As collaboration drives enterprise software deployment, UC has a key niche to fillIn enterprise software, collaboration is the catchphrase of the moment.
Every business is always looking for ways for their teams to work smarter, faster and more productively. With the rapid development of tools which allow people to work together in real time over distance and whilst on the move, collaboration software has become a key focus for end users looking for more efficient ways of working in teams.
But collaboration is not just a matter of co-authorship and real time editing tools. To work together, especially over distance, colleagues need to be able to communicate.
The last couple of years have seen the emergence of platforms like Slack, Yammer and, most recently, Facebook’s Workplace which combine collaboration software with UC and even social functionality. Workflow and productivity features sit side by side with voice, video, IM, presence, conferencing, desktop and data sharing, and FMC capabilities.
This represents a huge opportunity for UC to become integral to mainstream enterprise deployments. We can expect the confluence of UC and collaboration to continue apace in 2017.
Unified Comms trends to look out for
It has almost become a cliche to say more and more businesses will migrate their IT and comms solutions to the cloud, but the trend for collaboration adds even greater incentive. If people are sat in the same office, they don’t necessarily need collaboration technology to work together. But they do over distance. With cloud based software and UC solutions, teams can keep working from anywhere, using mobile devices and roaming data connections. And Cloud First does not mean Cloud Only – hybrid deployments with on premises used as a base are likely to become more and more common.
Out of the box team platforms like Slack and Yammer are convenient and easy, but many enterprises look for greater flexibility than off the shelf products can offer. Creating their own UC apps with APIs which they can embed into existing workspaces, intranet sites and even outward-facing websites will suit businesses which want to improve communication and connectivity without overhauling an entire IT architecture. Development platforms like Avaya Breeze make this option increasingly accessible.
Just as apps like Facebook Live and Periscope are making live video streaming the hottest new trend in social media, live streaming is expected to become increasingly important in business. Where once the video conference was the preserve of executive meetings, video can add a familiarity and sense of connection to collaboration that voice does not always carry. Video is also an ideal medium for training and presentation, while more and more businesses are experimenting with customer facing livestream video as a marketing tool.
It would be premature to ring the death knell of email just yet, and for external communications in particular it is likely to remain the tool of choice. But for internal communications, especially for collaboration purposes, IM is slicker and fits much better with workflow. Instead of bouncing emails back and forth, IM allows colleagues to talk, comment and discuss as they work. And for large groups, it avoids the dreaded tangle of email conversation threads. Expect so called Team Chat applications to explode this year.
Group Collaboration Hardware
Finally, one of the prerequisites of good collaboration is that everyone can see as well as hear what is going on. In the dynamic of a distributed meeting, where remote participants connect to a physical meeting, having everyone focusing on their own screen does not always allow discussion to flow naturally. UC-ready whiteboards, which display video stream, mark up and comments from remote users on a large screen, are already available from manufacturers including Microsoft, Oblong and InFocus. UC developers would be well advised to check compatibility with such devices.