KEYPOINTS FROM ARTICLE:
- Most people haven’t experienced true collaboration and don’t know how much better it can be.
- Microsoft Teams is a true collaboration system, and is part of a larger ‘Unified Communications’ set of functionality and tools.
- Unified Communications brings a company what’s known as ‘Technical Equality’ resulting in all employees having access to the same tools, from any location and on any Internet device.
- Unified Communications can be delivered as a service (UCaaS) and based on a fixed monthly fee per user, and can even be bundled with Managed Services for IT Support, Cyber Security and/or Disaster Recovery as well as custom Professional Services.
- Microsoft Teams can now also handle an Enterprise phone system, through direct routing, eliminating the need for historical ‘Bell’ relationships, hardware maintenance and in-house costs.
- VoIP is no longer a big thing anymore and is really just a phone system with issues, namely being too small to scale.
Bold statement, I know…
This whole discussion is largely going to come down to each of our individual definitions of the word collaboration, and in that sense, I’m talking about an ideal workplace scenario and NOT whatever half-assed, non-Teams solution one might have in place now.
Because when you look at Microsoft Teams, it’s easy to note how it’s handling various aspects of communication, collaboration, and meetings. On top of that, Teams is constantly integrating more and more functionality and value, the latest and possibly most exciting advancement just out is telephony.
This means Teams can handle all your incoming and outgoing calls (using Direct Routing) and allows users to ditch any remaining “Bell”/early VoIP relationships, and the high costs/hardware maintenance needs.
While Teams Telephony is certainly a game changer, I feel the even more valuable, commonly overlooked and least understood aspect of Teams and its Unified Communications benefits, is in Enterprise collaboration.
TEAMS COLLABORATION DEFINITION
“The ability for everyone, from all employees to small groups
to work in real time together, with live document editing, chat, and conferencing,
all delivered and governed through a single administratively managed interface.”
In my opinion, this is where Microsoft Teams truly shines and provides benefits to users that they can’t find anywhere else. Well, they could (and do) find similar apps from different providers, but that’s so un-unified it’s literally maddening, if not dangerous.
So, unless you’ve used Teams or seen it in action, then it’s impossible to fathom how far behind every non-Teams collaboration system would be.
And that’s a big problem.
It’s very easy to think you’re collaborating, basing it solely on the fact that you’re working with other people. But that’s not really collaboration, it’s just normal work.
Again, to be clear here, it’s my stance that if you’re not using Microsoft Teams, then you’re not really collaborating. Just because you email files to your workmate(s), and chat occasionally using whatever program you managed to get to work properly by yourself, then you might assume you’re collaborating.
And I guess possibly you are… albeit poorly.
Very, very poorly.
But how would you know that’s the case? How would you even know to ponder how much better a real collaboration system could be for your employees?
Well, that’s exactly my task at hand here today, to try to illustrate the difference. And to do so, I think it would be very helpful to look at two very different organizations, and the ‘collaboration systems’ they have in place.
Example One: A Company that ‘Kinda’ Collaborates
In this scenario, employees basically just use whatever they want… whatever they can get to work on their own… possibly whatever app the person they want to communicate or collaborate with is currently using. Something like that.
And that’s exactly where the problem begins because coordination or strategic use is either nonexistent or more commonly, VERY disparate.
Again, email is not real-time collaboration. While it does allow you to share files and thoughts with multiple people, it is not the same as real-time functionality like instant messaging and secure storage/sharing.
Similar, somewhat, but not the same. I’m guessing most people here use Outlook (probably by decree), with a small remaining portion using anything from Gmail, Yahoo Mail, or even Comcast and/or host-based resources like GoDaddy mail. Point being, these are all still very disparate.
In this scenario, where there’s typically no set of programs pre-approved for download and use, it leaves the inevitable decision to the end user, which goes against many Cyber Security policies. It also leaves updating each app by said end user, which may or may not even happen, which is also risky because every update aspires to fix potential exploits, so when they’re not updated, that’s another security risk to your network.
One that you would never even know exists.
Even if your employees ARE currently using real-time messaging, and God help your business if you’re not, then it’s not uncommon to find multiple clients installed everywhere, from Slack to Basecamp, to Facebook Messenger, Snapchat and even Discord.
I’m telling you, at this point, I have seen it all. And all this discussion is just for messaging!
Probably hadn’t thought about it. You’re busy, I get it…
But since we’re on the topic, surely you remember that every single login from each employee, into each different system, is a security risk. That every time a user passes login data, you’re at risk. But you already know that, as well as that you’re trusting them, the app provider, to secure everything on their side, which they mostly typically do. Right?
Mostly… “They mostly secure their apps properly… Mostly…”
But again, the real problem is that you’ll never really know this risk is out there, well, you won’t until it’s too late.
So that takes care of the first example scenario, largely based on real-time messaging as one easy to understand example. Now watch what happens.
So…. Um… Lol, what are you using for video meetings?
Zoom? Skype? BlueJeans? Google Meet? Cisco Webex? Ring Central?
