Collaboration evolution in five sets

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Along with many die-hard tennis fans in Europe, I stayed up until the early hours of the morning watching the U.S. Tennis Open Final between Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev. The gripping contest took almost five hours and was the second longest U.S. Open Final in history. First, Nadal had the edge. Then, Medvedev mounted a comeback until the final set in the match.

Nadal and Medvedev, two titans of the sport with different strengths and weaknesses, were competing for the New York Tennis Crown. For Nadal, as for Federer and Djokovic, their dominance over the last 15 years is built on how their tennis, and also their bodies, have adapted to the changing landscape of the sport. Tennis tactics, tennis gear and, in particular, playing skills have really evolved from the years of Spencer Gore, first Wimbledon Champion in 1877. For example, when viewed in slow motion video, Nadal's serve has changed considerably in terms of technique and technical motion. Federer also changed rackets to a frame with a bigger head and more power, which enables him to achieve more top spin on his backhand and stay aggressive in the rally.

While watching the exhilarating match, I found myself making a comparison between the evolution of tennis and the evolution of enriched communications and collaboration because, here at Orange Business Services, collaboration has evolved greatly over the last 15 years, too. Collaboration in tennis jargon would be:

Set 1 – IM&P

For the last few years, we have seen many Orange customers consolidating their instant messenger and presence (IM&P) clients. Microsoft Lync, IBM Sametime and Cisco Jabber became household names. There was typically a centralized cost center or department to deliver this, such as Central IT or Shared Services. Telephony and video communications were usually under a different umbrella, and most of the time, they were delivered and managed by teams other than Central IT. Sometimes these teams were local, instead of central. In tennis, this could be the equivalent of serving well on just one side of the court.

Set 2 – IM&P and telephony

Then we achieved the consolidation of IM&P, video and telephony all under the same collaboration tool. With the advent of apps such as Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex Teams, this consolidation became reality. At Orange, we have worked with many customers who were initially looking just for a PBX replacement but subsequently decided to evolve the PBX replacement into a richer collaboration up-haul after discussing their true business needs. Going back to tennis, the player is now able to serve and volley on both sides.

Set 3 – IM&P, telephony and business processes

Things start to get interesting. The next natural step is to connect and integrate the customer’s enterprise collaboration tools with its business tools and processes, APIs, etc. One example of this is how at Orange we integrate our collaboration solutions with the ERP systems used by HR. This means that when a new employee is configured in the HR tool, there is an automated process to create his/her credentials, extension number, dial plan, group of contacts, etc. all linked with the collaboration tool. Another example is when an enterprise contact center is integrated and supported by collaboration processes. This can greatly improve the user experience of the end customer, who reaches out to the contact center agent. Many of the activities of the agent become, or can become, automated. Chatbots handle simple queries, and the agents focus on complex activities as specialists. Following the tennis theme, our player is now scoring many points with aces.

Engage customer, empower employees

Set 4 – IM&P, telephony, business processes and calling plan

At Orange we see that many of our customers have consolidated the main collaboration solutions. Our consultants have helped them integrate collaboration with their business processes, but sometimes there is still a piece missing. The final element is the voice part, the calling plan across an international footprint. Some customers already use SIP, others have PSTN gateways, but many lack a coherent strategy to centralized calling plans across different countries and different regions.

For Microsoft Teams or Cisco solutions, the Orange Direct Routing and Orange Business Talk services are available in more than 160 countries and territories to optimize costs and to replace multiple local providers. The solution provides a global seamless voice service with the ability to manage all types of calls: outbound, inbound, on-net, off-net and local at national and international levels.

From our Business Talk self-care portal, our customers are able to place orders and configure and manage their voice sites and associated options – all in less time than it takes to win a tennis game with four aces. This provides a big competitive advantage, and going back to the tennis analogy, we are not increasing the topspin of the ball – which makes it very difficult for the opponent to make a good return.

Set 5 – Customer experience meets collaboration

It is very much accepted that effective team collaboration equals great customer service. This is because we are seeing growing customer service teams that have ever-increasing pools of knowledge to share with their customers. However, collaboration should not be limited to a relationship among customer service professionals. Customers should also be included in the problem-solving process, as we can see in many organizations such as Giffgaff or Virgin Media, where the user community helps support other customers to get rewards and, meanwhile, improve the overall customer experience. In tennis terms, this would mean that the player is super-fit and able to manage the demands of the match, whatever it takes.

Tie-break

Continuing our comparison with tennis, in the same way as the U.S. Open Final was a titanic battle between two great stars, at Orange we invest and collaborate with the two titans of collaboration: Cisco and Microsoft. Our Business Together propositions are based on Microsoft and Cisco. Orange Business Together delivers a full suite of integrated and managed collaborative services that exploit the benefits of unified communications and collaboration to improve enterprise productivity.

To discuss Orange Direct Routing or Business Talk or how the collaboration tie-break is evolving, contact me on Javier.Sanz-Blasco@orange.com.

Javier Sanz-Blasco

Javier holds an MBA at Henley Business School (UK) and has more than 20 years’ experience in Unified Communications. He currently works as Sales Executive at Orange, where he maps the business requirements of the biggest multinationals to a service. An avid reader and former chess player, he enjoys hiking with his family the mountains of Picos de Europa in Spain and long distance running along the Thames River.