The future of UC calls for more focus on the user

By now, practically everyone has had some sort of interaction with modern business communication tools, whether it's voice-over-IP or unified communications. Everyone knows that Internet-based collaboration tools are the next big thing – that's not news. What is a relatively new idea, however, is that those using the technology should be considered, and catering to them is the best way to see widespread adoption of your product.

"Improved functionality aims to cut down on the use of unapproved devices."

As the enterprise communications industry has evolved and matured, it is becoming decreasingly necessary to explain the value of UC features. Instead, the focus is now shifting toward ensuring a positive experience for end users that will leave them wanting more of the technologies and solutions providers offer. Historically, business users have often gone around the back of the IT department and brought in the solutions they felt most comfortable with, but this push toward user functionality is looking to change that.

Function over form
Most workers don't just want 'the next big thing' – they want the next big thing that will actually help them do their jobs. The entire idea behind bring-your-own-device is predicated on the fact that if employees aren't given the tools and user experience they are looking for, workers will just bring in the tools they prefer. While this is a good idea in theory, most solutions users turn to are consumer-driven and don't offer much in the way of enterprise-level security. Businesses are beginning to realize that in order to have an effective mobile strategy while still ensuring privacy and security, they will need to offer their staffs enterprise-grade solutions that workers will actually want to use.

No Jitter contributor Blair Pleasant recently visited this year's Enterprise Connect conference and came back with one overarching theme – this year is the Year of the User.

"At Enterprise Connect, I was heartened to hear so many discussions focused not on the technology, but rather on the next step – enhancing the user experience and increasing user adoption of the technologies," said Pleasant. "This demonstrates the relative maturity of UCC solutions, and will help to drive market growth as more users demand these types of solutions."

While most providers want to brag about all of the features their platforms offer, you don't often hear many talking up how intuitive it is for those using it. That's a shame, because the user experience is probably the most critical component of any UC solution. Salespeople will happily go on and on about the underlying technology of their tools, but very few will explain how those features can help businesses solve problems or create desired outcomes. When you get down to it, employees aren't really interested in the inner workings of their devices and software, they just want something that helps them do their job better.

"Employees aren't interested in how their device works they just want something that helps them do their job better."

In order to start offering businesses what they want, providers need to start viewing UC solutions from the user's perspective, not just the IT department's. Pleasant suggested that salespeople need to start reading between the lines when it comes to offering tools. Rarely will a client ask for a specific technology, but they might explain a problem they are having that they hope their communication platform can help solve, such as 'My clients have trouble getting ahold of me when I'm out of the office and I need a better way of staying connected.' A salesperson can then suggest adding a UC solution that provides single number reach and mobile extension to solve the problem, showing how valuable the technology is when it comes to tackling real business issues.

The term unified communications has been thrown around a lot by both enterprises and tech companies, but we have yet to see a communications platform that is truly unified. This is beginning to change, however, with integration happening on a larger scale than ever before. A growing number of providers are offering platforms that enhance the user experience by enabling people to communicate and interact with others in a way that is intuitive to them and ties in with the other tools they come in contact with throughout the day.

Companies are investing large amounts of time and money in their new UC solutions, and now they must find a way to ensure that users adopt their technology. In order to improve their rates of adoption, businesses must consider all of their strategic and tactical options, chief among them being to consider users first and foremost. For those interacting with the tools, a successful experience is marked by how easy it is to bring participants from multiple locations into a Web conference or video collaboration session and by conveniently being able to access resources when necessary. Providing users with such a positive experience is the most reliable way to drive adoption.