UCC – It's a Business Thing

21 Feb 2017

While the adoption of UC has languished in many organizations, business leaders continue to see the value in enabling collaboration between their employees. Part of the challenge is that more and more interactions that can benefit from the new generation of collaboration and content sharing tools are not internal to the organization, but external. UC products that address internal communications can also be used for external interactions with customers, partners, suppliers, and others. However, there are significant challenges when extending an internal system to an external world. For example, many solutions require both parties to use the same software, or require guests to download an application in order to use the tool.

In the open market, a new set of much more open collaboration tools have emerged. While products like Skype led the way, more and more tools that are available are being offered and adopted outside of the enterprise IT organization. In many ways, this trend reflects the adoption of Salesforce. Initial adoption was not driven by IT, but rather by sales managers to boost their team productivity. By delivering the solution from the cloud with monthly billing, Salesforce could disrupt the CRM model by driving user adoption. As sales managers demonstrated success using Salesforce to manage their teams, their peers saw their success and adopted Salesforce as well. Eventually organizations took notice and Salesforce moved into the mainstream, including providing IT support and business optimization.

In the communications and collaboration space, there have been several entrants that have used similar viral adoption methods, including WebEx, Go-To-Meeting, Zoom video and others. And now, social platforms like Slack are increasing the velocity of external applications adoption. As these applications are ideal for mobile devices and have low monthly costs, user have found they can adopt a solution that is optimized to their needs, and easy to obtain. In many ways, this trend replicates the original PC trend 30 years ago, where PCs broke the IT stranglehold on computing. The challenge for IT departments to meet the range of business needs is demonstrated by analyst data showing that over 90% of IT spending is on operations and continuation, while less than 10% is spent in innovation and new projects. And the competition for new project budget is fierce, with upgrades, cost reduction competing with business innovation projects. The result is that IT often does not respond, leading business units to external solutions.

For the IT department, this trend can be both a blessing and a curse. As users can now bring in their own apps, IT is no longer the bottleneck for the business. Business leaders can adopt external cloud based applications quickly, without blaming IT for delays and issues. However, just as in the past, the issues of their externalization eventually become significant. Whether it is for data security or cost or interoperation, eventually the IT department is always asked to resolve issues in these external apps. Often this happens at a critical point, such as when the sales and engineering teams need to work together and the tools they have chosen are different and do not federate.

The key lesson for the IT organizations is clear – now is the time to be proactive and understand the needs of your departments. The cloud business model, where services can be purchased and implemented without capital or significant IT interaction, is a key way to meet the needs of the organization. Instead of trying to tightly control the applications and services, an open partnership with the business is required to enable the right capabilities, while maintaining the right levels of security, interoperability, and cost. By working less as the provider and more as the knowledge consultant, the IT organization can become the leaders in this transition. This enables managing a path that will dramatically reduce future issues.

In addition, IT needs to ensure that the vendors it brings into the fold are not just focused on internal solutions, but also on how external participation is supported. This becomes a natural evolution to the cloud, as all the external users are outside of the IT infrastructure and can be serviced directly from the cloud. By focusing on cloud options, the IT organization can prepare itself for the externalization of rich communications and collaboration solutions.

A good example of a cloud provider that can be a valued partner for a range of services is AT&T. AT&T Collaborate™ is a cloud solution that enables individual business unit adoption, but is designed for complete enterprise support. With a solution like AT&T Collaborate, IT organizations can guide their business partners to a solution that enables larger corporate integration over time. The cloud deployment model enables lighthouse user adoption in business units without heavy capital investment, but the solutions scales in size, interoperability and security to be a complete solution.

As we move into 2017, the options for consumer style and business departmental adoption are ever increasing. There are an ever-increasing range of new solutions available from the cloud that business units can adopt. For the IT team this presents a challenge of providing a full range of capabilities or having individual business departments acquire a different solution. The IT team can meet the challenges of being responsive and supportive by working with the business units to adopt a common set of solutions, even if those are being purchased at a departmental level initially. By proactively providing options to the business leaders that can be adopted easily, the IT team can both demonstrate leadership as well as manage for successful long range outcomes, all without incurring the capital costs of traditional solutions.

This paper is sponsored by AT&T.


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