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The Future of Enterprise Collaboration

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Bonjour à tous! On July 4th, I headed to the beautiful city of Paris to join the local AudioCodes team in welcoming over 100 French partners to our annual Partner Connect event, which took place at Microsoft’s impressive offices close to the River Seine.

It’s not just about the technology

Amidst much World Cup football fever and conversation, the business of the day was a series of informative, insightful and interesting presentations from AudioCodes, Microsoft and a major French car manufacturer currently deploying our technology on their journey to intelligent communications. Plus lunch, of course. Lunch is important in Paris. I was asked to talk about “the future of enterprise collaboration”. Quite a topic to cover in 20 minutes with an audience of fairly technically-minded people. A disclaimer – I’m not technical, I’m a marketing person who enjoys working in technology. Very different. But, in this case, an advantage. Why? Because whichever way you look at it, the future of enterprise collaboration is not just about the technology. Two other factors are equally important – commercial realities and the human factor. Let me explain. 

The Technology – The technology and the environment to support enterprise communications and collaboration has of course evolved hugely in recent years. From analog to digital to IP. From on-premise to virtualized to cloud. From physical offices to flexible and mobile working. But which technologies will drive the next phase of the digital workplace? Well, according to Gartner’s Hype Cycle for the Digital Workplace (July 2017), collaboration technologies are key drivers. Workstream collaboration, team collaboration devices, content collaboration platforms and enterprise social networking apps all get a mention. I’d say that’s good news for Microsoft and their “intelligent communications” vision for Skype for Business and Microsoft Teams. 

The Commercial Realities – While it’s great to look forward to the “intelligent communications” vision, the reality for most enterprise organizations is that getting there can be more complicated than they anticipate. Most organizations today are a hybrid mix of technology. This can mean different PBXs for voice communication, different local PSTN providers in different geographies and a myriad of integrations with specific applications that are key to what they do, for example contact centers or call recording applications. The commercial reality is that simply ripping all of that up and going straight to a new collaboration platform is not usually economically viable. Organizations need to consider a migration approach that leverages existing investments while layering on new collaboration tools. The ongoing consolidation of enterprise communications vendors is another key consideration, as it’s likely to continue. So, enterprises should take care not to get locked in to vendors who may not be around in a few years. The key message here is to stay open and agile to ensure a seamless migration from current enterprise communications technology to the brave new world of “intelligent communications”. Team AudioCodes can, of course, help with that! 

The Human Factor – The real key to the future of enterprise collaboration is the human factor, the people actually doing the collaborating. Earlier this year, Deloitte published their study on Global Human Capital Trends (2018), researching over 11,000 senior people in organizations around the world. A key outcome of that study was the evolution of the “social enterprise” driven by, you guessed it, increased internal collaboration and integration (a network of teams) and increased engagement with external parties such as customers and suppliers. Engagement is just another word for collaboration! Deloitte also identified the top 10 human capital trends.

Amidst many human resource trends such as well-being, rewards and citizenship, collaboration technology also made an appearance, referenced as the “Hyper Connected Workplace”. In fact, this was #5 in the top 10, with a massive 82% of organizations describing it as very important or important. While this creates a great opportunity for those of us in the business of providing collaboration technologies that make the hyper-connected workplace a reality, there is a caution.

Only 45% of those organizations believed they were ready for the hyper-connected workplace. Why the gap? Firstly, the commercial reality I explained earlier - it’s a more complicated journey than many anticipate when migrating to newer technologies. Secondly, and perhaps even more importantly, is the human factor. As technology has advanced and users have been provided with new collaboration tools, business productivity has simply not kept pace. User adoption is the critical factor here. Organizations need to build strategies into their “intelligent communications” journey that will drive user adoption to realize the productivity benefits that are promised, and by extension the return on investment on the technology. Three thoughts that should, in my opinion, be considered for any “intelligent communications” project are:

  • Leadership matters – Top down leadership commitment to remove organizational silos and improve collaboration is key. In fact, in the Deloitte study, this was the #1 human capital trend. They termed it the “symphonic C-suite”. Every orchestra needs someone to conduct it.
  • User personas matter – One size does not fit all. Different users will require different technologies (for example, desk phone or headset) based on their specific job role, working practices and personal preferences (which differ by generation). Take care to understand which technologies are most appropriate for each and every user.
  • Training matters – Don’t deploy the technology and think that the job’s done. Train users, listen, then train again. Only that way will users become confident in the technology and use it. 

So, the future of enterprise collaboration may well be “intelligent communications”, but it’s not just about the technology. Considering technology in isolation would be short-sighted. Paying attention to the commercial realities will help enterprises drive open, agile and cost-effective migration. Most importantly, thoughtfully considering the human factor is the magic ingredient that will help drive user adoption and turn “intelligent communications” from a promise to a reality. Or, as they say in France, “faire d’une promesse une réalité.”

To read more human capital insight from Deloitte, click here.

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