by Dan Burkland

How you can use UC to beat shadow IT communication channels

Oct 20, 2017
IT LeadershipUnified Communications

The simple act of optimizing your communication and maximizing the benefit of a single UC solution over others will quickly eliminate some of the shadowy internal competition.

group chat social networking
Credit: Thinkstock

IT faces a regular cadence of communication challenges. New technologies and platforms that facilitate office communication frequently enter the work arena. And office leadership challenges IT to keep pace, deploy better systems and re-architect old systems to suit the needs of different departments. 

However, there is seldom consensus between departments as to how their teams should communicate. In fact, different company departments often have a bad habit of walling off their communication. 

People have different communication preferences. Some prefer video chat, others face-to-face or email, or SMS. Similarly, people have preferred software environments: Google Chat, Slack, Facebook, Twitter, HipChat, Skype for Business, Asana, WebEx, etc. Those in leadership roles often make their preferences the standard for their team’s communication – even if that means adopting solutions without IT’s approval. 

Ever since the cloud, many departments have been bypassing IT and adopting solutions out of the cloud – often called shadow IT. Generally, IT still struggles with this as it related to all technology, including communication systems. 

What happens when a company has multiple chat platforms, social media and conferencing applications and other communication mediums? In such a situation, communication standards between departments is incredibly variable. As such, it becomes difficult to determine where and how to reach and collaborate with other adjoining departments. 

Create a standard UC and maximize its capabilities 

IT can reduce the impact of shadow IT and add sanity to the otherwise communication anarchy by simplifying mediums, integrating communication platforms and consolidating channels when possible. IT that creates comfortable and easy-to-access communication channels reduces the chances rouge departments will deploy their own detached solution. 

Now, standardizing a UC solution doesn’t completely eliminate shadow IT communication solutions. But the simple act of optimizing your communication and maximizing the benefit of a single UC solution over others will quickly eliminate some of the competition. Here’s how: 

1. Choose a UC provider that has good functionality 

Select a UC that can facilitate the entire scope of communication preferences (chat, video, phone, etc.). Look for interoperable communication solutions that allow employees to keep conversational context even as they toggle through different channels. 

For instance, an employee may host a Skype for Business conference video call but also maintain a chat window in the same space to privately communicate with individuals. This multi-capable function allows participants to keep the meeting on track while maintaining a sidebar to ask quick questions without disrupting the group. 

Look for UC solutions that keep employees in a native environment and don’t require multiple alternative tabs to communicate. Shop for additional features beneficial to your company like presence awareness, mobile apps and visual voicemail. Make your UC base attractive enough that deploying a secondary communication solution would seem superfluous. 

2. Build automation into your UC channels

Integrate your UC with other platforms and applications to facilitate collaborative and automated functions. 

Often times internal communications can become a system of redundancy. I may say or do something on one channel, but need to duplicate the request or action on another channel either for catalogue purposes or to append with requests for additional departments. Separate channels can be difficult to chronical. The more channels I have, the more my information is likely to get lost in translation from one medium to the next. 

IT can provide or deploy a layer of automation between certain communication functions. Something as simple as connecting a calendar request to chat and email can insure that fewer appointments go unlogged and there is greater transparency between teams. 

Consider how push reminders, group notifications and other cross-channel alerts could work to your office’s benefit. Integrate your UC with systems of record, your customer relationship management platform (CRM), email and/or your contact center solution. Find an agnostic UC that has seamless integration into other platforms and applications. 

3. Facilitate external collaboration 

Consider how a UC and contact center integration might facilitate collaboration beyond internal communication. 

Customers communicate with your business through multiple departments. Alone, your sales, service, marketing and finance departments are stuck answering questions restricted to just their knowledge base. If a customer needs expert help, or help from an additional department, what is your protocol? 

Companies that have not integrated their contact center with a UC solution might have to force the caller back into a hold, IVR, call-back line, or transfer them blindly to a back office subject matter expert (SME) in another department. By integrating UC and contact center, your agents are given full visibility to back office workers and other personal outside the contact center, so that intelligent worker transfer can occur to these SME’s. As a result, customers suffer delays that could otherwise be avoided with simplified internal communications. 

Again, let’s say that your company uses Skype for Business internally for communications. If you integrated Skype for Business UC with your contact center, what could your team accomplish? 

On the one-off calls, where customers had overly complex issues or questions that required another department, your employees could conference in experts to solve the problems immediately. The departmental collaboration, as a result of engineered communication, would improve customer satisfaction and operational efficiency.

Also, think of the additional benefits of combining your UC, contact center and CRM. By combining your company UC address book to CRM fields, you can more clearly define contact roles inside and outside your organization. This can improve routing and conferencing in both manual and automated processes. 

Companies often hold their IT department responsible for the bulk of technologies that help run their business. IT’s job isn’t to just deploy solutions to fill a function. They must delicately weave together solutions that provide the best efficiency and maintain them over the course of their deployment. Communication is the core of good business. Consequently, communication solutions are a crucial base for successful IT practice.