The explosion of Team Collaboration

Team collaboration has quickly become one of the one of the hottest trends in the UCaaS space as businesses look to create an efficient dialogue, and work collaboration, between a distributed work force. As the market matures, we are seeing some major shifts in leadership position which could have significant impact on the Channel.

Collaboration technology is being consumed by businesses for a number of reasons today. To break down silo mentalities, enabling efficiencies across projects, to create in-context conversations simple and so much more.

Anyone who is collaborating today – in Marketing, HR, Product, Finance, Sales or another department – needs a tool for making communications, coordination and tracking tasks easier, whether that’s a full project management solution or a more easy-to-deploy streamlined version that better suits teams across the organisation.

By putting in place technologies that ensure project teams can collaborate effectively and provide flexibility for teams to make necessary adjustments on the fly creates a faster, more effective decision process and ultimately contributes to business success.

Collaboration considerations

Jeff May, Channel Manager, Konftel

• Understand the whole proposal, not just the software, app and services from each
• Check and ensure to have compatible hardware
• Understand and explain CapEx and OpEx options and the benefits of each
• Understand the Interop with other solutions
• Provision the necessary support requirements
• Know the market trends and segments
• Understand that whatever you onboard compliments your skills and your customer base

Darren Gallagher, Global Director – Solution Management – Collaboration, Atos commented “The future of the Digital Workplace and the way people work together is grounded in a fully interconnected world which combines business relevant activities, collaboration and IoT generated information. People, things and data must work together with each other seamlessly to deliver the best outcomes in the “connected everything” age. As a result, it’s vital that collaboration solutions are able to operate as part of a multi-vendor strategy, or even better to provide such an eco-system which allows interaction with the surrounding technology landscape.

“Furthermore, the collaboration solution should leverage existing environments and investments and be flexible enough to support hybrid as well as pure cloud models. It should also offer evolutionary steps which allow the customer to control the degree and speed of the digital transformation for them to move at their own pace. And we must not forget about the use cases of the customers’ customer.

Gallagher continued “Don’t just think about your own internal enterprise collaboration, remember to pay attention to the most important element of your business – your customers, the interactions with them and how can you provide the best possible experience.”

Distributor viewpoint

Maryam Arbabi, Alliances and Marketing Director EMEA at Nuvias

“There are two main issues for on-boarding. The first is the demographic of employees. It’s important to look at the digital demographic of your user base to build a corporate platform based on what they are used to using and making it simple for them to use in the workplace. This is critical when driving adoption of the platform and increasing productivity and communication. The second element to consider is integration into existing communications platforms you may already have running, like video conferencing, voice and email. Having one seamless unified communications strategy and adoption will drive staff to uptake these tools and use them more effectively ensuring ROI on your investment.”

Maryam Arbabi, Alliances and Marketing Director EMEA at Nuvias

Paul Gibbs, Head of UCaaS and Mid-Market Sales at Gamma added, “Team collaboration is part of a communications solution so you need to think about how it fits into that overall strategy – think about all the communications channels and all the people you need to speak to, for example how do you make telephone calls to suppliers and customers. You also need to think about how your workforce operate day to day, how much time is spent in team collaboration working, how often are users mobile, how many work remotely, and then ensure the solution meets the need of the users.

“Finally, it’s so important to understand the true value collaboration delivers as it can sometimes be a little fluffy. We have worked hard on delivering tools and upskilling the channel to be able to deliver this to the end user in a ‘real’ format which shows a solid ROI.”

Jon Knight, Commercial Director, Ascentae said, “Not everyone in business does the same job so there’s a need for technologies that aren’t specific to one platform, they should be tied to the task not the hardware. Activity based working helps to create different types of environment based on the task being performed. Technology should enable people, not force them to work in a different way and it should complement existing investments. That’s why understanding the environment and working practices is key to on-boarding new clients.

“But it doesn’t stop there. Working with new customers means working with them after the solution is implemented to help them to get the value from the technology quickly. Key to this is creating early proof points. Starting small and growing the use of collaboration technology is often the way to help end-users to build confidence and see the benefits; creating forums for people to share experience and pose questions helps people to get the best from the technology. Early adopters can then help others in the organisation to understand and use the technology more widely in the business.”

Microsoft gets serious about Teams

Microsoft Teams is the taking the business world by storm accruing over 13 million daily users and overtaking its rival Slack in just 18 months from a standing start. Claimed as Microsoft fastest growing business application in the company’s history, Teams is the convergence point for all Microsoft’s key assets: Office, SharePoint, Azure, Messaging and Meetings. It’s now being offered as standard in Office365 bundles which has helped propel Teams into a leadership position.

