Image by: Gerak, ©2016 Getty Images

In the collaboration space, and specifically in the unified communications and collaboration (UCC) market, we get so caught up on our own jargon, technical terms, naming conventions, and identifying categories that we lose sight of what really matters—how the technology or tool helps people get their work done. To be frank, business users don’t go around talking about unified communications (UC), UCC, or any of the other tech acronyms that information technology (IT) folks use.

This is all about enabling people processes to increase efficiency and improve productivity. It’s about enabling people to work collaboratively in the most natural way possible. The technology itself has to be focused on the business outcomes or the goals we are trying to achieve—and with that, it has to be people-centric.

Moving to intelligent collaboration solutions
Users need solutions to everyday business problems. They need tools that free them up to share, communicate, and work collaboratively without friction with internal and external constituents. They need tools that help to provide context, enable and capture information flows, and are intelligent enough to yield insights from that information to make better business decisions.

I recently spoke with the chief executive officer (CEO) of a telecommunications company who explained that he often has to reign in his engineers when they try to excitedly and unnecessarily add features to products that aren’t needed or required by users. From a product development perspective, just because we "can" doesn’t mean we "have to." Products are sometimes so bloated with features that they only serve the purpose of making the development team feel good about themselves. The product itself becomes too complex for users.

We are starting to see specific tools being introduced in targeted business areas to bring collaboration capabilities for critical use cases. These tools have to be solution-focused in order to resonate with and be adopted by business users. Targeted tools will expand to be a part of the enterprise collaboration fabric. These tools will come together to form a flexible platform as a service (PaaS) in which capabilities can be embedded as services into business applications and processes while keeping context.

Technology buying centers shift to lines of business
As the buying centers for collaboration technology switches to line of business leaders, there needs to be an ever-tighter synergy between all lines of business, including IT. This overall shift to business buyers means a sharper focus on business outcomes. Collaboration has to be applied to specific business needs and outcomes. Therefore, it has to be measured against key performance indicators (KPIs).

The focus on measurable collaboration will lead to an increased need for analytics. Insight from analytics about people, data, relationships, work patterns, and behaviors can lead to better decisions in the context of a business process. Leveraging algorithms to automate recommendations for better decisions and actions will see collaboration applications get smarter over time.

Final thoughts
Users are bombarded with way too many applications in their organizations. We still have way too many technology and applications silos. What’s needed is an elegant aggregation of social, business applications, video, analytics, traditional voice communications, and collaboration tools with effective user experience that can be accessed in a seamless way from any device, anywhere. Think about the goals, purpose, or specific business outcome when it comes to collaboration technology investments.

David Mario Smith is Founder and Principal Analyst at InFlow Analysis. Mr. Smith is a Gartner veteran of over 16 years and an IT industry professional with 20 years of experience in the collaboration and workplace technology markets. For more information, visit or follow him on Twitter @DaveMario.

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