United we Stand – How Cloud is Unifying the Workplace 

The forces of digital disruption and the changing work styles of the workforce are pushing organisations to become more responsive to both the needs of their customers and their employees.

Companies that don’t keep pace will find themselves on the outside looking in when competitors create fresh ways of doing business and establish new expectations for customers as well as employees and partners.

Legacy technology, especially in Unified Communications (UC), is now reaching the stage where it’s literally holding companies back.

The forces of digital disruption

In recent years despite a challenging business environment, unemployment has come down to near record lows. If businesses want to attract and retain the right talent; it is crucial that employees can move seamlessly between multiple communications platforms to collaborate with colleagues.

As new employees enter the workforce they are increasingly demanding access to on-the-go mobile solutions and easy to use technology in the workplace. Organisations that fail to deliver risk losing these employees if they think about how they can create a positive Unified Communications user experience.

Of course, it is not all bad news.  Companies prepared to digitally transform their workplace will be able to bring better business outcomes with less effort. While Unified Communications has been around for a long time, it is only now that technology advances are truly meshing with the business opportunities enabled by a changing workplace.

Having worked as a VoIP support engineer since 2002 I have seen many changes in Unified Communications over the last 10 years. Despite the mass adoption of VOIP, on premise’ infrastructure is often expensive and difficult to manage and less efficient to deploy. Now you can have voice, web, video, chat, co-browsing, and on-demand experts who may be in different locations.

Breaking down the workforce silo’s

Businesses have traditionally divided their communications between a front office, CRM environments and their back-office experts.  Cisco AI modelling enables them to predict customer interaction within the contact centre environment and compile information to route incidents, via skill base routeing where experts deal with more complex requirements. *Customers are directed to the best-suited people, regardless of where they are located, so customers no longer need to re-explain their situation. Customer experience could move from being an issue to an important competitive differentiator.

(*66% of respondents switched company due to poor customer service Source: Accenture study of customer service practices)

Unified Communications Challenges at Scale

When it comes to larger organisations with one or more contact centres, efficiency at scale and having a more productive workforce is vital. A contact centre needs to swiftly ramp up or down to accommodate peaks.  Large organisations need to deal with customer issues quickly, effectively and have seamless social network integration. But at the same time support secure mobility and flexible working practices.

We are all familiar with chat, internet video and voice calls, however the demand for backend systems integration and different business tools to aid in the way we interact within organisations is increasing, a new customer experience on a single cloud platform is required to tackle our 24×7 mobile workforce.

At Hutchinson Networks, we engineered a cloud solution called Vertex which is a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) cloud solution which enables clients to jump between having all their equipment on the premises and enabling their workforce to be fully mobile.  Through device and location independence users get a seamless experience, smaller organisations with fewer users may connect to the service over the Internet, while larger enterprises may adopt private Ethernet connectivity with our bespoke services.

[easy-tweet tweet=”AI can be used to improve our day to day collaboration in business” hashtags=”AI, Communication”]

What does the future hold?

Consumers are now becoming familiar with Artificial Intelligence (AI) through voice assistants of Google Home, Amazon Echo or Apple Siri. But now AI can be used to improve our day to day collaboration in business, such as using Cisco Spark to take notes in a meeting or Cisco Spark Bots to apply AI to compile shared documents and then set up a meeting to discuss them. Security is not a concern as messages are encrypted and can only be shared within the team rather than the wider organisation.

And from a Social Media perspective, by utilising Unified Communications, the vision is equally exciting. Using WhatsApp customer service teams can set up a continuous line of communication until the incident is resolved. Through machine learning data collected from social media interactions can be used to get a deeper understanding of the customer. It can be used to find the best channel to communicate with them or to offer them a more personalised service through training AI to automate answers to repetitive questions creating a UC-centric workflow that incorporates application data.

We recently worked with a post-production film company based in Glasgow which produced special effects for well-known blockbusters and post production services. Using Vertex, UC platform the post-production house was required to translate its ideas from ‘the physical to the virtual’ and to share its creative content across teams in different time zones and on some mobile platforms. Using this technology, they could think on their feet by making annotations or drawings, then collaborate with each other on them.

Whilst Unified Communications in the cloud will continue to evolve, businesses can transform the way they work right now through simple tools that combine all their application data and enable them to collaborate better.

Whether a business is large or small, adopts full or hybrid cloud, they can all benefit from integrating their core services, reducing the need for complex infrastructures, enhancing their user experiences and minimising their costs.

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