Mobile communications changed the world almost without anybody really noticing it. Since the mobile phone went mainstream as a consumer device, mobile communications has never looked back. The smartphone then came along and proliferation skyrocketed, tablets added to the mix and as consumers embraced mobile devices together with the desire to communicate from wherever they were, so in turn did the business world. Enterprise environments were soon replete with smartphones and tablets in addition to traditional laptops. CIOs soon had to plan for Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and formulate policies that embraced the advantages of mobile communicating and collaborating without leaving the back door open to security risks and corporate data breaches.
What has happened is that we end-users have taken our personal, daily lives into the workplace. Technology is now so ubiquitous in our homes and in our lives in general that we simply take it for granted. We communicate and collaborate everywhere we are, whether by email, VoIP calls, instant messaging and chat apps, or social media apps – and in the enterprise this became known as Unified Communications (UC).
The interesting thing about UC is this: if it cannot deliver what is immediately needed, UC will come together with another application to provide users with what they want. This is where the consumerization of UC is a key driver of change for enterprise UC. Individual users have different demands for their communications and collaboration tools in their home and personal lives. They have expectations and it is up to the enterprise to meet these and help workers be more productive.
So where is UC today?
Today, UC is just there. Always there. Cloud computing arrived and became a great enabler for UC, giving enterprise employees unprecedented flexibility and reliability for their UC. But what has also happened, again without anybody really noticing, is that UC has become the only way of communicating in the enterprise environment. Tools like Webex, audio conferencing, telepresence – these are all effectively legacy applications now and all included in the UC suite. We are simply using landline phones less in general – a recent survey revealed that half of US homes no longer has a landline and has gone entirely wireless – and that trend has inevitably transferred to the enterprise. In the workplace, UC is now the main tool for communicating and collaborating.
What UC also brings to the workplace is a change in ‘space and time’ – the space being where workers communicate from and the time element being when they communicate and how much time is saved thanks to them having access to UC. The digitization of communications tools has meant we can use them to communicate and collaborate any time we choose and from any location. In practice this means we are able to make decisions more quickly, to gain input to projects from colleagues around the world instantly and engage with customers on their terms, creating an enhanced customer experience for all.
This is a vital element of the rise and importance of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) suites. As digital transformation has impacted the workplace, UC&C apps have become business-critical tools, bringing us greater convenience and increased flexibility and helping us serve customers better. The growth of UC&C has been impressive and fast; a surge of adoption will see 56 per cent of enterprises and 66 per cent of SMB organizations implement or upgrade UC&C solutions by the end of 2016, while the same period will see UC&C budgets increase by 9 per cent. Enterprises have committed to UC&C and its many benefits in a big way.
Embracing the on-demand model
UC&C tools are perfectly designed for our on-demand way of living and operating today – they bring flexibility and agility into the way individuals, teams and customers now communicate in the enterprise. In fact it can be said that UC&C delivers ‘collaboration on-demand’, a fast and convenient way of forming teams, discussing projects or issues, coming to decisions in a timely fashion and then ‘dismantling’ the teams when no longer needed. All with the minimum of fuss. And from the business perspective, it of course helps to save money by cutting down on travel expenses, general expenditure on resources and more.
Vital now, indispensable in future
UC&C tools are simply fundamental to the way people now work and get tasks done effectively. The basic fact is that if your organization is already using UC&C tools, you won’t really notice them – they are there right under your nose benefiting your teams and individuals, but essentially ‘out of sight’.
What this means is that enterprises now need to manage ‘how’ they provide UC&C solutions, not ‘if’. Your employees, leveraging their consumer habits, are already using UC&C to be more productive, so you must think about how your deployment model works and how to drive adoption within your organization – and you can begin by thinking from the perspective of the individual. When they go home from work, they expect their TV and Netflix to just work – the same applies to the UC&C solutions you deploy in the organization.
UC&C is undoubtedly here to stay. Recent research revealed that 68 per cent of companies already have UC&C tools, and Gartner predicts that UC&C adoption will continue to become more pervasive throughout 2016, as more smart devices support UC&C applications – saving organizations time, improving their decision-making, reducing costs and increasing flexibility.
It is no longer a question of thinking about whether you should be using UC&C tools, your workers already are. It is now time to think about how you integrate them into your long-term strategy, write a roadmap and start maximizing the benefits they bring.