The Future of Unified Communications + Collaboration
The process of unifying communication related data began in the 90’s when companies like Esna worked to build unified messaging, bringing email, fax and voice messages together into one interface. This provided business professionals with a consolidated mailbox for managing all their messages. As unified messaging evolved, it expanded to include other important information types like calendar presence and integration with CRM applications, social and other business process tools. This new unified communications (UC) solution became a powerful tool to help busy professionals be more productive from anywhere.
As I look ahead to the next logical evolution for UC, I believe it will become even more integrated with business process by aggregating, correlating and sharing the valuable information that flows through a business. There are so many threads of individual activity happening each day within an enterprise. In the future, UC will provide business professionals with rich information about what is happening with their customers, peers, and partners and offer deeper context around the conversations they are having with them.
Today, lots of important information about customers, initiatives and activities is captured—but it’s in silos like CRM and ERP systems, web analytics, meeting notes, social sites, phone calls, and internal sites. And there’s also relevant, indirect information that provides additional context including geo location, presence and time of day. The real value of all this data is clear only when you can pull that information together, correlate it to specific events, activities or topics and understand the insights that are revealed. UC already touches most of these systems today—and in the future it can connect with more—becoming a logical way to integrate and extract meaning from these many sources of business intelligence and data.
For example, what if you could easily see all the touch-points that a specific customer has into your business—from the calls made to and from that customer to the volume of meetings your teams are having with them, to the web searches that customer is doing on your support site? And what if that information was correlated in real time and served up to you proactively?
With the full picture of all the types of activity going on with that customer you gain a more holistic view of the relationship and are able to take action more quickly on information that might indicate a need or a problem with that customer.
The challenge is that sharing information is not natural for all people. It’s hard to get them to input event-driven interactions and relationship context into the many business process tools they already have and it’s complicated to share that information widely within an enterprise. In the advanced technology labs at Esna, we are looking at how collaboration can become even more deeply, and automatically, embedded in business process. How it can provide the critical link between different information sources and bring data together in more meaningful ways that help encourage collaboration and drive the business forward.
We can use these tools to make it even easier for individuals to report activity and then make it more valuable by presenting it at an aggregate level. This can help not only with understanding customer activity better, but also as a way to bring virtual teams together who are doing similar work in different areas of the business. If I can see who else at my company is doing similar stuff or working with the same customers – globally – I can be better connected to my colleagues and avoid duplicate work.
Just as unified messaging brought together email and voice communication, we think that aggregating data from all kinds of business process tools into a richer fabric of meaning is what the future of collaboration is all about.