Unified Communications (UC) takes core technologies, such as audio, video, real-time communications, and instant messaging and delivers them in a way that make employees more productive, while enhancing business communications and collaboration. Along with the momentum in UC adoption comes the challenges with delivering its infrastructure. A seamless end-user experience is key to the successful adoption and utilization of any UC system, and is increasingly becoming an area of focus for product and service providers.
User Experience (UX) is the process of designing a product or service that is easy to use, fits the user’s expectations, and meets business goals. Analyst Bern Elliot, who co-wrote market research firm Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for UC, in an interview with CRN stated, “One of the things that happens in a mainstream environment is that execution becomes more important than innovation.” It doesn’t matter how innovative a product or service is if it’s not executed seamlessly among end users.
Rob Arnold, an analyst for Frost & Sullivan, discussed in-depth the focus on user experience in UC during an episode of Digium Live, a video series dedicated to technology issues and trends in the telephony industry. Arnold is the Principal Analyst for Information and Communications Technology (ICT), one of the biggest business units of Frost & Sullivan. Areas the ICT unit focus on include: VoIP, telephony, multimedia conferencing, and mobility. “We look at how people are working, and what tools they are working with,” Arnold explains.
Arnold points out that in previous years, the real focus of UC was on network convergence, application convergence, and making things easier for IT- but that didn’t necessarily drive adoption and utilization for the end-user base. The focus lately has been on making the UC platform easier to access and more intuitive, giving users more ubiquitous access to their applications. “User experience in UC is now about giving users the right amount of tools to optimize their experience for who they are, what they prefer, what they are trying to achieve, and where they are at any given time,” he states.
Personalization of the user experience is about having a consumer-centric look and feel in the way that applications are accessed and used. In the consumer world, we have the autonomy to buy the devices we want, and because of that, most professionals have better technology at home than they do at work. There has been a lot of talk about bring-your-own-device (BYOD), but that’s too narrow of a concept according to Arnold.
“It’s really more about bring-your-own-technology, which is inclusive of the applications and the devices,” he says. “Consumer-centric applications, like file sharing or chat, might be on your desktop or on your smart device. This trend is proving that in the market, users want to choose their own applications to make the experience personal.”
Creating and implementing a seamless user experience does have its challenges. Imagine you are on an international business trip to London, but you are collaborating with your team in San Francisco. Communication factors taken into consideration here include latency, bandwidth implications, and sharing infrastructure with other types of applications. In addition to those, are you even sure you know how to access and use all the features available to you? Does your team?
In a recent Softchoice survey of 750 end-user employees and 250 IT managers, 71 percent said they use fewer of the communication tools than their companies actually make available to them. Why? Over one-third of respondents admitted they did not know how to use some of the platform’s tools they have access to with their system. Initial training of your UC system is vital to its adoption rate, which directly influences the user experience.
As with most worthwhile ventures, deployment (and adoption) of a UC system does not happen overnight, but the technology is worth the small effort it takes to guarantee a seamless end-user experience. In order for your organization to fully realize the benefits, do your homework first: Understand UC and its capabilities, keep the end-user in mind when choosing a system, properly train employees, and get manager buy-in. Leveraging technology partners to provide insight and recommend the appropriate features for your organization will prove invaluable and have a direct impact where it matters most – on your bottom line.
Want to hear more from Rob Arnold? Watch the full interview on Digium Live.