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Simplified Communications, not Unified Communications

Let's start with a nostalgic trip back to the 90s: remember when Unified Communications (UC) first appeared on the scene? It promised to combine real-time messaging and communications, and to bring some magic to the workplace.

The shift to Internet Protocol (IP)-based communications away from traditional Private Branch eXchanges (PBX)s enabled email, presence, messaging and video all able to link up and work as one. Anytime-Anywhere Communications were the buzzwords that were being thrown around.

From there, the concept expanded. It promised convenience: users received an email alerting them that they had a voice message. This didn't stop the caller then ringing that person's mobile to leave a further voicemail, which would lead to a voice-to-text or SMS notifying the user had another voicemail.

Then arrived the introduction of presence, that little green dot to show who was available. Society was meant to become super-connected and super-efficient and this Unified Communications idea was on every organisation's top 10 "things to do" list

And whilst organisations embraced the move to Unified Communications, this nirvana required people with new skills in IP telephony and fancy certifications. It was complex and required a substantial investment in new on-premise hardware and software. The hard truth was that for many it wasn't so well rolled out resulting in an organisation that was, well, unified-ish.

As we refocus from nostalgia to today's modern workplace, consider the impact of the last 18 months. Disruption has been everywhere as companies sprinted to rollout platforms and implement working practices that allowed their employees to conduct their roles remotely.

For some, it was already underway but for others, outdated and inflexible on-premises-based systems meant an ad hoc approach to providing capability using multiple tools, services and products in the quickest manner. 

Major solutions such as Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and Zoom have seen stellar growth during this time as they could be rolled out readily.

But easy rollout presents different challenges. For instance, some recent discussions highlighted how some employees embraced Zoom or Google while their own IT departments were rolling out an MS Teams solution that for internal collaboration and communication. However, the corporate telephony system was operating on a large traditional UC platform and due to the time pressures, none of them were implemented so that they could link up with each other. So, when a meeting was set up the common response was "on what?".

And so, in the last 18 months our workstyle has had to adapt, our work tools have changed, our workplace is no longer just the office, and our workspace is not tied to a location.

To indulge some more nostalgia briefly, video communications, as part of the UC story, was meant to revolutionise the way enterprises functioned and we would no longer need to travel to every meeting as interactions over video became an option.

Finance directors loved the concept, as non-travelling executives lowered expenses. Sadly, the reality was that it never really got the take up at the time. Even considering the introduction of Skype or Facetime was way back in 2010, it has taken an awful long time for video to become widespread in the workplace.

Now, back to 2021, video-enabled communications are the accepted norm, yet we are possibly still as disjointed as before.

The big solutions have incredible features: a "OBTP" experience (One Button to Push) to start a meeting, 4k Cameras, AI, Digital Concierge, touchless meeting join, real time transcription, COVID-19 Safe features, and so on.

There are some fantastic capabilities and it is great to see how functionality has evolved rapidly leading to an accelerated adoption beyond expectations. Yet as and when we start to return to a level of new-normality and return to our more traditional workplaces, we come back to an experience that is different from our now familiar home set up.

These recently deployed platforms don't always connect to legacy video conference systems; our rooms may still be number-restricted and there are never enough properly equipped rooms. What is really noticeable however, is that we expect video in every interaction, and yet not all work environments are designed to cater for video meetings.

Our workplace requires a different approach, a hybrid approach to meeting employee, corporate and customer needs. It needs to be everywhere and it needs to be simple.

This simplified move towards a hybrid workspace requires organisations to consider their environments in a different way: the impact on the network, security, WiFi, mobility, standardisation of collaboration tools and the employee. But first and foremost, it must consider the user experience.

In the world of work, employees want the easiest possible way to start a meeting. They don't want to think about which technology platform they are using. They want notes to be captured automatically, and don't want to have to differentiate between meeting room A.30 or B22 depending on what video system is in place.

What employees want to do is communicate or start a meeting from any device and they will almost always want to have the option to use video on calls as well. Speed and user experience are critical.  

Congratulations to those that do this seamlessly and simply. However, many organisations find this simplified approach far from the reality in their workplace and they battle long access codes, complexity, outdated technology, and office layouts where video is not appropriate or results in frustration with meeting quality.

So as personal workspaces at home has adapted, it is time the office workplace also adapts to a hybrid way of working, simplifying collaboration and communications.

Optus Enterprise speaks with customers to assess what solutions they have in place and what their Simplified Communications journey looks like from where they are today.  

Optus Enterprise takes a view of the tools and technologies available, their use cases, the wider technology landscape and all the facets that contribute to a hybrid work environment. 

Furthermore, Optus Enterprise considers how this brings value, not just to the user experience, but across the organisation from real estate, human resources, utilisation of resources, customer experience and so on.

But Simplified Communications only gets us part of the way there. In future articles, we will address the wider elements we need to bring together to transform our new-normal way of work.

Learn what features and tools will shape your workplace experience for tomorrow.

For more information click here.

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