Understanding collaboration and unified communications

November 16, 2011 2:20 pm 0 comments

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Karl Reed Understanding collaboration and unified communicationsWhile social media is grabbing the headlines there are equally dramatic changes currently occurring across the world in the way groups of people are collaborating and working together.

These changes should be throwing up many interesting communication questions for corporate decision makers.

A massive number of collaboration tools exist at every level of economic activity. These tools offer extensive control over project workflow, regardless of where in the world team members are situated. It’s now a global standard, in fact, for project teams to be highly fragmented, geographically speaking. Workflow portals and tools allow these teams to maintain version control over their documents and processes, to share ideas and to create project specific information repositories.

Within the very broad field of project collaboration, Unified Communication tools are having a significant impact on the contact centre landscape. The force behind the Unified Communication change is simple: faster resolution speed. By utilising centralised collaboration tools, customer service teams are able to resolve the disparate elements of a claim or a query at far faster speeds than were previously possible.

Thanks to these tools, an insurance claim, for example, can move between the legal department, the service provider delivering the actual repair and the accounts department seamlessly, slashing resolution time in the process. In a cut throat economy, this kind of macro level productivity boost is pure gold.

But as the world’s collaborative ability grows, so corporations must address the ad hoc use of tools and services by staff members operating outside the context of the contact centre. The bottom line is that once you’ve chosen a collaboration tool for a project, it is exceptionally difficult to go back and change it.

The project and the collaborative tool weave together tightly, and when the tool is unable to deliver on key requirements (when it can’t meet the stipulations of the Consumer Protection Act, for example), the company can get caught in a tough position - one where it’s too late to go back, and where it’s getting harder and harder to go forward.

The core issue is that there are so many wonderful, highly functional collaborative tools out there for people to use. Unless decision makers are paying careful attention, they could find that their staff are instinctively taking advantage of free or commercial collaboration tools, without considering the need for these tools to integrate with the existing communication infrastructure.Unpicking the tangled process web that results from ad hoc collaboration can be very complex.

Firstly, achieving integration with existing communications systems, such as those that allow for Unified Communications within the contact centre, can be very difficult.

Even worse, if the collaborative tool or service does not meet legal requirements, the possibility of law suits always lurks. Add to this the prevalence of social media, which is steadily integrating into corporate life and which is by its very nature a vast, informal collaborative tool, and collaboration starts to take a clearer, and possibly more ominous, shape on the strategic horizon.

The first step in addressing this challenge for most organisations should be to re-evaluate the entire communication infrastructure. This re-evaluation should assess what kind of usage of informal collaborative tools is occurring, and how this usage relates to the organisation’s formal communications system.

This is an extended undertaking and will require a partnership with an industry specialist if it is to achieve its intended goals. It will inevitably involve, in fact, a through re-assessment of all communications within the organisation, from top to bottom. But given the speed at which basic communications paradigms are changing, that can only be a good thing.

By Karl Reed, marketing director at Elingo

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