The main driver behind personal computing has been to increase productivity. From the earliest Apple ][ and IBM PC to today’s fastest workstations and servers, it’s all about increasing profitability by improving productivity. At the same time, we have seen tremendous improvements in the ways we communicate which have driven a new definition of collaboration that has dramatically improved productivity. Throughout this time, these technologies have been rapidly converging to create even greater synergies.
The key concern in this continuing convergence of compute, communications, and collaboration is choice!
Different Keystrokes for Different Folks
The Covid pandemic clearly accelerated the development of new tools, platforms, and strategies for communication and collaboration at a distance. Though many users went home to do their work, various platforms leveraged the global internet to connect them with colleagues, clients, and others providing a broad selection of services including text messaging, voice and video calling, screen sharing, and more.
Best of all, these users had the freedom to choose which device they wanted to use on these platforms. They could participate in online meetings using their desktop or laptop computer, their tablet, even their smartphone.
And the choices didn’t end there. In fact, companies could choose from a wide variety of online services offering these communications and collaborative capabilities. Some are more focused on communications while others offer strong productivity tools including word processing, spreadsheets, presentation production, and more.
The convergence of these compute, communication and collaboration platforms promised a great solution to the tool fatigue many organizations were experiencing using a plethora of different tools from different sources. Application programming interfaces (API) made it possible to tie many of these tools together, but for many, the idea of a fully integrated platform was very desirable.
Three Approaches Emerge
Especially while motivated by the pandemic many companies made significant decisions to deploy what they felt was the most appropriate solution for their teams. Driven in part by experience, in part by product evaluations and reviews, in part by advice from colleagues, these decisions ended up putting each organization into one of three strategic camps:
For many, the idea of a complete, integrated platform from a single vendor just seemed sensible. One source of software and service also meant one source of support. They anticipated far less confusion during operations. Since confusion often leads to disruption this became their preferred direction.
The available “All-In” alternatives span the gamut of components including communications and productivity suites. Some also include document management, project management, integrated phone services and more. Users remain in a single environment selecting how they want to communicate, what they need to do, who they need to do it with, which resources they need to get the work done, and more simply by clicking various icons on their user interface. This delivers a singular, consistent user experience across various devices.
At the other end of the spectrum are organizations that weren’t fatigued by using a varied selection of tools from various providers. Some leveraged APIs to integrate their tools, while others simply developed their own operational strategies. Their primary goal was to enjoy the “best-of-breed” in each category. Best-of-breed communications. Best-of-breed productivity suite. Best-of-breed project management and document management solutions.
The concern with a siloed approach is that users may feel that using different interfaces to access different services can be complex and confusing. This can result in time wasted locating files, forgetting multiple passwords, confusion when requesting resources, and more.
Since the user experience isn’t consistent it can be anticipated that increased training and support will be needed to maximize productivity in these environments.
Some organizations have chosen to combine platforms to balance consistency of experience against access to best-of-breed. For example, while their primary platform includes video conferencing their feeling is that another video conferencing platform offers superior features and/or performance, so they duplicate some functionality. Their anticipation is that users will acclimate themselves to a few different operating environments and become accustomed to them relatively quickly. In return, they enjoy what they feel are the most superior services in each category. This strategy is often the outgrowth of a desire to preserve already existing investments while adding improved functionalities.
Other Operational Considerations
It’s important to remember that all the same network operations requirements must be factored in when selecting converged compute, communications, and collaboration platforms.
Security is, as always, the major concern. In a unified “All-In” environment network and data security is often integrated right into the offering. At the very least, storage is usually more consistent limiting the active threat surface. In a siloed or hybrid environment the storage resources used by each product must be separately secured.
Authentication is an issue unto itself. Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is quickly becoming standard operating procedure. In a single-provider environment, MFA is often an integrated service. In siloed and hybrid approaches you may need to manage multiple MFA solutions and users may be required to remember, manage, and protect multiple passwords.
Similarly, regulatory compliance must be considered. When dealing with one platform provider you merely need to assure that they are a qualified Business Associate (BA) and hold the appropriate quality certifications to qualify them to contribute to your compliance. The more vendors you add, the more certifications you must assure.
More sophisticated environments often desire deeper customization to their own operations. Integrating software from multiple vendors adds complexity when customizing any of the participating components. A unified system facilitates customization in many ways.
What’s the Right Solution?
As with most things in the digital world, the right solution is the one that is right for your circumstances. What you need to assure that you select the best approach and the best components for you is to obtain a thorough knowledge of each of the many alternatives available to you.
If that sounds challenging, it should. Most businesses lack the time to evaluate the many choices in today’s IT market. And it’s more than just selecting the best products. You also want to assure that they are deployed and integrated as efficiently as possible for optimum results.
These are your best reasons to turn to Packet Fusion. Our experts constantly monitor the hardware, software, and services constantly emerging in the IT industry to provide you with that best base of knowledge to support your selections. We perform implementations of All-In, Siloed, and Hybrid compute, communication, and collaboration environments constantly which brings you not only expertise but also the experience needed to deliver the best possible outcomes.
Contact Packet Fusion today to discuss how to select your best solution.
As CEO of Packet Fusion, Matt sets the tone and vision for our company and our customers. His 20+ years in telephony gives him a deep understanding of unified communications and collaboration technology. He is an engaging presenter and has a knack for breaking down the often over complicated VoIP technologies into plain and simple English. Outside of PFI, Matt’s happy place is on the golf course or on a bike ride with his daughters.