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Through the UC Looking Glass into the World of Collaboration

A revolution is under way in how organizations conduct business. As businesses transition towards collaborative environments, the way that work life and personal life interact is being significantly changed. The growing demand within businesses for new tools to help improve productivity for both individuals and teams is driving the evolution towards the use of collaboration tools and applications that change the way we work and interact.

In order for these tools to be effective, care must be taken to ensure proper integration with an organization’s existing applications, devices, network, business processes, and more – which requires the assistance of a global service provider partner who can pull it all together.

Who is Driving the Collaboration Migration?

The demand for new collaboration tools is being driven by changes in the workforce, with millennials leading the charge for new ways of working. In addition, the concept of “work-life integration” rather than “work-life balance” is taking hold, as the boundaries between professional and personal lives become increasingly blurred, with work occurring wherever people happen to be. This requires new tools to enable workers to be mobile and social, while using the communication channels and collaboration applications that are most effective in business.

As a result of these changes in the workplace, businesses must adapt. For example, according to a survey, only 29% of millennials expect to work normal business hours. Instead they expect the flexibility to work wherever and whenever it suits them. Businesses need to provide workers with the tools that allow them to work from anywhere, while communicating and collaborating throughout the day with colleagues, partners, suppliers, and customers, wherever they happen to be, and from whatever device they’re using. The ability to work virtually seamlessly from any location, whether premises-based or mobile, has significant appeal for all types of businesses. In addition, as many organizations operate in a global environment, they need to be able to connect and collaborate with business partners around the world regardless of time zone.

Challenges for Organizations and the Need for Integration

Many organizations have turned to a variety of collaboration solutions to meet the demands of the emerging business marketplace. While tools such as social media applications and cloud-based services help workers be mobile while increasing productivity, there are often challenges with some of these solutions. For example, while consumer-grade social interaction tools such as Facebook and Twitter provide access to large numbers of people from a mass market perspective, they do not provide secure real-time file sharing and the enterprise-level collaboration capabilities that organizations need in order to conduct business safely. Care must be taken to ensure that enterprise-grade security, reliability, and scalability are addressed.

In addition, while cloud-based services often provide a quick and relatively inexpensive solution for collaboration capabilities, organizations, particularly large enterprises, must choose the platform and service providers that meet their needs for connectivity and integration with various business applications.

A recent project at AT&T for a global organization provides a clear example of the value of deploying collaboration solutions. In this case, the client required a global collaboration solution to help increase productivity (efficiency) and mitigate travel costs for its workers around the world. The plan included the ability to integrate with Cisco IP Phones and Cisco Jabber, as well as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) in an open concept workspace. The existing aging traditional telecom infrastructure was unable to provide the necessary functional capability to meet their organizational and technical requirements. By leveraging AT&T UC Voice, the organization was able to integrate 4000 users from locations around the world into a common communications platform. In addition, the project plan allowed for easy migration from legacy to the collaboration-enabled environment.

Working with the Right Service Provider Makes a Difference

The approach to the above deployment provided a smooth transition to a global communications platform. Once the platform has been established, there can be additional significant value added by integrating enterprise wide, in-house applications as part of the overall deployment of collaboration technology. These could include applications for security, asset management and environmental systems. When deciding on whether to deploy a premises-based, cloud-based, or hybrid communication and collaboration solution, the size and complexity of this integration will help determine which type of solution is the most appropriate and cost effective.

Even in many large organizations, experienced IT professionals may struggle with the complex integration required for the various collaboration tools. By working with an experienced service provider, some of this complexity can be removed or reduced. Finding a global service provider that can provide the needed collaboration tools, in addition to the enterprise security and scalability that’s required, plus the integration to the organization’s existing tools, devices, applications, and business processes is a large order – as there are only a small handful of companies that can fulfill these needs.

The choice of service provider should, in part, be based on their ability to identify options for deployments and to enable integration with existing systems. It’s also important for the service provider to have relationships with the technology providers and be able to integrate with both cloud and premises-based solutions to create a hybrid solution that works for the customer.

Another example beyond AT&T UC Voice already mentioned, is AT&T Collaborate™ which provides a suite of collaboration services that includes voice, video, IM, presence and conferencing. Highly secure access for the network is also key and this can be handled by AT&T NetBond® which provides a flexible and simple method for mission critical applications. Collaboration tools such as Microsoft® Office 365 from AT&T deliver the value that today’s organizations require in order to remain competitive within the consumer and business marketplaces.

Organizations that fail to adapt to this new paradigm run the risk of losing relevancy, as well as losing ground in the competition for the best employees. Working with the right service provider to pull everything together is paramount. Recognizing these issues and providing workers with the collaboration tools and capabilities they need will give businesses “2020” vision for organizational development.

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