Is Embedded Collaboration the Future of Unified Communications? 

Posted by Bob Kent & Dustin Donaldson on Apr 11, 2018 4:28:18 PM

As we watched the successful launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy, it struck us how fast technology was advancing. Think about it: Launching a 230 foot rocket with 27 engines. The boosters separate and nail a side by side landing back at the Cape. The coup d’état was sending Elon Musk’s Tesla on the way to Mars. That was unthinkable just a couple of years ago!

Believe it or not, our collaboration tools are evolving at warp speed too. The traditional PBX has rapidly evolved into an open architecture development platform that has the capability to radically improve the efficiencies of current workflows. Your company’s needs still drive solutions that include multiple vendors, and very likely a mix of cloud, hybrid cloud and on-prem solutions.

The Good News

As more collaboration tools are bundled into licensing packages, greater functionality is available for users and may, in fact, already be deployed. Additionally, these collaboration tools are far more integrated, reliable, and intuitive than ever before.

The Bad News

The troubling fact is that the utilization rates of collaboration tools are nowhere near where they need be to get the return on investment everyone wants and needs. Part of the reason why is that if a collaboration tool requires the end-user to step out of their workflow, then adoption rates drop significantly.

Think of the video rooms of the past. If I had to stop what I was doing, go find an unused video room, then figure out how to connect it, all while collaborating with a team, I probably would not be so keen on using video. This is why these systems often sit unused, collecting dust.

The Future of Collaboration

Solution providers have realized the need for embedded collaboration. After some trial and error, they are adapting their solutions to take workflow into consideration, with the goal of decreasing disruption and increasing adoption. Solutions are evolving to become a natural part of the end-users' workflow. To accomplish this, they are taking three basic approaches:

  • Providing a standalone GUI that acts as a dashboard to end-users’ workflows.
  • Creating spaces or virtual rooms that become an integral part of the natural workflow.
  • Embedding collaboration controls into existing workflow GUIs and cloud human interfaces.

1. Standalone Dashboards

In addition to their primary function, today’s dashboard collaboration tools have added portal windows and links into other workflow tools. It is becoming “table stakes” for standalone dashboards to include integration or other traditionally separate collaboration tools.

A good example is Avaya Equinox’s “Top of Mind”, which displays the day’s schedule with links to join meetings right from the Equinox Client.

Skype for Business is another example where the Instant Messaging tool has a view of the day’s schedule and can easily launch meetings from the dashboard.

2. Spaces

We are seeing traditional solution providers respond to native space providers, such as Slack, by evolving their dashboards into tightly integrated collaboration spaces. For example:

  • Microsoft is folding Skype for Business into its Teams offering,
  • Cisco is betting the farm on Spark and
  • Avaya is moving Zang spaces and Equinox into Avaya Cloud Services.

Spaces is a shared virtual room that can be dedicated to a specific individual, project, or team. All of your tools (i.e., voice, video, desk share, whiteboard, etc.) are integrated into the collaboration space.

The most powerful aspect of Spaces is persistent communication. The whiteboard is not erased when you leave. The files, chats, and notes are saved in the room; not buried in someone’s PC where they are not accessible to everyone.

Think of Spaces as a workshop where your tools and the project you are working on are exactly where you left them when you return.

3. Embedded Collaboration

The concept of embedding collaboration is inserting the collaboration services into your existing workflow. If you entrench collaboration services directly into the existing workflow, the end-user does not have to change or disrupt the way they work. They just launch collaboration directly from where they are in their workflow. End-users love this.

Avaya’s integration into Salesforce is a great example of embedded collaboration. Functions such as click-to-call, chat, and more are embedded in the Salesforce user interface as services. This is not just click-to-call, it is tight integration that solves lots of behind the scenes care abouts that you might miss with a superficial solution:

  • Where do you want your agent interactions logged?
  • How are the commnications routed?
  • Are calls leveraging your site to site trunking and Tail End Hop Off, compliance, etc.
The idea of this integration is to leverage aspects of your routing and call accounting environment (that Avaya does really well) and provide these services, to strengthen the salesforce solution.

The way Avaya takes an open approach, gives up the helm, and allows Salesforce to be the primary (and only) user interface is not common in the industry, and is extremely effective.

What Approach is Right for your Organization?

This is a great question. We encourage you to step out of your norm and have conversations with your Line of Business (LOB) leaders. Understand their workflows and what is helping or hindering their user productivity. Only when you understand and document the personas that exist in each LOB, can you construct a solid UC solution. 

As you can see, the returns you will see on your investments in collaboration tools are directly correlated to how much they’re actually used. A successful solution should integrate collaboration into your natural workflows, allowing you to unlock your end-users' productivity and get your full return on investment from these collaboration solutions.

Today, one of the most efficient delivery models for UC is cloud. With ConvergeOne’s cloud offering, C1CX you’ll be backed by the full weight of our state-of-the-art network management facilities, relieving the burden on your IT team and further reducing your costs.

Have you explored what a transition to cloud might look like? Check out our white paper to learn more about how ConvergeOne can support your organization through the process. 



Topics: Contact Center, Cloud, Unified Communications