Businesses should adopt unified communications sooner, not later

by Phil Edholm

Unified communications and collaboration (UCC), the integration of products and services that allows users to collaborate across different mediums, has been challenging and slow to adopt for some organizations. But that’s not stopping business leaders from trying implement it—UCC products are  beneficial to enabling collaboration between their employees, and in some cases, their customers and affiliates. A smooth transition is  possible when considering the information below.  

Businesses face streamlining challenges

The growing number of interactions, which can benefit from this new generation of collaboration and content-sharing tools, are not internally integrated to an organization. They are instead externally adopted. That isn’t to say UCC products that address internal communications can’t also be used for external communications with customers, partners, suppliers and others.

However, there are significant challenges when extending an internal system to the external world. For example, many solutions require both parties to use the same software, or require guests to download an application in order to use the UCC tools.

For the IT department, this trend can be both a blessing and a curse. As users can now bring in their own apps, IT is no longer the bottleneck for the business. Business leaders can adopt external cloud-based applications quickly, without blaming IT for delays and issues.

However, the issues of their externalization eventually become significant, and eventually the IT department is always asked to resolve issues in these external apps. Often this happens at a critical point, such as when the sales and engineering teams need to work together, and the tools they have chosen are different.

IT is not at the forefront

The current trend of UCC implementation is similar to Salesforce — initial adoption was not driven by IT, but rather by sales managers to boost their team productivity. By delivering the solution from the cloud with monthly billing, Salesforce could disrupt the CRM model by driving user adoption. As sales managers demonstrated success using Salesforce to manage their teams, their peers took notice and adopted Salesforce as well, pushing it into the mainstream.

In the UCC space, there have been several entrants that have used similar viral adoption methods. And now, social platforms like Slack are increasing the velocity of external application adoption. As these applications are ideal for mobile devices and have low monthly costs, users have found they can adopt a solution that is optimized to their needs, and easy to obtain.

The challenge for IT departments to meet the range of business needs is demonstrated by analyst data showing that over 90% of IT spending is on operations and continuation, while less than 10% is spent in innovation and new projects. And the competition for new project budgets is fierce, with upgrades and cost reductions competing with business innovation projects. The result is that IT often does not respond, leading business units
to external solutions.

Let IT departments become thought-leaders

The key lesson for IT organizations is clear: Now is the time to be proactive and understand the needs of your departments. And the cloud business model, where services can be purchased and implemented without capital or significant IT interaction, is a fundamental way to meet those needs. Instead of trying to tightly control the applications and services, an open partnership with the business is required to enable the right capabilities, while maintaining the right levels of security, interoperability and cost. By working less as the provider and more as the knowledge consultant, the IT organization can become the leaders in this transition. This enables managing a path that will dramatically reduce future issues.

In addition, IT needs to ensure the vendors it brings into the fold are not just focused on internal solutions, but how external participation is supported. This becomes a natural evolution to the cloud, as all the external users can be serviced directly from the cloud. By focusing on cloud options, the IT organization can prepare itself for the externalization of rich UCC solutions.

Solutions are easily attainable

A good example of a cloud provider that can be a valued partner for a range of services is AT&T. AT&T Collaborate is a cloud solution that enables individual business unit adoption, but is designed for complete enterprise support. With a solution like AT&T Collaborate, IT organizations can guide their business partners to a solution that enables larger corporate integration over time. The cloud deployment model enables lighthouse user adoption in business units without heavy capital investment, but it can scale in size, interoperability and security to be a complete solution.

As we move through 2017, the options for consumer-style and business-departmental adoption are ever increasing. For the IT team, this presents the challenge of providing a full range of capabilities or having individual business departments acquire a different solution. But they can meet the challenges of being responsive and supportive by working with the business units, ultimately adopting a common set of solutions—even if those are initially being purchased at a departmental level. By proactively providing easily adoptable options to business leaders, IT departments can both demonstrate leadership and manage for successful long-range outcomes, all without incurring the capital costs of traditional solutions.