going to be a short one however, this is precisely the conversation that we should be having. In almost every discussion, the customer has already made heavy investment in Audio Visual equipment, bridging solutions, Office 365 or CRM solutions (in contact centres) and therefore procuring an additional solution to unify those and introduce yet another “application” is often unsustainable.
The conversation should therefore be “Continue to use your chosen investment platform but enable them with a technology that talks to them all”. That is to say, continue to use them, just add the capability, be it telephony, video or presence, within your existing applications.
The conversation immediately changes.
How is that done? What is not easily apparent with Unified Communications and the new applications is the myriad of code and APIs which sit behind the product which in laypersons speak enable compatibility with other products. Suppliers have long realised that their products cannot provide all the features and functionality that a user would require and therefore have been busily working to embed their code into other products. They just haven’t been particularly proactive at marketing these but as consultants it is our responsibility to bring this capability out, when appropriate and match this to the requirement.
A growth mindset: build on what you have…
The new advances in API development offer an alternative approach to UC for organisations. This allows us to focus on features first, not products, saving time, money and effort.
Workplace technology and UC
So how would this look in reality? A reception area for example would traditionally have a welcome desk, gates and a user with a phone and a screen. Not anymore. Take away the desk, take away the phone and embed call software onto a tablet and continue to use your existing applications such as Office 365 and add call control. Your calendar, meetings or internal CRM are all there but integrated. At a network level, there is no hardware, no installation, no large cost associated and you pay as you use but the impact is significant and the integration secure. Importantly, the application that is being used, is largely invisible other than the new controls it provides in existing applications meaning that training is kept to a minimum but user take up is very high.
The experience is the same for Audio Visual investments by enabling telephony to integrate with existing audio visual hubs and room based systems without the need to lose the investment already made in proprietary codecs and devices. The investment is small but the impact significant.
The discussion therefore becomes: “which technology partner or product has the ability to integrate with my existing investment?” and not: “how do I unify my communications with a new product?”
Want to talk to Cordless about your Unified Comms strategy? We’d be delighted.
Date: Wed, 20 Jun 2018 14:11:51 +0100 GMT