by Dave Smith

Unifying people and communications technology to drive better business outcomes

Dec 10, 2018
IT LeadershipTechnology Industry

Any business process is essentially a series of collaborative events that take place between various internal and external actors. It's time enterprise planners realize this, and plan accordingly.

stock photo business people huddled around conference table 95171255 1
Credit: Puppet

I just recently attended and spoke at RingCentral’s ConnectCentral conference in San Francisco, Nov 12-14, where the key driving theme was Unite. The idea is around uniting people, technology, business and ideas in the digital workplace. During my time there speaking with customers and partners, I began to reflect on my years covering the unified communications and collaboration space. It dawned on me that while we attempted to unify communications and collaboration technology, we forgot the people, who are actually using the stuff. In fact, there is a seamless dance between the people, data, content, applications and processes. So, technology has to come down into the flow of how people work. It has to enable conversational experiences within business workflows. And indeed, that was the heart of the discussion in my session.

So, one of the biggest realizations for me in covering this space over the years is that we need to recast from a technology only view to a people-centric view of communications and collaboration. Clearly, in every business process and workflow, communications and collaboration are critical. Conversations are the lifeblood of business processes. In countless surveys of business leaders, communication continues to emerge as a top priority.

Often times as technology industry analysts, we’ve contributed to a predominant technology view because we speak with a lot of IT leaders and have to show off our “geek.” What helped to change and evolve me as an analyst was my intimate exposure to not only IT, but business practitioners and lines of business leaders in my travels around the country and internationally. Speaking directly with the people who needed to improve productivity and streamline business processes is a constant revelation. Couple that with having to do it in my own organization, makes it all the more relevant.

Every organization is experiencing digital transformation. The fact is a lot of us are reacting, because the transformation didn’t wait for us. But the good news is, if we keep our focus on people, customers, employees and their needs, we’ll be in the right flow and help to transform our companies and organizations for the better.

Speaking with business decision-makers

So, it was fitting that while at the conference, I made it a point to speak to attendees and hear their stories. I had the opportunity to speak in depth with Chad Reese, Director of Technology, Pro Football Hall of Fame and Brandon Keller, Operations Manager, Triumph Motorcycles. They explained their decisions to go fully cloud for voice, communications and collaboration with RingCentral. Chad Reese explained the decision was quite easy and the experience thus far with RingCentral Office and Meetings solutions has been exceptionally good. Being a cloud communications solution, implementation went rather quickly. With the ease of implementation, Chad mentioned they didn’t have to deal with a lot of support issues. The solution is also helpful in bridging external connections, like helping to build their community youth outreach programs.

In speaking with Brandon Keller, he expressed some of the same sentiments with ease of implementation and great user experience with the RingCentral communications solution. In our discussion, Brandon made it a point to let me know that he was not a technologist. He does not consider himself to be one. So, here we have a rollout of a cloud communications solution managed by a non-IT person. This speaks to why we’re seeing an increase in adoption of cloud communications solutions. Here a business decision-maker went from assessment and a buying decision to just turning it on. This is the evolution of cloud communications and collaboration technology.

At the end of the day, both Brandon’s and Chad’s goals were to enable better communication, collaboration and connectivity within their organizations and with external constituents. They focused their decisions on how people work and what would enable them to connect better and get their work done. The idea is to foster conversational experiences and a culture of collaboration. People have to be central to and involved in the technology decision-making process.

The shift to conversational experiences

This brings me to my own session at ConnectCentral, where I talked about the future of conversational workspaces and how organizations can drive better business outcomes and a collaborative team environment. What we are seeing is a shift to and a desire for more conversational experiences within business processes and workflows.  After all, it’s people who are intimately involved. While those processes can be ad hoc or structured, the conversations have to be supported and kept contextual to have any real benefit of furthering the business process and achieving the desired business outcome. The communications technology cannot be an impediment to this.

And so, this shift to conversational experiences brings new focus on conversational interfaces and workspaces, where conversations can happen and be accessed by people. It speaks to enabling communities where conversations flow seamlessly around business workflows. APIs (application programming interfaces) that integrate communications and business apps and bring necessary context are critical. We have to think about bringing in intelligence like machine learning, natural language processing (NLP) and chatbots for more intelligent process automation.

To wrap this up with my analyst hat on, I recommend enterprise planners think carefully through the people, process and technology paradigm. Establish a living architecture where technology decisions are a component along with people, applications and processes. The architectural framework concept will serve to simplify for planning purposes, the confluence of content, collaborative and business process services. I presented an example of this reference architecture during my talk at the ConnectCentral conference.  This framework of a conversational collaboration architecture brings the awareness that any business process is essentially a series of collaborative events that take place between various internal and external actors. These points of interaction are oftentimes enabled by communications technology that create virtual conversational spaces. This is where people come together to create, inform, negotiate or persuade each other in ways that advance the business process. I’ll speak more about this architecture in upcoming pieces.