Unified communication (UC) tools have been making it easier for people to get in touch with each other for years, but newer UC technologies that incorporate collaboration elements are enabling even more substantive business outcomes. As companies become familiar with UC, focus is shifting toward unified communications and collaboration (UC&C), industry analyst Dave Michels wrote in a recent column for UCStrategies.
Michels explained that the term UC is more tied to technologies, while collaboration includes the outcomes they enable. In the past, real-time collaboration was possible over distances with voice telephony. Today, collaboration involves UC technologies such as instant messaging, video, email, texting, social media. However, true collaboration extends beyond these technologies to focus on approaches to working together. With an increasingly distributed workforce, it takes more than basic UC tools to keep a remote workforce as productive as one operating out of a central office.
“Few us have all the answers,” Michel wrote. “We live in a highly complex environment and all these experts around the office filled in some gaps. This had to be recreated for virtual teams for intentional and even accidental collaboration. While we greatly appreciate our newly found flexibility and portability, it can’t come at the cost of productivity.”
Enter collaboration technologies
To help workers track their remote colleagues down and collaborate in real time, today’s leading UC solutions include tools such as document sharing, presence and conferencing that improve synchronization. Collaboration and conferencing is the fastest-growing segment of the UC market, with a projected 17 percent compound annual growth rate through 2016, according to a 2012 study from communications research firm COMMfusion. The study noted that UC&C products are helping the overall UC market become more mainstream by leveraging cloud computing solutions to deliver a more complete feature set to users.
These features have proven particularly useful as devices such as smartphones and tablets have made the work environment more mobile and tracking down colleagues has become more challenging, Michel noted. Yet technology is only one part of the overall equation. To enable true collaboration that drives business outcomes, organizations need to adopt a mindset that values the kinds of improvements UC&C brings. Rather than paying lip service to technologies such as conferencing, companies should work to embed them in their daily operations. This approach is what is needed with the current mobile workforce.
“Collaboration is not a natural act – especially virtual collaboration,” Michel wrote. “It requires individuals and a culture willing to work together toward common goals – technology can foster, but not instigate. Collaboration is a commitment to productivity and innovation in a modern distributed environment. UC is a means, and along with the right culture it can result [in] collaboration. And when great minds work together, the outcome can be some great things.”
As companies look to adopt UC solutions, they need to take a holistic approach that focuses on the value of collaboration. By developing a partnership with a managed IT services firm, businesses can constantly improve their ability to embed collaboration tools in daily work flows and empower their workers regardless of location.