Nearly every company is using some form of cloud-based application today and cloud is shaping up as the most effective way to deliver unified communications (UC) applications. What’s more, UC technology is progressing beyond merely enabling users to collaborate with one another, to getting them more thoroughly engaged in the work they do.
Those are the high points from a podcast conversation my colleague Kevin Gulley recently had with Henry Dewing, a Strategic Marketing Executive and Senior Evangelist at Avaya. And an evangelist he certainly is, as you would be hard pressed to find anyone more bullish about UC technology. (Check out the podcast of the conversation here.)
Engagement – the End Goal of Collaboration
The “engagement” theme is one that Avaya has been touting for some time, as it plays well with the company’s Avaya Engagement Development Platform, which is intended to help other companies integrate applications with Avaya’s UC technology.
UC enables communications and collaboration to occur in a way that’s close to natural, Dewing says. It aims to enable a distributed enterprise to “act like we’re all in one place at one time so you can tap the wisdom on the crowd.”
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Engagement, he says, takes things one step further. By making it so much easier for employees to find the information they need as well as experts who can help them quickly make decisions, they recognize that they can get work done faster. As a result, they become more engaged in their work.
“Engagement is really about making your employees and customers happier because they’re engaged in the process, because they are committed to a result,” he says. “That can only happen when that collaboration and that communication happens naturally in the process of solving problems.”
The idea is to have UC technology become so engrained in the way people work that “it’s part of the woodwork,” Dewing says. Key to that is the application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) that Avaya has created to enable partners to build applications that take advantage of its UC infrastructure.
“Public, standard, stable APIs and SDKs… allow our partners to build applications that solve real customer problems and that work seamlessly with our infrastructure,” he says.
The end result is applications that enable employees to connect with one another and with the information they need no matter where they may be.
“It’s not changing the way you work, but allowing you to work in a way that’s natural,” Dewing says. “It’s more changing the where you work than changing the way you work. You can do your job from anywhere at any time because you can reach any person and any piece of information.”
The Role of the Cloud in Delivering on BYOD and 24×7 Connectivity
Cloud is crucial to the entire effort. When he talks to customers about their needs, they routinely talk about mobility, bring your own device (BYOD) and the 24×7 work environment that is the reality in global companies that cross time zones (and, many that don’t cross so many time zones, for that matter). It’s about always being connected, any time, anywhere.
“There is no way to deliver that other than cloud,” he says. “I prefer not to think of cloud as solution that we’re selling but a delivery mechanism and architecture that enables our collaboration and engagement solutions to be delivered to information workers where they need to get their job done.”
Companies are on the cloud bandwagon in a big way. “Probably greater than 90% of businesses out there today are using some form of cloud in their collaboration infrastructure,” he says – even if IT isn’t aware of it.
In some cases, IT is struggling to keep up with demands from end users, be it the CEO or new college hires who demand tools that IT has never heard of. He makes the point that IT faces a learning curve in implementing cloud-based UC solutions, which is true enough, given the furious pace at which the offerings are emerging.Getting There from Here: the Cloud Migration Path
Asked what the migration path is for companies that have hefty investments in UC infrastructure already, Dewing’s answer put me in mind of the Grateful Dead song, “So Many Roads.”
“There’s not just one path,” he says. Large enterprises have had their eye on cloud offerings for years and many have invested heavily in virtualization technology and private cloud infrastructure. They are in good position to move some of that infrastructure to a public cloud as opportunities for cost savings present themselves.
Others were more skeptical and slower to prepare, but are now starting to implement some applications in a piecemeal fashion, whether it’s web-based conferencing or VoIP. Or maybe they invest in an application that some group within the company identifies as a requirement.
For its part, Avaya has been working to make sure its solutions can run either on the user’s premises or in the cloud while also working to ensure its end point solutions work well with cloud-based UC services.
“We have been working to increase the variety and capability of those end points and end point connections to a cloud solution so [the cloud offerings] have many more opportunities to reach the end user where they work,” he says.
Click here to check out the entire podcast and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.