How new approaches can bring ‘Smooth Talking’ to enterprise communications

Enterprise communications are struggling to meet the needs of modern workplaces which are becoming more flexible, collaborative and mobile than ever before, writes Moussa Zaghdoud, Senior Director and Head of Cloud Business Unit at Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise

When you then add more connected devices, the rise of bots, advanced analytics, focus on regulatory security and privacy concerns, you have a communications landscape that is rapidly growing in complexity. Here we look at a new Enterprise Unified Communication and Collaboration (UC&C) Survey from Wainhouse Research, to explore the trends and preferences in business communications and the technology that is available to enable organizations to deal with the growing complexity.

The transition to a new era of communication technology is not always plain sailing, and most organizations currently find themselves trapped somewhere between the legacy world of on-premises and some cloud-based services – siloed and not truly connected.

A rise in environmental complexity

New Wainhouse research shows the majority of businesses use multiple vendors for telephony ­with some 75 per cent using two or more vendors, and 21 per cent with three or more. Alongside this, 33 per cent have two or more Unified Communications (UC) vendors, with some using as many as five to deliver additional services. With so many moving parts it’s no wonder that it’s difficult to deliver a consistent and unified enterprise-wide communication experience to the end user.

With flexible working and teams operating remotely, a fixed point of collaboration isn’t enough to satisfy the communication needs of businesses. We need mobile enabled collaboration tools. So, the challenge today… is to unify on-premises PBX telephony with the benefits of providing universally accessible Unified Communication and Collaboration (UC&C).

Enter hybrid solutions

The answer lies in hybrid communication solutions that have been developed to give IT departments the option to integrate cloud-based UC&C – offering key services such as presence, messaging, web conference, video, files and application sharing – with the existing PBX hardware. This allows businesses to protect and optimize previous investments. This also allows for a gradual approach to cloud adoption, so as business requirements shift, more services can be moved to the cloud.

The deskphone – it just won’t go away

This integration is important, because for the time-being, the deskphone is here to stay. According to the Wainhouse Research survey, it remains the most common communication device used today with almost 85 per cent using one for business communications. But – and it’s a big but – most users do not use just a single device. The research showed upwards of 70 per cent of end users leverage a combination of a deskphone, PC and mobile device, and with new end user technologies such as VR, wearables and personal assistants coming to market, the number of us leveraging multiple devices is only likely to increase.

Managing a multi-device mash-up – it’s hybrid again

Business technology procurement needs to recognize this, but business operations tend to evolve gradually and don’t just jump from one technology to the next. A platform that provides equal support to “traditional” and next-generation communications is the ideal solution. If a business was to jump and solely use the latest technology, it risks alienating users and disrupting business in addition to losing value from its existing investments. Here again it is hybrid cloud deployments which are removing these risks by augmenting the existing with the new. It also has the benefits of being easier to deploy, support and maintain – removing the burden of complex software or hardware management.

“Good enough” not good enough – vendors need to open up

End users no longer accept “good enough” quality from collaboration solutions. Wainhouse Research found quality to be the top end user requirement with 90 per cent rating it as highly important. However, a true quality platform should also encompass the other four top requirements identified in the survey – workflow integration (70 per cent), borderless communications (63 per cent), mobility (54 per cent) and global access (39 per cent).

Open architecture platforms make it easier to integrate collaboration tools into business processes and systems. A connected communications platform can do this, bringing together HD voice, video and workflow integration delivered across devices via the cloud, allowing users to work together and collaborate seamlessly – regardless of location or device. To get the quality users want, unsupported tools are out and enterprise-grade is in.

Businesses without borders – Bridging vs. Peer-to-Peer Calling

Teams in businesses aren’t just operating within the business borders. Not only are they often located across multiple countries, but can encompass internal employees, external team members, partners and contractors, or customers. The idea of the borderless enterprise is gaining momentum within the business world, but the tools and services need to be in place to support this. Location, device type or domain can’t get in the way.

Rethinking the PBX

The research found that on average, 40 per cent of enterprise voice traffic ends up in a group conference call, and this percentage increases for larger organizations. Conferencing and group collaboration is becoming the de facto way work gets done for many, and this requires a rethink on how a business views its PBX.

Communications platforms that provide multiple functions such as voice, video and document sharing can become an extension of the PBX to support peer-to-peer and group collaboration. This then equally blends both individual and group collaboration features seamlessly, without the need to immediately replace existing hardware.

The Bell Curve reigns supreme – meeting user wants and needs

The majority of users aren’t early adopters of technology. When asked how far along the technology curve their personal communications environments are, 34 per cent of participants replied early adopters, 44 per cent middle of the curve, and 22 per cent comfortably content to wait until they absolutely have to change it.

As organizations embrace new technologies and provide more connected workflows, they need to weigh up the advantages of new disruptive trends and technologies with the benefits of maintaining existing communications platforms. IT teams that engage their user community at every stage of the development lifecycle will find they reduce support costs and increase user adoption. Knowing end user preferences is key to delivering the right mix of services, and a platform that retains support for legacy users will ensure a smooth transition without leaving behind slow adopters.

The communication continuum

In today’s business world, nothing is static. A flexible communications platform that can extend its capabilities is essential to meet continually changing business requirements. A number of communication vendors provide open API access to communications features like voice, SMS and video, supporting the integration of collaboration tools for a growing mix of external team members, contractors, and partners. They provide a set of cloud-based services, implemented as an overlay solution with essential collaborative capabilities. These are simple for companies to deploy and users to adopt, regardless of their existing communications systems.

For enterprise communications to stay ahead, using disruptive technology without the business disruption will be key.