Unified communications and KM are finally collaborating

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UC and digital transformation

One of the primary drivers for unified communications is its role in an overall digital transformation, in which consolidation of infrastructure is a key element. FIME is a consulting company that develops methods for providing secure financial transactions and enables financial services companies to authenticate payments. It tests and certifies mobile point-of-sale solutions for digital methods of payment, and supports the development of Nexo, a global standard to enable interoperability in payments.

FIME had multiple vendors for different communication functions, such as videoconferencing and telephony, to support collaboration for its 400 staff members and clients, which include the major credit card companies. In order to streamline its communications environment, FIME chose the cloud-based UCaaS from Fuze, which offers a range of solutions. One of the first benefits was elimination of metered international calling, which reduced FIME’s phone bills substantially. The company no longer has to rely on eight separate PBX systems in multiple locations.

In addition, Fuze handles the other components of FIME’s communication needs, including videoconferencing and messaging. With a cloud-based system, both field workers and on-premise workers have comparable collaboration experiences. The transition to a single, cloud-based platform will also facilitate FIME’s expected growth in new locations and number of employees. Integration with Microsoft Dynamics CRM allows capture and subsequent analysis of customer interactions.

Fuze was founded more than a decade ago to virtualize on-premise unified communications. It was formed as the result of a merger between a telephony company and FuzeBox, which provided web and videoconferencing as well as chat. Since its formation, Fuze has developed an integrated UCaaS platform that covers a full range of communication and collaboration solutions.

Communication touches everyone

“Communication is the one application that touches everyone,” said Eric Hanson, VP of market intelligence at Fuze. “Managing these interactions through a single platform not only allows an organization to provide a seamless environment for workers, but also to assess operational issues.” For example, communications data allows organizations to see patterns such as volume of interactions (calls, meetings, and messages) at various times of day. This information can provide insights into work patterns that might help predict retention problems, or allow an organization to better balance employee workloads.

Most organizations are using anywhere from four to 12 different collaboration tools, according to Hanson. “It might not be possible or desirable to consolidate to just one,” he commented, “but for the general knowledge worker, a single platform is beneficial.” Organizations can still retain the ability to leverage special tools if a best-in-class solution is needed for a particular function.

“Because various forms of unified communication have been around for a long time,” Hanson noted, “many systems have been cobbled together, so a truly unified cloud-based solution is relatively new. As recently as a year ago, only a minority of companies had made the transition to cloud-based unified communications.” Now, organizations are moving aggressively in that direction, motivated by the functionality of cloud-based unified communications, which offers more capabilities than on-premise applications, as well as the ease of starting up new facilities and the benefits of cloud environments for disaster recovery.

A robust collaboration solution also provides flexibility for workers. “There has been a shift in the mindset of workers,” Hanson observed, “many of whom want to work where they work best. For some, it might be a home office, while for others, it might be in a group setting like WeWork.” This flexibility allows companies to attract and retain high-caliber individuals who might not live near a physical office.

Insights from analytics

Unified communication solutions, especially those that involve videoconferencing, can represent a major investment for a company, and many organizations are interested in analytics that track usage and performance, allowing them to estimate ROI on the installation. One company that was selling and installing videoconferencing systems for enterprises was receiving so many questions relating to this issue that it eventually decided to provide a software solution that addressed these concerns.

Vyopta has developed a platform that includes two major components, Collaboration Performance Management and Workspace Insights. These solutions are designed to help improve performance of collaboration software and to allow organizations to make data-driven decisions about investment. Collaboration solutions generally do include their own analytics, but they are limited to that application and may not be as extensive as the organization needs or wants. Vyopta’s platform can accommodate multi-vendor environments, normalizing and integrating data from any collaboration tool.

“Not only do many companies still have multiple collaboration technologies,” said Ivan Montoya, VP of marketing at Vyopta, “but they may also be undergoing mergers and acquisitions that bring even more systems into the mix.” For large deployments with hundreds of videoconference rooms, tracking performance issues can be very daunting. “It might be something as simple as someone not plugging in a cable,” commented Montoya, “but organizations need to know where their issues are in order to address them.”

Understanding usage

Metrics associated with usage are also important. “At one pharmaceutical lab, the company saw usage of videoconferencing take off in some geographic regions, while in others, workers did not embrace the new technology,” Montoya recalled. “Often, companies will use this data to investigate why usage is low and then provide training to grow adoption, while in other cases, they will simply save money by reducing their expenditures in regions with less use.”

Another issue is whether videoconferencing rooms that are booked actually get used. “Sometimes there are zombie or ghost meetings where people book a meeting room and then do not actually attend,” noted Montoya. “The way to detect that is to match up the calendaring system with sensor information that detects whether the room was actually used. At scale in a very large enterprise with thousands of employees, inefficient meeting room usage can be a major source of employee frustration and a waste of resources.” Analytics that allow for a determination of usage of collaboration rooms can save millions of dollars if allocation of office space is matched correctly to an organization’s needs.

With a growing population of remote workers in enterprises, unified communications will show increasing use in the coming years. Quality and functionality will also advance. Gartner predicts continued improvement of the user experience for meetings, such as greater ease in joining, and additional capabilities for AI and natural language processing. In addition, improved integration with associated solutions such as contact centers, help desk, and marketing through APIs will continue to expand the effective reach of unified communications, particularly UCaaS.

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