Friday, March 24, 2023

Death of the desk phone; birth of UC

The unified communications community have been moving towards developing and operating a UC service as a cloud-based service for nearly eight years. We have seen some strategic planning that will significantly hit these communities over the next three years. By 2023 the number of remote workers will have doubled, over 2/3 of digital workers will shift buyer requirements and the solutions will demand these.  By 2024 at least ¾ of enterprise users will not use a desk phone, this is an increase of 30% from2020. This year we have already seen 15% of organisations rely solely on Microsoft 365 or Google workspace for their communication needs.

When reviewing and procuring a Unified Communications solution there are some key aspects that need to be reviewed. These are called core capabilities.  All unified communication solutions should allow this functionality as their base level, as a foundation. These items include the following:

Telephony:  This includes telephony features that allow for things such as PSTN access, notifications, and being able to bring your own provider or bring your own carrier services.  Telephony services are consumed by users either through a physical handset or via a softphone (desktop app, web-based app, mobile app).  An example of this is how Microsoft 365 included in Microsoft Teams has the ability to make and receive phone calls and a base level of Interactive Voice Response (IVR).

Meetings: This includes things such as audioconferencing, video conferencing, and creating scheduled and ad hoc meetings.  Meetings should be joinable via a desktop app, mobile app, web-based applications or even a meeting room.  For example, it’sunderstood that Microsoft and Zoom provide a good level of support on these and have certified meeting room devices that have been stringently tested to validate their capabilities.

Messaging: Messaging allows users to exchange chat and text messages in real-time. The solutions have evolved from being peer-to-peer messages to now including hundreds of people within a team and allowing for these conversations to be persistent. In addition, we want to be able to see people’s presence and their status to understand if they are busy or occupied at that moment in time.  This helps users understand why another user may not reply immediately, even ifsomething is urgent if the other users status is busy or otherwise engaged.

Software Client: Good UC clients allow for multiple ways of users to access their technology.  By default, I would expect that the solution allows for a desktop-based application (Windows and Mac), web-based,  and mobile applications for phones and tablets.  We also want these applications to work seamlessly into our applications each and every day, these may be a line of business applications or Microsoft 365 applications such as Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint files.

The provider’s ability to understand customer needs and then translate that understanding into products and services is key.  It’s important for the organisations chosen to review and provide a clear vision of their market, listen to and understand customer demands and then enhance and shape their own vision dependent upon these results.  An example of this where I have seen some major improvements is teams messaging and SMS, Meetings, APIs and app market places, with reporting and detailed analytics dashboards.

Teams messaging for providers have extended messaging and workstream collaboration services into business applications.  An example would be the seamless integration of ServiceNow into Microsoft Teams.  The integration of file sharing series, adding a bot framework and providing connectivity into a mobile SMS message solution.

Meetings have jumped in popularity due to lockdown and hybrid working and no longer taking place in the same physical location.  Now we see the meetings taking place in a hybrid fashion allowing participants to be physically in the room as well as working from home – all with he same level of input and importance to the meeting.

APIs and app marketplaces add CRM applications, contact centers, workgroup applications and integration into line of business applications. These enhance the overall productivity of staff by allowing the integration and enablement of communication services into the UC platform.

Reporting and analytics dashboarding ensure that administrators can visualise the availability of the platform, understand the impact of failures, performance information, and understand the adoption of the platform.  When speaking to customers it’s a bit like when a sports team shows up with only half of their players, they aren’t the sum of it’s whole and when we have all the staff in our organisation using and adopting the UC platform we then take away a sense of synergy.