unified communications solutions

Unified Communications Solutions Are Not a Commodity

In today’s marketplace, can organizations choose between a broad spectrum of communications software vendors and providers? Are their products and services, in many cases, very similar? Yes.  

However, companies are leveraging these solutions to widely varying degrees of effectiveness, and most use them ineffectively. In contrast, the companies taking advantage of these solutions realize significant improvements in their communications experience and engagement, and they see improvements in leadership effectiveness. In the later stages in this adoption lifecycle, companies are integrating their communications platforms into their business workflow, which is another unquestionable competitive advantage.  

To understand how to achieve similar gains, one must first understand the four simple stages of the Unified Communications & Collaboration Adoption Lifecycle: 

  •  Crawl
  •  Walk
  •  Jog
  •  Run

In addition, for clarity, the following are the specific solutions to consider in this overview – Unified Communications and Collaborations Tools, including:  

  •  Voice Services
  •  Unified Messaging (Voicemail in Email Inbox)
  •  Instant Messaging and Presence
  •  Instant Messaging and Presence + Persistent Chat
  •  Room-Based Conferencing
  • Web Collaboration (Video Conferencing)
  •  1:1 Video

Crawl  

The definition of crawling is straight forward.  If eighty percent of the solutions above are not widely adopted throughout the organization, you’re crawling.  For example, if your organization has not fully adopted Instant Messaging and Presence or Instant Message and Presence plus Persistent Chat, web collaboration, and 1:1 video calling across the organization, you’re crawling. Companies that are not using these tools versus companies that are, are less likely to communicate and collaborate effectively. In this case, communications workflow and 1:1 communication are not optimized.  

Walk  

Companies that are leveraging these tools, but in a non-integration fashion, are walking.  Communication is sound working within any one of these mediums. Still, in order to escalate to another form of communication (i.e., voice to video, or 1:1 to video to a group web conference), users have to switch to another tool or platform.  This inhibits communication workflow and, in turn, efficiency.   

For example, is your organization is using a voice platform (i.e., Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft) with disparate instant messaging, web collaboration, or a 1:1 video platform? If so, there is a high probability that users need to switch to one of those platforms to leverage the solution versus a more seamless integrated approach. This adversely impacts user experience, which in turn has an adverse impact on adoption. If the last six months have proven anything in the context of these solutions, these tools are central to a user’s day-to-day operations.  When asking prospective clients about whether switching between these tools is inhibiting effective communication, a common answer is, “we don’t know what we don’t know.”  

Improved integration will streamline workflow, which will improve user adoption, leading to people using the tools more often throughout their daily routines. It is ESSENTIAL to consider the cultural aspect, the impact on leadership, and overall engagement that these capabilities support. For example, when a leader or team member can quickly escalate a 1:1 voice conversation to a video conference with multiple team members seamlessly, that drives adoption and engagement.  Seamless collaboration encourages people to use these tools more often in the way that they were designed. Unified Communication solutions impact the ability to more effectively lead people to pick up on visual cues around facial expressions and body language, which will impact engagement, commitment, the ability to make quicker decisions, and come to faster conclusions, which affect overall productivity.  

Jog  

Communication and collaboration significantly improve when companies leverage a tightly integrated unified communications and collaborations platform with a seamless user experience transitioning from one communication medium to another. When they’re doing this, they will achieve the communication efficiency, the engagement, the commitment, and the cultural impact that we were referring to in the prior stage. For example, an organization using these tools effectively will typically have 100% of their 1:1 calls on video. UC significantly impacts people’s engagement, depths of communication, and overall connectedness, which can only positively affect the interaction’s overall outcome, whether in productivity, decision making, or getting buy-in.  

For example, this morning’s video call, with multiple departments, took a few minutes to coordinate due to 1) leveraging presence information to see that they were available in real-time, and 2) sharing a web sharing/video conferencing link over the same integrated IM and persistent messaging platform. Using this unified solution, we were able to quickly review critical data, decide whom to make it available to, and coordinate timing around facilitating meetings based on the data we were presenting to the multiple departments at that moment. Without these necessary tools, this could have taken up to 24 hours to schedule. 

Now, while this sounds pretty straight-forward but consider the nuance. We were able to immediately pull leaders into a face-to-face call in seconds and share critical information visually.  Our UC solution- helped drive transparency, engagement, leadership, and improved collaboration within a few minutes using a fully integrated platform. After the business line leaders were on board due – facilitated by the seamless and transparent interaction, there was immediate buy-in and commitment to pull their respective teams together to review, make any adjustments, and collectively commit to a delivery date.  

Here is an actual example from a coworker about a year ago working for a very well-established company with roughly 12,000 employees. This company had an Avaya voice environment, utilized Slack for instant messaging, presence, and web collaboration, and had no external web collaboration platform. In this environment, this would have been a less efficient process with a potentially less optimal outcome.  While on a call and having to pull others in, he would have to send out instant messages to a coworker and wait until they responded – no presence/calendar integration. When the coworker did not react, he had to call and ask if they were free to join a call with no way to tell if they were available at that time, already slowing the process down. 

Run  

Once an organization has fully adopted a truly Unified Communications platform, one in which all these tools are seamlessly integrated, we can begin tying that core frustration or capabilities into business process.   

Take a world-renowned hospital for example: 

As part of their effort to be a leader in designing the modern patient room, the technology team wanted to optimize patient experience by minimizing disruptions, in addition to minimizing the footprint of a physical telephone (by creating a softphone, leveraging the same tablet Epic Bedside is running on). The goal is to ensure that only appropriate calls are routed to the right patient at the right time to avoid unnecessary disturbances. 

With patients frequently being admitted and discharged from the hospital, a tool to automatically provision and de-provision the phone profile and follow the patient from room to room would minimize patient disruption and streamline the operational process of moves, adds, and changes.  

Fidelus worked closely with the hospital’s technology team to design an end-to-end solution to meet their goals. We developed a fully automated, follow the patient provisioning via an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system (i.e., Epic) integration with or without a tablet-based softphone, based on patient bed admission and discharge. 

By integrating the Unified Communications with Epic via the industry-standard HL7 protocol and developing an Android-based softphone that lives in the Samsung tablets, no human intervention is necessary to manage the dynamic provisioning of patient softphone phones. The solution is constantly looking at Epic and automatically provisions a new phone profile in the appropriate room when a patent is admitted, and then de-provisions the phone profile when a patient is discharged. 

This is an excellent example of levering the core functionality of a Unified Communications platform to optimize a business, in this case, patient experience, outcome.  For more information on this specific example, see the following case study.