Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Demise of the Handsets - Enter Generation Z

The more I look at trends within unified communications I see the demise of the the desk phone. Since voice over IP was introduced we heard this "rumor", however we are little more protective of that handset than we thought. Some "legacy" users would view their desk without a handset the same as a their car without a steering wheel (and that may be coming sooner than we think too!!). Yet generation Y will change that and the time for that change is accelerating more quickly than you think.  That small handset has grounded us to our desk and internally to our office for years.

Our challenge now is to tie down a new workforce that isn't accustomed to scheduled meetings, picking up a handset, meeting for hours, or waiting until next week to decide on the next step. They want to make a decision now, have short and quick communication at anytime, and not be limited by schedules. For the older generations (like myself) this sounds like a bunch of whipper snappers just trying to beat the system and do what they want. That is until you sit back and think of the way you really work. While my office hours are Monday through Friday from 8-5, my thoughts have never followed that schedule. I meet with colleagues and clients during those hours but ideas are constantly running through my head based on those conversations/scheduled meetings. Many of nights I have had revelations and just because of habit I waited until 8 am the next morning to share with everyone via email. That is exactly how my social life worked during my school years - news or updates for my friends would wait until the next day at school when I saw them to share the latest news. So it was just natural that we took that same methodology and applied to our work. That is not how generation Y interacts - they are online 24x7. This is the part of UC that I love - we have to adapt to the way our users communicate and collaborate. You have to understand and be open minded enough that to allow the "disruption" to take place. 

So now if we look at today's collaboration services in the cloud along with how generation Y collaborates socially we face some challenges with our traditional handset. We need something that mimics their social interaction and binds that with the goals of an organization. Collaboration is defined by "people working together to create something together" - together being the key word. We have to be able to take all of the facets of the social applications (Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat,etc) and bring them together in one place so that we can collaborate from anywhere at anytime. How do we accomplish this within the confines of our  UC infrastructure single location and it's only accessible while at the office? 

The answer is we don't. A simple little app such as Cisco's Spark can create an environment that gives you the ability to move your collaboration to the cloud. It took me weeks to figure out why and what Cisco Spark was for. It's simplicity confused me and required me to think outside my box to understand the usage. Then rumors of Cisco Spark integration with Jabber and Cisco's CMR (Collaboration Meeting Rooms) really made it clear as to where this was going. I have for years installed Jabber and Telepresence. Cisco Spark takes all of these components and smacks generations Z right in the face by saying you can work the same as you socialize - and do it in the cloud.

By effectively pairing cloud services with the internal infrastructure you can create an environment that maximizes the collaboration skills of your workforce. Once we ditch the handset then some will see the natural progression to the cloud for unified communications/collaboration. The handsets of today are getting dusty - time to open the windows and give them some air.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Lost Art
Unified Collaboration technologies have proven that our digital world still thrives on interaction among each other beyond a text email. It has made the promise of "work from anywhere" a reality and has directly defied the idea traditional office. Organizations are now being forced to redefine the way in which they work together to maintain not only a competitive edge in their respective market but as well in recruiting talent. The ability to expand the office beyond the physical walls and local market have changed drastically since 2004 when CallManager 4.0 was released. 
Recently our team gathered for a few days for a UC Retreat. I found it interesting that within our engineering group the outlook on where UC was today and how it will be used in organizations was drastically different. The discussion was directed mainly towards desktop video endpoints (Cisco dx650, 8945, DX70/80, Jabber). Some approached it with the aged old adage of "I don't need to see the other person" or "no one would will use it".  As technology comes along we have to be careful no to show our age. If us "older" folks take a step back and look at some of the most popular apps for those that are just now entering the workforce we will see that having things visual is something they desire. YouTube, Facetime, Twitch, SnapChat all are about being visual. These are all consumer based applications that are used daily in the social interactions and some of us refuse to see the connection within the workforce. I believe at some point during the popularity of email that we lost the concept of face to face communication and the new generation is now here to reestablish the importance. 
It's almost a lost art for some. I was reminded of the importance of it by a hiring manager that stated the seeing the visual response of a candidate is more telling of the actual answer. This holds true in any type of interaction with an individual. Sales, Medical, financial, service, etc. all will realize benefits in customer satisfaction and results once they learn the lost art of face to face interaction. Organizations that step out of their comfort zones and embrace the use the personal endpoints will be the ones that thrive within their vertical market.
We have virtualized everything in our lives at this point and enabling UC within the organization brings back the humanity that we lose with virtualization. That humanity and interacting face to face is the lost art that UC enables within our virtual worlds.
Wanted to add this after seeing it on Twitter from @Telepresence. Ironically this showed up a few hours after I posted and I thought it fit right into the discussion.