Yoni Avital is cofounder and COO of ControlUp, where he and his team are setting the new standard for the Digital Employee Experience (DEX).
Over the past few years, organizations of all sizes have been forced into a new unprecedented way of working, with most companies implementing technology that allowed the show to go on without strategically evaluating what made the most sense. The rapidly changing work environments made IT managers’ jobs much harder because collaboration tools suddenly became a business imperative without affording IT time to make planned and tested decisions.
With a sense of urgency, many department-level IT teams started calling the shots. This sometimes resulted in three different solutions—Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Webex—being used within one company, which created a level of complexity that wouldn’t work long-term. In turn, IT had less control over technology decisions as employees and departments took matters into their own hands. Morgan Stanley reported that the value of companies providing collaboration software and other work-from-home technologies rose 263% in 2020.
As everyone returns to a new type of normal, there is much to be cleaned up. So, how does an organization slow down, take a step back and fix the hodgepodge their IT landscapes became out of necessity? Different workforce models allow some employees to keep working at home, while many others are adopting a hybrid model. Every scenario requires decisions around which unified communications tools to use.
Defining Your Workplace Model
As organizations try to find what “new normal work” environment works best, the hybrid approach is emerging as a marriage of on-site and remote options. While the definition varies from organization to organization, Gartner calls it “hybrid everything,” which finds companies reinventing how employees, vendors and customers interact across the board. Gartner’s recent CIO Agenda shows that 83% of enterprises expect customer demand for digital products and services to go up, and 65% of board members are looking to accelerate digital initiatives.
This approach means more funding for companies that are building technologies for hybrid models and remote work models. Instead of saying you allow your employees to work remotely part-time, a hybrid approach creates an opportunity for companies to improve both on-site and innovative approaches to working remotely. But companies should not be quick to dismiss remote work, as predictions forecast rapid remote work growth, with 25% of all North American professional jobs being remote by the end of 2023. Either way, selecting the right unified communication tools for collaboration should be part of the workplace culture.
Defining Collaboration For Your Organization
Defining what collaboration means to your organization might seem simple, but each organization has different collaboration needs and goals. For example, healthcare organizations, financial institutions and the like must deal with regulatory considerations when deciding how best to collaborate. Likewise, universities, accountants, insurance offices and more have different needs.
When we think of collaboration today, we think of Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Slack. But there’s so much more to collaboration than platforms for communications or meetings. Sometimes, no tools will be used when collaborating with peers in an office.
Every organization should evaluate its needs before determining which tools are right. Using the same metrics to measure success and ensure your people have the best experience is also essential. Questions to consider include:
• Is the only goal eliminating communication silos?
• Are e-signature capabilities that are compliant with regulatory practices needed?
• Is there support for BYOD, which finds IT teams working to control technology that isn’t company-managed?
• What does collaboration look like on- and off-site?
Which Tools Are Right For You
Once your hybrid and collaboration practices are defined, work with IT to build a strategic infrastructure that works well and is human-centric while giving IT the ability to provide rapid solutions, keep costs down and increase productivity. Select solutions that address communications needs and technology efforts. Consider these unified communications challenges when managing your digital employee experience, including:
• IT Team Visibility: Since there is no single pane of glass with all the key usage and experience data across multiple platforms and tools, there is a lack of visibility into how the location where the user works impacts the experience of using UC tools. For example, end users may experience slow Wi-Fi and poor ISP connectivity when working remotely. With visibility issues, your IT team may lack the tools to “fix issues” end users may encounter.
• Ease-Of-Use: Ease-of-use means different things to employees than IT. Since end users often prefer “consumer-grade” apps over corporate-provided tools, you’ll want to collect user feedback and sentiment to uncover invaluable frontline insights that will guide your decision-making.
• Compliance And Regulations: If your organization works in a field that is highly regulated and adheres to HIPAA, PCI-DSS, SOX, GDPR and more, you need to verify which collaboration tools have these types of compliance built in. Some have hybrid solutions themselves that address these needs. For example, Zoom has Zoom for Healthcare, which focuses on HIPAA compliance.
• Collaboration Vs. Communication: Understanding the difference between these two will mean all the difference in choosing the right solution. Just because teams can use tools like Slack or instant messenger to communicate doesn’t equate to collaboration. Collaboration is more about providing a platform for employees, executives and sometimes customers to work together, not just talk. For example, Microsoft SharePoint, Slack and Google Drive allow both communication and collaboration.
As we approach the end of 2022 and head into 2023, the time couldn’t be more ideal for organizations to take a giant step in the right direction regarding technical support for the chosen model for doing business. We’re in a time that presents a real opportunity to improve our traditional ways of doing business on-site and expand what the future of work looks like for employees and customers.
According to Grand View Research, the unified communications market is set to grow to $417.86 billion by 2030. This industry shows no sign of slowing, so now is the time to consider how your organization can use a UC approach that allows you to remain competitive and appealing to employees and customers no matter what workplace model you use.