And here we go again. Let me guess, some of those? Well, I may have mentioned it, but we use Teams…
Surely you see the pattern forming here? That each communications aspect here equates to a variety of disparate programs, all made by different companies, all with different thoughts about security and risk? Shouldn’t be hard to understand, after all, you’ve been living it for years. Probably even feel like it works pretty well because it’s largely what you know.
While we could go through the same reasoning and risks of each individual communication and collaboration aspect, like scheduling, file sharing, calendaring, scheduling, and making/receiving calls to name just a few, and all the administrative duties that come along with them, I’d rather not.
Instead, let me share with you the glory of what a best-in-class Unified Communications and Collaboration system looks like.
Example Two: Your Direct Competition Who REALLY Collaborates
My basis of this discussion is that I’ve now used Microsoft Teams for almost three years, every day, so I get it, and I do realize there’s really no way for you to know what you don’t know.
Because what you don’t know, is what it’s like to use Microsoft Teams for literally EVERYTHING.
Did I just say EVERYTHING? Yes! I did, and before I forget, EVERYTHING also includes all the administrative duties like provisioning, recalling, monitoring, and reporting on individual accounts. Side note, we do include all these administrative duties for some clients, and for others we integrate and give them access and training.
To be clear, it’s my goal here today to relay to you how much benefit a Unified Communications system has, and how it quickly and exponentially increases productivity.
This is because Microsoft Teams is…
The Leading, Best-in-Class Unified Communications (UC) Platform by Microsoft,
for ALL your Meetings, Chatting, Messaging, Grouping, Noticing, Structuring,
File Sharing, Secure Storage, Calendaring, Conferencing, Scheduling, Calling,
and Live Collaborative use and editing of every MS Office 365 Application,
ALL seamlessly delivered, Live in full High Definition Audio and/or Video,
ALL managed through ONE Single Pane of Glass Dashboard Interface,
ALL located in the same place, ALL available on any Internet device,
ALL usable from any practical location, by ALL employees,
ALL without compromising a company’s existing
and future organizational security policies.
Isn’t that a mouthful? Not bad for one sentence, eh? Grammatically correct and everything…
But seriously, the best part here is that Microsoft Teams really does do all of that. It really is seamlessly delivered live. You can edit documents live with many other employees. There really is a single pane of glass dashboard interface to manage everything. It is all located in the same place. It does work on any Internet enabled device, from any location.
Because what Microsoft Teams really does provide to an entire organization, is what’s become known as “Technical Equality.”
Technical Equality means that all your employees are using the exact same tools and apps, and that everything is accessible and usable from anywhere, on any Internet enabled device. On top of this, it’s all made by the same company WHO ALSO PROGRAMMED YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM, IF NOT YOUR PREFERRED WEB BROWSER!
How’s that for Unified? With all updates controlled by you (through a single pane of glass management dashboard), with all external data handshakes and functionality being handled by Microsoft. This will leave you knowing exactly what programs are being used, if they’ve been updated or not and can confidently say, “There is no security risk here.”
Here’s Another Thing You Probably Don’t Know… Are you ready for a funny secret that you probably haven’t put together yet?
YOU'VE PROBABLY ALREADY PAID FOR IT!!!
Now, isn’t that interesting?
If you have an Office subscription you have. If you’re using a licensed version of Word, and/or PowerPoint and/or Excel, then you’ve paid for Teams. And can start using it immediately.
The Best VoIP Providers aren’t Enough, it’s time to target Unified Communications
VoIP on its own is not the next big thing anymore. While it did allow businesses to connect with customers, colleagues, and contacts worldwide, and forged the age of global business, it’s simply a phone system with issues.
The first problem is that VoIP is too small scale. Searching for the best VoIP providers won’t give you the best communications experience for your business anymore and it’s time to upgrade and start respecting what Unified Communications brings to the table.
In fact, the reputation of VoIP has long suffered badly as it evolved over the years via its image in the communications landscape, but it’s just making calls over IP networks, like Local Area Networks (LANs) and public internets. Most of the positive feeling towards VoIP are borrowed from UC and Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). UCaaS is starting to be the term that people use to refer to VoIP, but they’re not the same thing because Unified Communications really does offer a full suite of communication channels (voice, messaging, and video), and it does so with reliability.
It also brings a foundation for Collaboration, which I’m telling you, does immediately raise productivity, consistency, and incoming revenue.
Just remember those conventional hosted voice platforms are growing increasingly outdated and if you want to stay ahead of the competition and empower your team, you’re going to need more. You’re going to need Unified Communications, so make sure that you’re searching for the right full-stack service provider.
Expect a full set of meeting, calling, and collaboration tools from your vendor. Look for opportunities to connect your UC offering with your contact center or even build in your own custom integrations via professional services.
The future of UC is brimming with incredible opportunities in the form of meeting room kits, analytics, APIs, and ongoing/upcoming Microsoft Teams integrations. If you’re not taking advantage of this environment, then you could be missing out and worse yet, well on your way to losing clients and falling far behind.