The Evolution of Unified Communication & Collaboration as a Service
Before the term collaboration was a thing, there was “conferencing” where I’ve spent the bulk of my business career. I’ve seen technology evolve from having an AT&T operator dial out to connect everyone to their call to where we are today with an array of low-cost video and collaboration tools at our fingertips. The real story doesn’t necessarily lie in how technology has moved the ball forward, but rather the profound impact it has had and continues to have in the way we get our jobs done while at the same time helping us balance the way we live.
When I co-founded InterCall in 1991, we had a very simple premise. Companies with a distributed salesforce or field team just could not hold conference calls. So instead, managers had a Monday phone day, called everyone individually and spent hours repeating the same message with each team member. So, we simply asked them to use an 800 number to dial in, have a weekly conference call and get everyone on the same page in an hour vs. an entire day and that simple concept transformed how managers worked with their remote teams and how much more those individuals felt connected to their organization and that their opinion mattered.
Then in the 90’s, several innovators wondered if you added a visual component to that conference call, how would that improve communication? Now instead of just a phone call, you could see slides or spreadsheets with pictures to reinforce what you were trying to say. Nowhere was the concept more tested then after 911 when travel went offline and people had to do business using those same tools to do remote sales calls, hold meetings, and keep customers connected.
With the advent of cloud services, businesses moved to a new communication strategy that was “unified” where all the way a business could communicate would be driven from one centralized system so you could talk one on one, hold conference calls, email, chat and connect. UCaaS, as it became known, started transforming how companies stayed in touch with their customers and connected to their internal teams.
Never was this communication strategy more tested than during the Pandemic where companies had no choice but to send their teams home, manage contact centers remotely and find a way to hold conferences, shows and meetings virtually. But now, after two years of managing through new work environments, UCaaS as we know it is getting ready to evolve again. Get ready for Unified Communications and Collaboration as a Service or UCCaaS.
We all have been on more Zoom, BlueJeans, WebEx or Teams calls than we can count, but are we really collaborating or simply staring at the screen day after day hoping those meetings, conferences or virtual events will get better? Knowing that a large part of our workforce and customer bases will choose to stay virtual going forward, simply adding video or webinar services to a UCaaS solution is no longer enough to facilitate the collaboration people need to feel a sense of purpose and truly be a part of their business community. Collaboration is an important part of the unified communications suite and is getting ready for a makeover.
"Never was this communication strategy more tested than during the Pandemic where companies had no choice but to send their teams home"
Let’s look at three basic components of how collaboration is poised to evolve: people, process, and technology.
Let’s start with people. The impact of working from home with its associated social isolation and feelings of being disconnected has created an evolved need for employees and customers who to be more participatory, learn in new ways and have new ways to form relationships and social connections. People crave a sense of purpose with collaboration tools that should put them together in new ways to achieve a common goal. They don’t want to be just talked to and check out with Zoom fatigue; they want to be an important part of the conversation.
Now, let’s move to process. Adding video to the UCaaS suite of services has been a great step forward for people to be able to see each other and the environments that they now work in. However, true collaboration is evolving into being more multi-dimensional because it gives people alternate ways to share ideas, absorb information and create new ways of doing business. Video is a huge part of the process but needs to be augmented with other tools that round out the collaboration experience.
And that’s where technology comes in. Unified Communication and Collaboration now must expand to include other forms of digital engagement. The video call should use tools to engage the team such as collaboration boards or breakout sessions. There should be forums where people can jump in and share ideas and keep track of conversation threads. People need ways to find each other based on common interests, send chat messages, and stay connected. Collaboration can incorporate people’s desire to compete by adding gamification strategies.
Any good collaboration that is designed to push forward new ideas or find new ways to do business should be supported by content from sources that do the research and find out what the influencers, market watchers and industry insiders are saying and thinking.
The evolution of UCaaS into a unified communications and collaboration strategy recognizes that collaboration is always on-going, never just tied to a webinar or video call. It may not exist in a single platform but could come from an integrated tech stack that adds the right components together into a unified solution. Technology and processes must support the new ways that people now see their work environment as well as support their needs to stay connected and feel relevant. UCCaaS or Unified Communications and Collaborations as a Service as it evolves should provide organizations with digital ways to go beyond the webinar and use the full suite of technology solutions to meet people where they are and how they like to communicate, connect and collaborate.