Paul Gibbs commented, “Microsoft are certainly making an impact with Teams as it’s often integrated into the software stack a customer buys. Less so when considered as part of a unified communications stack, as adoption of voice telephony is still challenging to the enterprise. It’s very important that resellers illustrate their value in delivering services underpinned by feature rich telephony, video and audio as it will be a considerable time before Microsoft piece this jigsaw together.”

Charles Rickett, Managing Director at V12 Telecom sees Microsoft Teams a major disrupter in the telecoms market that will blur the lines between traditional IT and telecoms resellers. He also sees it as a great opportunity to revisit the voice conversation with customers.

Rickett says, “High-quality voice is an important part of a business solution. MS Teams has a voice app for internal Teams users. However, it is not meant for broader business communications where you could be calling mobiles, making international calls or if you have a call centre setup. This is where an integrated PSTN solution comes in. It must make sense to utilise a service that allows you to communicate with the widest possible audience, not just within your own organisation.”

Charles Rickett, Managing Director at V12 Telecom

Mark Herbert, CEO of Call2Teams commented, “This Teams PBX interface is called ‘Direct routing’ and opens-up massive opportunities for savvy partners to jump on the back of Microsoft as Teams gallops down the track. Customers using Teams want to do everything in one-place, across all devices and this includes messaging, meetings and phone calling. There is a swelling customer base that understands the value and costs saving of using the new Teams client to manage and do everything.

“Whilst there is enthusiasm amongst users to do everything in Teams, there are serious business requirements that must continue to be delivered, such as compliance, reporting, call centres etc. and more boring requirements like users or locations that just want a simple phone. This is the domain of the high-functioning PBX systems that are the bread and butter of the channel. Today, even the humble door entry phone can be a key reason why the PBX has to stay, let alone the cost and disruption of replacing all of the existing desktop handsets and devices or replicating complex call routing and call flows. What’s needed is the ability to retain the PBX capability and deliver the users a Teams calling experience.”

What do customers actually need?

Jackie Groves, RVP UK, Fuze

“Seamless collaboration is actually what customers need, so evaluating an isolated approach such as team collaboration may come up short for the customer. A customer should be able to effortlessly move between telephony calls, video and messaging without service interruption. The implementation of a collaboration solution is often part of a company’s wider digital transformation strategy so support by a partner to drive cultural change and deliver on adoption goals can be of significant value —especially while ensuring that an agile and flexible collaboration solution is selected.

“Successful adoption of collaboration can only be achieved when solutions are intuitive and easy to use in an individual’s day-to-day working life. If a partner aligns themselves with a company that delivers on these goals, they are more likely to be successful in this marketplace.

“Performant networks — especially Wi-Fi — are essential to drive forward the successful move to collaboration solutions. It’s vital that users have a good and consistent experience. While high quality, cost effective cameras and headsets are also key enablers to ensure that collaboration technology can be leveraged from anywhere and provide all users with effective meeting capabilities.”

WebRTC impact?

Hailed as the industry ‘game-changer’ about five years ago WebRTC didn’t quite get the start many thought it would. After the browsers managed to agree on their common standards the WebRTC train is now gathering pace.

Darren Gallagher says “The future is about cloud, mobility, light weight web technologies, and communication API’s (CPaaS). When it comes to collaboration, Web RTC is a must have for collaboration everywhere and with any device. With the increased transformation to cloud, security and cyber security solutions are more and more important. Clearly Web RTC and security technologies are very important, but they can be considered as base technologies.

“Powerful future-proof collaboration solutions will help to automate routine work by embracing artificial intelligence and workflow automation technologies to drive outcome-based business results. Transcription and translation are perfect examples which add tremendous value in the areas of organizational knowledge, during meetings, through customer interactions with bots and in vertical and industrial use cases.”

Ian Rowan, Channel Manager at Wildix UK, commented “WebRTC is a technology that is already everywhere, every PC, every Mac and every mobile device, this means users, both internal and external can collaborate without the need to install anything, not even a plug in, how can this not transform the way we collaborate when you consider that WebRTC supports Voice, video, chat, file transfer and screen sharing, all the functions that users require to collaborate.

“So why are so many vendors still using standalone applications that need to be installed, configured and supported? As an added bonus, using WebRTC to provide this functionality within a Web browser means that users are not worried about using another new application, workforce now are already using similar web applications for chat etc without attending any training course.
“There are so many more advantages of WebRTC, think about BYOD or remote working, its great I can access the web-based CRM system but if you can offer the full features of the telephone system that includes a Full UC&C solution then why have a phone at all. The same can be said for remote working, even in an emergency, I know given the time of year snow days could not be further from our minds but how many business days were lost last year due to snow? We have to face facts; our climate is changing so unexpected weather will affect us more and more. Already knowing customers devices will support your internal systems should be considered.”

