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Unified Communication and Collaboration: The New Normal Post COVID-19

By John Doyle, CTS-D and Mo Fahim, EIT, FMP, CTPM, CSPO

Unified communication is a familiar term commonly used to describe a variety of software and hardware systems that bridged disparate telecommunications systems in the workforce and emerged in the early stages of traditional AV and IT infrastructure and application convergence.

This early approach to collaborative work involved siloed applications such as video and audio teleconferencing, instant relay chat (IRC), screen/content sharing, email, and more.

One of the pitfalls of this approach was that multiple applications would need to be set up in a complex web to initiate true collaboration, which in turn made meetings complicated to set up and run smoothly without issues, often requiring technical staff with boots on the ground to provide support.

Software and hardware vendors have since responded by centralizing these universally recognized tools under one unified platform, enabling employees to become power users in their day-to-day activities, breaking down barriers to productive meetings and replacing complex systems with simplified solutions, focused on the User Interface (UI) and User eXperience (UX).

With UI/UX at the forefront of technology, older unified communication solutions have paved the way to the recent rapid evolution of platforms that expanded beyond convergence of communication systems to an ecosystem of enterprise applications and collaboration tools as well as extended embedded features developed to help increase workplace productivity and efficiency – making way for the new breed of Unified Communication and Collaboration (UCC) solutions.

The convergence of these platforms and expanded toolsets has given rise to workforce mobility and agility. With the recent world events, an honorable mention must go to the ability of these solutions to keep the distributed office virtually engaged and connected. Especially all those essential happy hours – that are not only keeping us connected but sane.

It is important to note that not every solution is equal. There are advantages and disadvantages, feature sets and limitations for each offering. Some criteria your organization should consider when evaluating solutions include software and hardware, user experience (ease of use, features), maintenance/support, security posture, facility physical space, vendor qualifications (size, location, history, market share), your company’s unique needs, and cost. Any of one these criteria may be the tipping point in your business’s decision-making process and must be weighed accordingly.

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To shine a spotlight on hardware and software alone, there are literally thousands of possible integrations capable of delivering UCC services. Each approach has its own unique feature sets and nuanced limitations. Furthermore, manufacturers continue to push the envelope with improvements. Last year’s model has now become last quarter’s model. Firmware and software upgrades are ongoing. Pinning down the right combination of parts and pieces is a daunting task for even the more savvy IT team. Will the equipment support my existing infrastructure? Can I bridge between my external client’s and my organization’s systems? How easy will it be for my staff to adopt/adapt to? How do I select a system that’s future proof?

Another critical element to consider for a successful deployment is security, especially when these tools become centralized. The powerful simplicity we gain from UCC comes at a cost with a central point of failure. When UCC services are down, how can we continue to be productive? How can we prevent a malicious agency from taking control of our UCC platform, accessing our data, or worse, holding our company hostage with ransomware? Some players are better than others in this arena and it’s up to a vigilant IT and technical consulting team who understand what’s at stake to guide you in the right direction.

Call to Action

As firms now actively plan their workforce re-entry strategies, it is also essential that they re-imagine what the commercial workplace looks like in the next normal. The need for technologies that empower a mobile and distributed workforce is now more than ever and ensuring that these solutions carry through into the physical workplace should be top of mind.

The landscape of options and features is fraught with numerous decision points and knowing how to weigh those decisions in the selection process is essential to your business’s UCC strategy.

ESD is uniquely qualified to assist your organization in realizing the appropriate UCC platform and installed solution strategy and best suited for your business’s needs with room for future growth. With our qualified engineering team and cross-disciplinary approach to design, we can address your business’s key tipping points in the decision-making process, highlight what makes one solution stand out among the others and ultimately build a design form fit to your unique business needs.

For Those Wanting a Deeper Understanding 

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Meeting Solutions 2019
Why Your Business Needs Ultra Secure Collaboration
What Does the AV Pro Offer in UCC
How to Ensure Cybersecurity in a Remote Workforce
7 Ways to Improve Unified Communications Security

Let’s continue the conversation to determine the best IT solutions for your needs. Email John Doyle, Audio Visual Consultant or Mo Fahim,  Intelligent Building Techinologies Practice Leader.

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