How UC Supports Workforce Collaboration

With the rise of outsourcing, enterprise teams must be able to effectively communicate and collaborate. Unified communications tools can help.

Joseph Harsch

May 18, 2015

4 Min Read
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I’m a huge movie buff. Mostly I watch science fiction, and I’m also a fan of documentaries, comedies, historical fiction, and thrillers. In "101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters," Karl Iglesias writes, “In no other form of writing is collaboration as important as in screenwriting.” Hollywood follows a formula that takes a raw idea, refines it,  and prepares it for production. Businesses act similarly when working on different projects that involve small teams, other enterprise resources, and external partners and vendors.

One of the most interesting changes in business the last few years has been the use of contract or external team members. Due to the tight, but recovering, global economy, firms are more likely to outsource certain pieces of work than hire. Teams are spinning up and down more rapidly, and technology needs to adapt. Getting work done means being productive with individuals that bring a diverse set of communications and collaboration needs with them, whether they are physically located within or outside traditional office locations.

The expanding requirements for team collaboration represent another use case for unified communications. Team collaboration is a focused application of UC that give teams, which are often geographically dispersed, online tools to rapidly exchange ideas and content while preserving the history of the collaborative effort.

In this blog, I'll  focus on four essential parts of  collaboration: core communications, persistence, cloud storage, and real-time recording.

Core communications

Core communications is the foundation of UC and includes the basics: chat, voice, video, desktop sharing, and multi-party collaboration.  In the early stages of script development, this is what the writer needs to get off the ground and quickly exchange ideas to develop the basic storyline.

Video and desktop sharing can be used to share initial visual components of the project such as drawings and storyboards.  The creative process almost always involves people inside and outside the studio businesses, so external access with a no-download web experience is a must.  Enterprises use these tools to expand the reach of the business to engage contractors.

The room concept

Team collaboration ultimately relies on a virtual workspace or room concept that exists for the life of a project. Inside the room, users have access to all the core communications capabilities; here is where the persistence of the chat helps. 

Today’s business is overwhelmed with email, and important information about a project is often hidden and unread in these emails. Persistent chat, like a microblog in Facebook for example, preserves important ideas and decisions in an easily accessible place -- the project room. These comments should be available via access from any device, and searchable so that the team can go back an easily find the decision, and context of that decision, in the history.

Hollywood follows a “notes” process that takes months or years, and many projects in business are exactly the same. Architects work years on large building plans and legal cases can take months of preparation and involve numerous people.  At the same time, teams are dynamic. Feedback is ever changing, and old and new collaborators can join the room to continue the discussion. Being able to scroll back and search the chat session to find previously discussed topics can greatly improve the overall process.

Online storage

Online storage for co-editing of documents is another key component of team collaboration. Conference calls and working sessions can be inefficient, and comprehension suffers when everyone is not working with the same material. Because enterprises rely on email to send presentations and other material, they are hampered by data size limits, multiple versions, and general email clutter. Working from a common version -- accessible in a common online repository -- and using a solution that allows co-editing of that material speeds up individual meetings, as well as the overall project.

By extending the room/workspace concept and linking it to shared document storage space, groups can move quickly. The key  question here is whether to dictate the online storage medium. There are many options like Google Drive, Box, and Dropbox that offer secure, easy-to-use storage options. It’s important that the UC/team collaboration solution be easily extendable to these environments to give  IT as well as the broader organization flexibility to use whichever solution best meets project needs.

Session recording

The purpose of session recording, of course, is to have a permanent record of a meeting, the decisions made, and the work products produced.  Enterprises might do this for compliance reasons to preserve information in case of an audit, for training so others can benefit from the group's knowledge, or further refinement of the deliverables themselves to practice and review a presentation. Applying this to the online collaboration room concept makes it possible for an extended team to join the room, where key decisions are recorded and archived, and employment interviews or HR training can be preserved for compliance or equal opportunity review.

Team collaboration reflects a shift in how colleagues interact with one another, as well as non-traditional participants such as contractors, consultants, partners and others. Enabling team collaboration requires delivering UC tools optimized for how businesses are getting work done.

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