Enabling effective collaboration. It’s a key goal across multiple industries and sectors, in organisations of all shapes and sizes. Collaboration is said to be the engine of innovation and creativity, the route to more cost- and resource-efficient working.
It has also become increasingly challenging, as remote, mobile and flexible working is on the increase. When staff members are more likely to work from home, on the move or outside of regular working hours, when workforces are scaled up and down more rapidly than in years past, with temporary and contract teams in place for limited periods of time, it becomes increasingly important for organisations to deploy collaboration technology. After all, those flexible, agile workforces need to be able to communicate and share information and ideas in real-time and from multiple locations.
Little wonder, then, that unified communication as a service (UCaaS) platforms have gained significant traction in the world of enterprise IT. Not only do they offer a rich range of co-working and communication features, but their cloud-based delivery models offer the elastic scalability that is required in a cost-conscious and agile business world. The global UCaaS market is already growing by around 25% year-on-year, whilst some predict that by 2020 more than half of all organisations will be deploying UCaaS technology.
Microsoft Teams is a recent addition to the Microsoft product portfolio, but it has rapidly become one of the most transformative UCaaS tools available. It offers a rich – and ever-growing – portfolio of communication and co-working functions, and because it operates as an extension to the existing Office 365 productivity suite, it integrates seamlessly with the applications used by the vast majority of organisations day-to-day, such as Word, PowerPoint and Excel.
Of course, communication channels like instant messaging and voice over IP, or the ability to work from the same document or run a virtual meeting, are not in themselves new technologies. Where Microsoft Teams and other UCaaS platforms are truly transformative is in offering them all in one single unified and integrated package, built from the ground up to focus on group working.
Looking forward, this unification and integration is likely to spread beyond communication and co-working capabilities and look to connect UCaaS with other business functions and processes. In other words, it is likely to open up collaboration even further, in some ways that could transform how you do business.
Unified communications joined with business processes
One key example is cloud contact centre integration. Once organisations can integrate their UCaaS platform with a cloud contact centre, the same speedy information-sharing and problem-solving on offer within the UCaaS tool itself, can be extended out to customers. It becomes possible for contact centre agents to access not only streams of data from relevant business applications, but also streams of communication from colleagues in other departments, all via a single integrated platform. Resolving customer queries and problems becomes a truly collaborative exercise.
Similarly, integration platform as a service (iPaaS) technology, which helps users to configure application and data workflows, can be joined with UCaaS to deliver integration between business processes and business communications. This means that organisations can develop brand new workflows, cross-referencing incoming contacts with existing databases of information. For example, the organisation can immediately identify whether a call is from an existing customer, partner or supplier, and then automatically pull up their recent orders and interactions on a dashboard for a more informed call.
How Microsoft Teams could transform collaboration in the future, then, is in integrating highly contextual data, from multiple sources, with each individual line of communication. Speaking to a customer who can’t work the device they’ve just purchased? Your agent can see, immediately, exactly which version of the device they’ve installed. Responding to a supplier email about a recent order? That order information is already available, automatically.
Collaboration, at its core, is about sharing information. The future of UCaaS lies in sharing the right information, at the right time, automatically.