When you look at some of the big business trends in unified communications that we’re going to see in 2020, a number of them revolve around WorkStream collaboration. Workstream collaboration is one ‘flavor’ of UC that’s getting a lot of attention in the enterprise world, for some very good reasons.
Many of us are familiar with the rapid innovations that you see in new UC platforms. First, there was Slack, which revolutionized teamwork and the co-location of team and historic data in one easy interface, as well as chatops integration. Then, Microsoft came on the scene with Teams.
Now, companies have all of these choices. But, how do you get ahead of a workstream communications implementation and plan for the future? Here are some key points which will serve your company well as you forge ahead into the fray.
Consider Training and Intuitive Use
One of the first points which many UC experts make in advising scaling and modernizing firms is about staff training. Yes, your people will have to be able to use whatever UC interface to which you are committing. However, training is really just the tip of a much bigger iceberg, which is intuitive use. An intuitive interface supercharges your business. Productivity soars – deals get made more quickly – everybody’s happy.
An interface that doesn’t suit your business needs threatens to mire you (and everyone else) down in unnecessary hassles and delays; a steep learning curve seems daunting to everyone involved.
With that in mind, one of the key ways to anticipate any improvement, whether it’s for workstream collaboration or anything else, is to ensure that it’s a good fit. Brainstorm business use cases and business processes. Apply whatever platform you’re considering to those specific cases, and you’ll be several steps ahead when it comes to implementation.
Address Regulatory Compliance
Again, a platform that is fitted for regulatory compliance gives your company a better chance of avoiding nasty compliance issues. On the other hand, a platform that has your staff unwittingly committing compliance violations all the time is going to be a massive liability!
One starting point is to take the data sets that your business is based on and understand how applying compliance standards will be treated by whatever UC interface you’re using. Whatever proprietary garden it’s in, that garden always has to be tended with an eye toward what regulators expect, or your enterprise is risking running afoul of the law. If HIPAA applies, make sure that the platform bakes in key HIPAA protections (and/or protected in a way commensurate with NIST “reasonable and appropriate measures”). If PCI is part of what you do, ask about whether the toolset keeps PCI data both secure and portable.
Get Ready to Move
One overwhelming part of integrating a new unified communications toolset is data migration. Maybe you have old files and key data archived in on-premises servers, and these “items” need to go to the cloud in order to be integrated with your unified communications system. How hard is that? Well, it depends on various aspects.
Legacy migration has been a formidable quest for many a company analyst team and engineering department. The worst-case scenario is manual data entry, as teams race to migrate data in the ‘meatspace’ or in other words, IRL. Manual data entry is, in many people’s eyes, as labor-intensive as digging a trench in the soil – it’s not something that anyone wants to do, and it’s massively inefficient.
Hopefully, it doesn’t come to that. For example, SharePoint on-premises resources can generally be moved directly to SharePoint online, given some key setup calibrations. Whether you’re using OneDrive or Google Drive or whatever else, those migrations can be done, but they have to be done correctly.
Jettison Old Tools
One thing you hear so often from engineers is a groan and the protestation – “not another tool!” De-tooling is key in handling system complexity. Adding two tools to drop one is your everyday developer’s example of “one step forward and two steps back.” It’s defeating – it’s discouraging – and it saps productivity.
Decommissioning old structures helps to pave the way for the adoption of new technologies – in many cases, cloud-native agile platforms that have much more capability to change and shift along with the business and to scale with its growth. But you don’t want to have the old stuff all mixed in together with the new stuff, because that tends to create a real jungle. Having a decommissioning strategy will be a big feather in the company’s cap when it comes to succeeding with migration and upgrades.
Delegate Point People
Many industry compliance regulations and privacy standards require appointing key people which could be called point people, or czars, to key positions that are supposed to oversee the handling of data and information.
Having point people does several good things. First, it establishes channels linking the company to its vendors. In other words, everybody knows who’s calling support and who’s negotiating services. But point people are, in fundamental ways, key holders when it comes to the technologies which will make up a company-wide framework for growth and expansion. Point people for individual tech implementations will be of great assistance to a CTO, and if the firm does not have a CTO, they are all the more necessary.
Leverage Archiving Capacity
One of the biggest utilities of new cloud-native unified communications systems is the ability to store data for retrieval later. In general, everything in your business is a data asset. Whether it’s a videoconferencing call, sales numbers from last year or metadata about customer histories, all of these things contribute to business insights. So having the ability to mine them is key. That’s what the most modern unified communication tools do – they automate the storage and retrieval of key data sets, in the free flow of information to where it’s needed, without silos or bottlenecks.
With that in mind, one great rule for getting truly prepared for workstream communications is to create e-discovery systems and retrieval processes that are going to facilitate that key work, that mining of data for BI. These systems will trek the terrain of object storage, data center cold facilities and the footprint of the firm’s SOA to get the necessary data for real-time operations.
If you’re headed toward a new communications sandbox, think about the above points to get agile and prepare for what’s ahead.