Instant messaging a co-worker in London, about to get on a Skype call with the community manager in Amsterdam, and screen sharing with the development team in Paris from the home office – not a futuristic scenario, this is how people work in collaborative businesses today.
Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) – technology and infrastructure which appeared on the IT horizon a decade ago is now mainstream, and while the business case for UC&C is well accepted, many companies still find it challenging to evolve existing culture and get their teams on-board to take advantage of its transformative potential.
What are the implications of this new way of working, and how can businesses embrace the opportunity to become truly collaborative businesses in the 21st century?
Change is coming – and fast
Recent market data confirms that UC&C will see a surge of adoption in the coming 3 years as both enterprises and SMB’s implement and/or upgrade their infrastructure.
While this has been predicted for some time, what’s become apparent is that the move to the cloud is happening a lot faster than anticipated: almost 70% of organisations will have moved their UC&C platforms fully to the cloud or to a hybrid model in the next two years.
Demographics also play an important part in this trend: millennials will form 50% of the workforce in just a couple of short years; business today is distributed across multiple sites with remote workers forming part of the team, and 60% of meetings are now virtual.
A recent Wainhouse paper on this says: “The way users get their work done is undergoing a dramatic, historic change. We find this new work environment embraced by work-life harmony-seeking millennials and driven by highly collaborative interaction.
“Technology has transcended the ability to simply enable virtual collaboration, making it effective and desirable – with few barriers, anyone and everyone can instantly become engaged and help with the task at hand.”
E-mail and phone still remain the top forms of communication in business, but forward-thinking companies are exploring new ways of collaborating.
Whether businesses choose an on-premise or increasingly a cloud-based platform, they are doing so to accelerate the speed of their business with ‘on-demand’ collaboration, to foster virtual team’s rapport and decision-making with rich, high-definition video, and to improve the bottom-line with savings made on travel costs.
Video conferencing in particular has undergone a revolution with affordable cloud based software and ‘enterprise-grade’ hardware solutions now a realistic option for any company, replacing older, expensive ‘telepresence’-type systems previously reserved only for the largest companies with extensive budgets.
New-to market video-conferencing devices, such as Logitech’s ConferenceCam range, are designed to be universally compatible, meaning they work seamlessly with any video conferencing platform, on-premise or cloud, and from any location.
The user just needs to plug the device into their PC or Mac and select their familiar video-calling application to be immediately connected.
Nevertheless, new technology can seem a little daunting to those new to video conferencing and this is where IT teams can play a major role: first, in selecting the right solutions based on business and user needs and secondly, in helping non-IT users get up to speed and overcome any inhibitions in using the technologies.
Training must be an integral part of any deployment and simple steps can make a big difference in the roll-out: planning for a guided launch period offering taster sessions to new users, always ensuring that remote employees are included in the briefings.
The goal is make users so proficient that video conferencing becomes a totally natural experience, and collaborating with remote team members a highlight of the working day.
Further reading: Six tips to develop your high-growth mindset