Opinion piece: Collaboration and the changing face of communications
By Andre Deetlefs, Executive: Lines of Business at the Jasco Group
26 April 2017
‘Collaboration’ and ‘communication’, as business terms, have been around for a long time but, as technology evolves, so have the ways in which we communicate and collaborate within and between businesses. New technology – and new ways to use old technology – are completely disrupting the way businesses traditionally communicate, collaborate and engage, both internally within an organisation, and externally between organisations.
Mobile technology, coupled with faster data speeds, has enabled organisations to make use of traditional collaboration tools such as video conferencing, from anywhere and at any time – even while on the move. People are no longer limited by the confines of an office environment in order to communicate with each other and work together. In fact, the need to travel outside of the office, or even outside of one’s home, is no longer necessary for the success of a business.
Interoperability between office systems and mobile applications has also become a reality. The difference this has made to enable easy and seamless functionality between different communication tools on different devices is both tangible and vast. For example, traditionally, if one side of a video conference is conducted through a traditional video conference system, the other party usually needs the same system. However, new technologies are emerging which enable one party to use their in-house systems while the other uses a mobile application, easily downloaded to their device.
The market today demands that enterprises become more agile. Not only is the speed at which we conduct business growing ever faster, but the discovery of the value contained within data means that enterprises need to focus more on how to analyse, extract and leverage that data and less on their systems and day-to-day IT needs. The advent of mobile communication and collaboration tools means that fewer people require the use of in-house systems and office space to conduct business, so enterprises can downscale their infrastructure significantly. IT departments, then, can focus their attention on innovation and data management instead of spending lengthy hours fine tuning systems which can be downloaded as a service onto smartphones and tablets.
Collaboration is also necessary to enable and activate agility within a business. Being able to collaborate across regions, countries and continents has been possible for some time, but has traditionally relied on all parties having access to a boardroom or office space, as well as complimentary systems. With mobile communication applications, collaboration is enabled anytime, anywhere. Innovation can occur as quickly as it takes to schedule a video chat, without having to worry about managing and maintaining various resources.
New tools for the new business world
There is an increasing number of applications (apps) available for the mobile workforce. Everything from instant messaging (IM) and video conferencing to shared cloud-based documents and folders, and workgroup applications, are becoming distinctive – and necessary – tools of trade. These applications simplify the working environment by enabling long distance collaboration and communication.
Video conferencing uptake is on the rise as video conferencing software becomes far more user friendly and available across multiple channels. As mobile apps and on site systems integrate, real-time and face-to-face communication is made possible from anywhere and at any time.
Many video conferencing software systems are mimicking some of the leading solutions for their user-friendliness, meaning that users no longer need complicated numbers and conference access codes to collaborate long distance. User interfaces and system operations are becoming far simpler – and simpler means quicker, which translates into value.
Organisations can also begin to enjoy the benefits of emerging crossover technologies such as Avaya’s Scopia, which makes use of mobile and desktop applications to combine mobile video conferencing and boardroom conferencing, utilising existing infrastructure such as HD cameras as well as built in mobile infrastructure. This bridges the gap between office-bound and mobile video conferencing.
Another fairly new disruptive game changer is Instant Messaging (IM) for business. Typically, IM has been more for the consumer market but, with the ability of certain IM apps to secure and archive conversations – a requirement for enterprise – IM is becoming a valuable business tool.
The changing face of communication and collaboration
Today’s organisations function in real-time. People are no longer willing to wait for responses to emails or information to be passed on, and now more than ever, time really is money. To keep apace of business today, organisations need to ensure they have tools in place to enable real-time communication and collaboration. Traditional email systems and even voicemail is becoming old hat, and newer, faster technologies are taking their place.
Escalation processes have changed as well. If people cannot be reached telephonically, they will be sent an IM or text message with the expectation of a quick response. Agility demands instant response and always-on availability. People are expected to be visible about their availability at any given time and want, equally, to see whether another person is available to chat. If available, the expectation is for a response within minutes instead of hours, and absolutely not days.
In a time where social media is ruling the Internet, it can be detrimental for a company to have a slow response to its customers as many social media platforms are used for quick escalation. As such, many companies from many sectors including financial services to the retail sector, are making use of IM platforms such as Whatsapp to offer customers instant access to response.