Organizations are constantly looking for ways to reduce costs, boost productivity and increase revenues, and they are turning to collaboration tools to do so. However, with the dizzying array of options and the daily enhancements to endpoints, applications and infrastructure, it’s hard to keep up with the right approach or what to choose. So to try to make it a little easier, here are a handful of trends in collaboration you can expect to encounter in 2017.
2017 Is the Year of Video
I’m sure you heard that line last year, and the year before that, and the year before that. But this time it is true. Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce and video communication is the norm for them. If you are not looking at your video strategy, you risk losing them as employees, partners and, most importantly, customers. Luckily, manufacturers have been keeping up with this demand and, as a result, the cost to implement and deploy video has decreased dramatically over the past few years. Endpoint costs are dropping 50 to 80 percent of the cost that they were just a few years ago, and cloud video bridging is taking the cost to host a video meeting near to the cost of holding an audio only conference.
It’s All about the Meeting Experience
If 2017 is going to be the year of video for your organization, you’d better think about making sure you simplify the end-user experience for your organization. One button to push for launching a meeting, integrating into your calendar and working contacts into your meeting applications are great steps to simplifying users’ experiences in their meetings. If you have multiple video and meeting applications on your desktops, mobile devices, conference rooms and web tools, you need to ensure you integrate those on the backend so that users can join a meeting from any of them at any time and receive the native meeting experience of that application.
Transforming Your Contact Center into a Customer Engagement Center
Customer loyalty is harder and harder to earn. With multiple generations in the market and vastly different ways each generation prefers to commutate, if you only have an 800 number for customers to call, you probably don’t see it ringing very often.
Some consumers might try to go to your website to learn about your products, and if you have a “click to chat” feature you can engage them. But what about the vast majority of customers that don’t call you or ever visit your website? How do you engage them? That is where omnichannel comes in. By integrating your contact center tools with social media platforms and your CRM systems, you can see what high-value customers are saying about your brands and products and answer their questions in their medium of choice.
For example, I have scheduled service appointments with my internet provider using Facebook. Not only was this more convenient for me to communicate with my internet provider, but it also provided me with a chat history that I could reference back to should the need arise.
Get Close to the Business
By now, I’m sure you have heard about CIOs needing to align better to the business. In 2017, I would argue all levels of IT need to do this. If you are not close to the end users you support to understand how they collaborate internally and externally, they will find tools outside of IT to meet their needs and potentially put valuable corporate assets at risk.
Hybrid Environments Are the Norm
Cloud collaboration tools provide great value for organizations. However, due to existing investments or business needs that can only be serviced with on-premises systems, hybrid collaboration environments are commonplace. For many organizations, a hybrid environment can be a cost-effective way to expand your collaboration practice, but make sure to intergrade your cloud and on-premises systems to ensure a seamless user experience.
Microsoft — a Formidable Collaboration Tool
Most organizations have a large investment in Microsoft applications and are looking for ways to enhance that investment by unlocking the collaboration potential within the tools. The low-hanging fruit is to enable Skype for Business within your video environment. While Skype for Business is a front end application for video, it needs help if it is going to be part of your video strategy. Polycom is a strategic alliance partner and best-suited out of all the manufactures to make this happen. However, there are many options to boost your investment, including Cisco, Pexip, Lifesize, Bluejeans, Logitech and Revolabs, just to name a few.
Keep Up with Collaboration Upgrades
If your organization is like many out there and takes a “set it and forget it” approach to your voice, video or contact center applications, you are missing out on some great enhancements mentioned in the above trends. So make sure you are upgrading you voice, video and contact center platforms. Depending on the version, you already might be running on something that is nearing the end of its support. In addition, you will want to look at upgrading the endpoints too. Many of the meeting experience features will not work on legacy hardware. Luckily manufactures have upgrade paths that make this more affordable.
Messaging Apps Are the Future
The final trend I see making waves next year is messaging apps such as Cisco’s Spark, which will begin to gain market share. These messaging apps offer a consumer app look and feel by having one application for persistent messaging, video and voice to simplify communication. However these applications are anything but consumer grade. They have enterprise class security built into, they can integrate with existing infrastructure, and they provide cloud-based video bridging. While these will not be the dominate collaboration tools in 2017, many organizations will begin to integrate them into their environment as a way to simplify the meeting experience and in the near future these will be the default collaboration applications.
Do you have the right collaboration tools for your organization? Get a CDW collaboration consultation to assess your needs and goals.