Embrace openness

Simon Aldous, Global Head of Channels, Dropbox

Simon Aldous, Global Head of Channels, Dropbox

“There has been a huge growth in virtual teams and projects. Cloud collaboration tools have enabled teams to be disperse, and therefore businesses can be more agile and hire the best talent. More companies will continue to deploy collaboration tools as the need for teams to work together in real time grows, especially as more SMBs wave goodbye to their on-premise central server. As more SaaS applications are added to the ecosystem, platforms that allow openness will thrive.”

The future of collaboration

Matteo Kotch, Cloud Business Development Manager – Europe North, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) commented “Another technology or means that is impacting the way collaboration apps are being delivered is through the online ‘developer hubs’ that many collaboration vendors are starting to actively promote. Through these online platforms, developers, business and customer can access the APIs and SDKs that make up the application and can then integrate them into their existing environments. The result – users can continue using the applications or platforms they’re used to but can also benefit from the additional collaboration features offered by the recently-integrated application.”

In this Channel Insider podcast Editor of Comms Business, David Dungay, spoke to his experts about the current telecoms fraud landscape in the UK and what kind of activity they are witnessing on the network. Teams has also overtaken Slack for the number of active users and is officially the fastest growing Microsoft product of all time. But what does this mean for the Channel and has Microsoft finally managed to solve its biggest Achilles heel… voice?

Guests:
Adam Zoldan, Director of Knight Corporate Finance
Lucy Green, MD of Larato
Paul Taylor, Sales Director of Voiceflex
Adrian Sunderland, CTO of Jola


 

Vendor viewpoint

Paul Dunne, Head of EMEA Channels and Alliances, Poly

“It is the vendor’s job to simplify the UC&C technology for both external and internal business communications. Poly develops open standards-based solutions that work seamlessly with all other UC&C audio and video collaboration devices and solutions available in the market. Working closely with our partners, we offer organisations the ability to customise the UC&C package they purchase. We provide training and certifications to our partners so they can offer the best package of solutions that is created individually for each customer. The best type of collaboration tool/process demands technology that doesn’t require any setup, can connect to multiple audio or video conferencing solutions and automatically integrates whether you are in a huddle room, large meeting room or using, for example, BlueJeans, Zoom or Microsoft Teams from at desk using a high-performance UC&C headset. Less time spent connecting is less time wasted and, of course, less stress which directly impacts the business’ relationship with customers or partners for the better.”

Christopher Peters, VP EMEA Channels, 8×8, says we will see developments into 2020 and beyond in two major areas.

He said, “Firstly, infusing communications into workflows will improve business agility, making users more productive and accelerating problem resolution. As other enterprise applications move to the cloud, we also expect that leading UCaaS solutions will be able to easily integrate with virtually any app, enabling data to flow throughout businesses and build fully integrated cloud tech stacks.

“Secondly, as video becomes as important as voice, we expect there to be more innovation in video solutions for businesses. Enabling customers to easily collaborate from anywhere on any device using the most integrated video and audio conferencing will allow much more personnel interactions.”

Gallagher added “We will see continuation in the transition to cloud, but we also see growth in hybrid deployment models to balance business continuity and data privacy alongside the standard benefits of cloud.

“Artificial intelligence capabilities will deliver higher consistency and faster time to market solutions, reducing human error. AI will reduce routine work and make millions of jobs obsolete, but equally create even more and very high value job profiles driving innovation and new business. Customers will also ask for vertical and industry solution blueprints and more interconnected solutions.”

Gibbs says, “Teams as part of a Unified Communications stack will grow, but many organisations will adopt solutions that meet the needs of their business in the short and medium term. For example, they will have the best of breed UC solution and have a separate team collaboration solution, such as Slack, until the team collaboration market matures. I think we will see the desire for a single solution grow instead of using multiples tools.”

Ed says

It’s time to grab your share of the collaboration market. Customers will be asking for well known brands in the market and it’s up to you to produce something which fits their needs. One brand not mentioned here is Facebook Workplace, they surpassed two million paid for users in February and there is undoubtedly more to come. In the same way Microsoft has leveraged its Office 365 subscriptions Facebook is looking how to leverage its huge number of WhatsApp users.

“Finally, it’s so important to understand the true value collaboration delivers as it can sometimes be a little fluffy. We have worked hard on delivering tools and upskilling the channel to be able to deliver this to the end user in a ‘real’ format which shows a solid ROI.” – Paul Gibbs, Head of UCaaS and mid-market, Gamma

“The future is about cloud, mobility, light weight web technologies, and communication API’s (CPaaS). When it comes to collaboration, Web RTC is a must have for collaboration everywhere and with any device.” – Darren Gallagher, Global Director – Solution Management – Collaboration, Atos

STATS

The collaboration software market will grow 9% in 2019 to $45bn – Synergy Research Group

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David Dungay

Editor - Comms Business Magazine