By Todd Carothers, EVP of Sales & Marketing, CounterPath.
The one thing every civilisation needs to survive is the rule of law, and it’s the same with the management of technology within a business. Laws however are difficult to enforce when the taste of rebellion is so sweet. Witness society’s mad craze over cloud-based communications and collaboration platforms such as WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook messenger and the like. Such platforms could threaten a businesses promise of data protection, client confidentiality and other sensitive information. Because of such platforms we have seen in the past many businesses begin to introduce rules and regulations surrounding the use of personal devices whilst at work in an attempt to restrict usage. These methods quickly became self-defeating as they undermined the ability and competence of the IT team to drive technology strategy.
Since entering the digital age, vendors and service providers have found it difficult to keep up with the dramatic, overwhelming changes and developments to communications consumption, which have unfolded over the last decade or so. But, it seems our knight in shining armour has returned out of the fog, bringing with him clear skies with a chance of cloudification. The New Deal for the digital age – manifestos for the cloudification of communications and collaboration are polling well and receiving high praise from SMBs.
Undoubtedly, cloud is the business game changer of the decade and has facilitated a massive shift to an endless, flexible, rapid communications culture that always allows us to check and share our documents, emails, voices and faces from anywhere, anytime. Accommodating, cloud-based packages are available from all major sources, with competitive organisations lapping them up. Propositions with no more hardware, no more service provider charges, fewer operational expenses all wrapped up in a powerful and compelling ideology called Unified Communications (UC).
But, has the weatherman been hiding something from us? Indeed he has. There is a secret, darker side to these cloud-based offerings. Surrounding the fantasy of digitalisation and cloudification of UC, vendors and service providers are slyly shifting the power away from choice and reverting to their core instincts of lock and shut out. While you can hardly blame them for protecting their business models, this drive towards exclusivity brings drawbacks.
With the lock down model, the user experience often gets overlooked, flexibility becomes an illusion, much like the thought of sun in summertime, and genuine ROI is compromised because of the impact on productivity. To give it to you straight, we are on the verge of a new digital era and businesses must be vigilant when evaluating new cloud solutions to ensure that those selected help safeguard the freedom of their cloud communications future.
Thankfully, there are steps organisations can take to avoid the trickery and soak up the triumphs of cloudification. They must guard against the following:
- Desktop First. Desk phones are the paperweights of the digital age. Who even has a landline anymore? A user’s first preference is always their mobile device. From a mobile phone you can check and send email, texts, conduct conference calls, be in the room with people on the other side of the world though FaceTime, it’s the office in their pocket. For the first time, putting your head in the clouds is being advised as it is the easiest way to achieve the perfect balance of work and home life we all dream about. Creating a mobile-first experience, on any and every device, is the number one priority. From there you can work back to the desktop.
- Lack of open standards. Open standards should not be optional. Implement open API’s and existing integrations capable of bridging the infrastructure you already have to the collaboration solution you want.
- Lazy UX. The user experience should be at the heart of your end-to-end solution. It is also vital that it addresses the disruptive and changing digital preferences of today’s users. A well-designed user experience streamlines, focuses, de-clutters, simplifies and contextualises.
- Cloud on someone else’s terms. It needs to be specified and sized to fit your individual needs and preferences, giving you the flexibility you need to leverage it for connection-persistent communications that connect devices and conversations through context.
On Cloud 9
The ideal solution needs to fully embrace the collaborative instincts of human communication. What this means is presence-driven conferencing, chat and sharing through messaging, video and voice, plus cloud file shares on every single mobile device and desktop. Very soon it will also include threaded communication too; collaboration sessions that are not only available across all devices but also stored and synchronizsed in the cloud. This allows for content and multiple discussion streams of entire meetings to become as easily accessible as call logs.
Not to worry, the mechanics of the ideal solution will be straightforward and non-disruptive. You will not have to replace any tech unless of course you want to. You can run an array of traditional and born-in-the-cloud vendor technologies under one single, harmonious user experience that will be unique to yourself. This will however require a neutral service platform that organises everything from a softphone perspective and seams together the most optimal user experience based on the best of a multivendor offering.
Thank goodness we now have technology that benefits us all. However, in reality, proprietary lock-in is just one wrong choice away. What are you doing to ensure cloud communications and collaboration that help your business succeed in the digital age?