Despite data suggesting increased investment and deployment, the past decade has seen a much lower adoption of Unified Communications (UC) than expected. This is in part due to end-user barriers, including difficulty installing and using devices, as well as a lack of real understanding of the benefits of UC. It’s only now that the tide is changing and we’re seeing a clear demand for new business communications methods in 2014.
UC delivers the collaboration that enhances decision-making and teamwork, allowing organisations to become much more nimble. Important decisions in large organisations are not made over IM, or even phone. People want group collaboration, and according to Frost & Sullivan research in 2013, there are 60-70 million physical conference rooms globally, but less than 5% of these meeting rooms have the ability to do video conferencing. Video is coming and users are asking for it, so businesses are finding themselves in a position where they need to establish how they will effectively deliver it to these users.
Video has always promised a lot, and has been talked about in an enterprise context for years but there have been many reasons – bandwidth, cost, quality, security – that have held it back. However, these impediments are slowly disappearing. One thing I know through research I’ve done during the development of Logitech solutions is that by using video, you’re increasing productivity in people by around 30% – and where that’s evident is in decision making. Equally, we’re seeing a fundamental change in the way people work, with employees increasingly working from home, and companies reducing office space.
When considering a UC deployment, IT decision makers traditionally think of making cost savings through increased efficiency and reduced telephony costs. However, no matter how good the infrastructure behind UC, or smooth the deployment, if end-users aren’t able to access the technology, you will never see a return on that investment.
For example, embedded webcams may allow you to make video calls, but at the expense of the overall user experience. In a business environment, it is vital that you can communicate clearly when video conferencing to effectively share ideas and information. Video is the new voice and we are now seeing it take off in all organisations, so it’s vital we give users access to quality equipment.
By tailoring UC peripherals to end users, the demand for more advanced collaboration can be promptly appeased as end-users (not just IT decision makers) feel the direct benefit of an easier way to communicate. Tailoring technology can be as simple as choosing a headset with an LED light on the back that glows when you’re on a VoIP call so that your colleagues can see you’re engaged in a conversation. Or being able to start a video call through a web based application like Google Hangouts, without pre-loading complex drivers that either delay call times or put users off altogether as they defer back to a phone line.
The consumerisation of IT, and global marketing around platforms such as Apple’s FaceTime, have driven employees to demand and expect the kind of collaborative communications experience at work that they have outside of their jobs. Sadly, this isn’t yet the case, but with the right attitude, infrastructure and peripherals, this is beginning to change.