Unified communications vendors are finally waking up to the fact that the issues are social, not technical, says Bryan Betts
Anyone attending this week’s UC Expoq in London is likely to come away with two key messages. One is that Microsoft is determined to Borg the unified comms (UC) market with Microsoft Lync, just as it did the email and office software markets.
The other is that social and cultural issues create stumbling blocks and opportunities for UC – and after years of complacency, the industry is finally waking up to this.
Microsoft Lync emerged in November as a relaunch of Office Communications Server, and since then the company has tied it closely with the cloud version of the Office productivity suite, and tied in other companies’ products such as LifeSize video conferencing. At the show, Microsoft has an impressive array of partners, a series of presentations, and some big customer announcements.
The Cultural Issues With Comms
Give a back-office user a headset (from someone like Plantronics for example), and their first reaction may be to reject it, seeing it as something that belongs to a call centre role.
That attitude will change as they see how much easier it is to work with a headset – and especially a wireless headset – but as Newport City Homes information systems manager Darren Lloyd told an Expo audience, it will take time.
Companies are realising too that if you want to streamline your communications and reduce the cost of doing business, throwing technology at the problem is not the answer. If people are already swamped by email, adding other media to the mix won’t make them willing users of UC.
Organisations must first think about how their staff and customers want to communicate, and then implement the relevant tools, says Gavin Adam of team collaboration specialist Formicary, not simply throw technology at the question and see what sticks.
That’s especially true of social media, of course: Facebook, Twitter and the like are open to abuse, but they can also be powerful tools for keeping in touch with your customers. More and more UC suppliers therefore claim to understand how to shield users from unnecessary social distractions.
One other cultural issue to mention is managerial. One of the biggest advantages of UC is the ability to work anywhere – for example, Darren Lloyd highlighted his team’s ability to work on through the recent snowstorms, thanks to laptops and IP-based telecomms.
Yet a survey of delegates registered for the show revealed that while 61 percent of technology-focused attendees believe remote- and home-working can be just as productive as being in the office, only 45 percent of business-focused attendees said the same. It seems too many managers still believe that if they can’t see you working, then you’re obviously slacking.