IT solutions for increasing employee productivity have had a dramatic effect over recent years, beginning with the introduction of email, video conferencing and instant messaging, and more recently tablets and smartphones encouraging flexible and remote working. The result of this is that personal productivity has been boosted enormously – we have everything we need to do our jobs faster and more effectively, any time, anywhere in the world.
So what’s next?
Research suggests that increasing efficiency across organisations in the future won’t rely so heavily on the individual’s output - the new horizon in Unified Communications involves a big push towards team collaboration.
Enterprise collaboration platforms create an online space for groups working together on projects to communicate, meet online and share documents in real time, with the addition of Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence expected in the near future. Each vendor offering provides the tools to improve internal communication, share company expertise, track issues and solve business problems more efficiently using collective intelligence to give a competitive advantage. Teams can move faster, cross-pollinate ideas and avoid duplicating work.
There are several excellent examples of this software available, notably from Cisco, Microsoft and Slack, all with easily accessible, familiar interfaces. Just install one, we’re told, and save your team’s valuable time by efficiently keeping all the project communications and files in one place. Slack have recently announced a partnership with Google Drive which allows you to work on your Google documents directly within Slack – no more wasting time moving between different apps.
But here’s the problem
Software vendors recognise that teams are often spread across different offices, time zones and continents – that’s part of the reason this software is necessary. But what if they’re spread across different companies? Herein lies the problem.
Collaboration tools currently only allow collaboration with other people using the same tool. For internal company projects that’s no problem – one solution will be chosen and available to all employees.
But companies often work closely with 3rd parties and consultants, or develop strong business partnerships with other organisations. These external collaborators are integral to the project but may use a different company standard.
The definition of “teams” is changing
Software vendors suggest inviting external collaborators to download the software and join the project, but the result is a desktop full of different software for the various projects they are working on. Wasn’t it the point that there would be no more wasting time inefficiently flipping between apps, logging in, logging out and re-familiarising ourselves with how it works?
The reason vendors aren’t playing nicely is obvious – gaining a foothold as the dominant vendor in this new sector is key (and then fully monetising their offerings), but this is becoming a real headache for customers and a solution needs to be found.
A new Acano?
A few years ago before Cisco purchased them, Connect saw the value in Acano, which provides true collaboration infrastructure for video and audio conferencing. A comprehensive bridging solution, it enables interoperability between different devices and previously incompatible services including Skype4B, Polycom, Cisco etc.
In other words, it gets different platforms to work together, with the Acano server translating communications between the two. Anyone can connect and join a virtual meeting room using any device, any software, any hardware, and have the same great user experience for calls, video calls and content sharing.
Unfortunately, as brilliant as Acano is at an individual level, it can’t currently deal with all the elements of team collaboration.
Having personally witnessed how Acano saves companies time and money by stabilising and smoothing away communication problems between conflicting competitive technologies, I am convinced that we need a similar solution that works for teams – a bridging link between the different collaboration platforms to make them speak the same language.
Perhaps the collaboration technology vendors could practice what they preach and collaborate to find a solution and make this work.
Of course the first obstacle for that virtual meeting will be “your software or mine?”