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Pushing the Unified Communications Boundaries

Those of you who know me will be aware that I am a bit of a cricket buff.  For those of you who don’t know me, well, you now know that I am a cricket buff (and before you ask, yes – I fail the Norman Tebitt test, miserably).  Even if you’re not an avid cricket fan it couldn’t have escaped your attention that the Cricket World Cup is in progress Down Under. So what’s the connection between the Cricket World Cup and Unified Communications I hear you ask?  Not a lot actually, except my experience of communicating (or engaging) with others during this event has made me question whether the Unified Communications industry is stuck in the past, in some ways much like the England cricket team (sorry, just couldn’t resist!)

Two things about this event made it quite interesting from a communications standpoint – 1. as my American colleagues remind me, the game goes on for an eternity (it is called One Day Cricket for a reason!) and 2. given that event is being held Down Under, day/night matches often extended into workday mornings in the UK.  So I found myself engaging with friends, colleagues, and business partners, many of whom share my interest in the sport, well into the work day.  As I would switch conversations across various social media platforms (twitter, facebook and even LinkedIn), then on to the more traditional channels such as email, SMS and chat, across the various devices I have in use, my brain would start to creak.   I recognise that I am getting on a bit, but this was communications chaos and information overload on a grand scale.

Stepping outside the world of cricket, the need for constant communication, across private/work boundaries, across an array of ‘channels’ of communications and across time zones, carries far bigger significance.   With the ‘always on’ work culture and the proliferation of channels and devices, we simply cannot rely on our brains (as powerful as they are) to retain the context of these precious interactions.  We know from experience that without the historical context, interactions are far less productive and meaningful.

And before you even go there, a twitter, facebook or LinkedIn button or chat history on my desktop is NOT what I’m talking about here.  I’m talking about the ability to capture relevant information about each and every interaction, regardless of channel and device, and to present back this information to users. This information then facilitates more meaningful and productive interactions, ultimately leading to stronger business relationships.

Some of you are now probably thinking – “Ah, CRM takes care of that!”  CRM doesn’t quite go far enough.  Sure it will help you enrich your interactions with customers, but what about work colleagues, suppliers, business partners, friends and others we engage with on a daily basis?  The focus should be on “Relationship Management”.   So the question is what are organisations doing to facilitate more effective engagement and collaboration between the various stakeholders?

Encouragingly, we see many organisations are quite advanced in their thinking around what drives effective collaboration.  They recognise that the “Unified Communications” technologies are just platforms that need to be built upon to achieve true collaboration and productivity.  At CoolHarbour we are often then set the challenge of addressing this gap with our development experience and capabilities.  Invariably this boils down to integrating and structuring silos of rich information within different business processes and communications tools.  This is then ‘glued together’ into a single user interface across multiple devices to drive true relationship management.

But enough about my views, I would love to hear your views and experiences.  Do you agree that communications still occur in channel silos where a lot of rich contextual information is lost? If so, how do you think Unified Communications technologies, services providers and integrators can evolve to help organisations address this information gap? How has your organisation adapted to the modern day communications needs of its employees?  Please feel free to comment below or just send me a direct message on LinkedIn.  Remember to be nice to me, especially if you’re an England cricket supporter.

And to finish on a positive note, I’m done with cricketing analogies, for now at least.

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