Hearing the phrase B2B unified communications (UC) conjures up images of the traditional conference call - hammering in the random passcode, stating your name, sitting back and listening to the copyright-free piece of salsa music until others join and the conference call starts. Perhaps you’ve sat waiting for the other person, staring at the telephone, sending hopeful emails to remind them of the call whilst you sit thinking about all the other things you could be doing.
The reality is vastly different for those who work in the industry; this image is now largely redundant owing to the ever-increasing rate of technological improvement and the considerable overlap between UC systems and consumer technology. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and direct messaging on Twitter and Instagram have introduced digitally connected ways of communicating with friends and peers, which are now taking root in the workplace.
The increasing use of technology and the influence of consumer tech can be felt in instant messaging, voiceover IP telephony, video conferencing, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven voice, unified messaging, speech recognition and presence information. They’re all examples of immersive communication technologies, which feature in the complex and expansive UC landscape. As the lines between business and consumer communications blur, listening to the mind-numbing salsa music whilst waiting for someone to join a conference call is quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Coordinating communications is essential for mitigating inefficiencies in the workplace. Convenience becomes key as the immediacy of communications akin to social media are ingrained into the workplace. Using these technologies effectively optimises business operations, reduces costs and enhances productivity.
It is not just a change in technology which we need to think about but the way in which communications is thought about as a whole. A seismic shift in the workplace has taken place; gone are the days of a massive block of offices. The workforce is now dispersed across different countries and time zones and the nature of work has changed too, with an increasing amount of people working from home or in flexible co-working spaces. This is also a workforce that, with those entering the workplace, have grown up using consumer technology. Subsequently, consumer communication tools are being increasingly relied upon to support this new working environment; these are insecure, which is far from ideal.
As such, businesses need to understand how to use UC systems to facilitate the modern workplace. For those in charge of this, they need to consider three key components for any UC they want to bring on board – invisibility, time saving capabilities and moving work into a collaborative space online.
Modern, consumer-first UC are evolving to use AI, voice recognition and near-instantaneous transcription services enable communications to be as seamless as possible. The hum of communications operating in the background of businesses is the key to their success. This expanding communications horizon is transforming the way that businesses operate. Paradoxically, UC systems should be invisible – as they become more ubiquitous in the workplace, the less you engage with the products, the better they actually perform.
These integrated systems are designed to run alongside ongoing business activity. Voice activation negates the need for time consuming organisation as it can be used to coordinate appointments or send reminders, for example. Clunky operating systems will become a thing of the past, as speech recognition technology simplifies activities and ensures that you never miss an opportunity. UC allows automation to lie just beneath the service, prompting efficiency in the workplace and freeing up time to focus on achieving business goals.
Using UC in the workplace saves time and simplifies activities. The capabilities of UC now span well beyond facilitating conference calls; it also can help seamlessly set calls up, provides support during the call and follow-up services including recordings and transcriptions. The technology supports moving from one communication platform to another instantaneously – a user can transfer from email to voice call or video conference without interruption, for example. Presence management ensures someone is at the end of the line before you call them, a crucial element which saves everyone time.
The ability to transform text-to-speech is another time saving mechanism of UC because people can listen to messages on the move. Click-to-dial technology makes calls quick and easy, using a mouse to hover over a number reveals a pop up which creates a ‘call’ option, the number is then automatically dialled when you pick up the phone. As well as transforming text into speech, UC systems can also change speech into text, providing accurate and prompt transcriptions to all involved. Smarter working solutions are offered throughout the entire lifecycle of connection which improve the efficiency of conference calls.
Moving work into a collaborative space online
As businesses increasingly conduct operations in the virtual space, there is a greater need for an efficient technological communication infrastructure. SMS, group chats, instant messaging and call recording are essential communications features that support virtual business operations. UC allows work to be hosted online in a collaborative space. Interactive whiteboards and document management reduces the amount of back-and-forth version sharing between colleagues, eliminating confusion and ensuring the right people can access the right information within the business.
UC technologies can be used almost anywhere making them vital for the modern workforce which is often physically disparate - streamlined communications enhance collaboration for those who work remotely which reduces travel cost and time for businesses. Working together in this way can break down departmental silos and increase productivity. AI driven communications can improve virtual meetings by providing participants with information about those in attendance, gathered from social media and other online sources. The collaborative structures of UC are essential tools for addressing the changing needs of companies and their staff in the digital age. The capabilities of such are collapsing time and space constraints by bringing remote workers closer together and enhancing the information available to them.
UC is a rapidly evolving field. The immediacy ingrained into digital consumer communications is transforming business interactions, creating a definite shift away from the inefficient conference call. Communications are now more collaborative, productive, streamlined and efficient, which allows businesses to focus on achieving objectives. UC transforms businesses into seamless operations where fewer interventions are effective. As automation becomes deeply ingrained into workplace communications, there’s no doubt that more businesses will prosper – a welcome move for everyone.
Mat Godolphin, Head of Unified Communications and Collaboration, Exponential-e