3 min read

The realities of unified communications apps

Infrastructure

During our recent UC on the Go Google+ videocast, some of my fellow UCStrategies experts and I discussed issues associated with using unified communications applications while mobile, or working at multiple locations.

Some of the issues were obvious, things like access to good high-speed, access to electrical power to run our devices, sunlight issues, etc., others were not.

Communications Protocol

One of the most interesting frustrating items we discussed was the communications protocol associated with different types of UC applications. By this we mean that there are different expectations, skills and communications etiquette required, depending on the type of application a person is using to communicate.

What do we mean by this? Leaving a voice message is a long standing method people have been using for 30+ years. And yes, vendors and clients even forced everyone to take classes in not only how to use their phones, but how to leave voice messages aligned to corporate guidelines.

Along comes email…some companies have developed guidelines and practices related to email etiquette, but most of the guidelines seemed to be associated with the email footers, rather than the protocol and methods. Next comes sms/texting, not consumer, but corporate texting.

By this stage, BYOD is becoming common within corporations (big or small), therefore many IT/telecom people think that they don’t need to develop courses on how to communicate effectively using text messaging, because their new user base is expected to be self-taught.

Meanwhile people are still using email incorrectly by not really reviewing what they send before they push the “send” command. This has caused many misunderstandings, misconceptions and even law-suits. (That is a different topic for a future article, based on us being expert witnesses in court cases due to this trend.)

Many people do not cut the content from a long string of messages, (inserting the ‘-snip-‘tag to show where extra text was removed), and routinely “reply all” instead of choosing the appropriate parties to CC. I think the longest email string I have seen involved a span of six months, and was over 100 messages long. This is not only wasteful of IT/network resources, but is disrespectful to the readers!

Now…along comes desktop video applications. We use five different desktop video type applications regularly within Fox Group, whether working internally as a distributed mobile team or with our clients across the U.S., Canada and Europe.

Each desktop video application has different functions and capabilities with totally different user interfaces to learn and deal with. There does not appear to be any type of consistency in how or where controls are, icons for functions, etc. One would have thought that applications developers would choose to use a common tool kit of images to work from?

Practices, Attire and Work Environment

Where the protocols come in related to desktop video involve items such as:

  • What type of information do you need or want to show on your screen? Do you record the video, audio and desktop activities?
  • Do you have to pre-notify folks if you are recording or not? If so, how do you manage the process for signoff/approval?
  • How long do you have to want to, (or legally have to) keep the recordings?
  • What happens if someone does a screen scrape of an on-screen image that they don’t own copyright to and it comes back to bite you? We have first-hand experience on this one for a graphics image a few years back.

Below are some other simple, but mundane items to consider:

  • Is the lighting effective enough to have a good video experience?
  • Are you using a high enough quality microphone and camera?
  • Do you know how to use the desktop video application controls and operating system controls to be able to change format, sound, image if and when required?
  • This area changes by application, operating system and even type of microphone or video camera device.

On a personal note:

  • Are you dressed appropriately for business to professionally represent your company, as in aligned to your corporate dress guidelines, if you have them?
  • Is your workspace/office background and work area video friendly?
  • Does your desk/work area also represent you and your company culture? I.e. colours, organized, etc?
  • I used to keep my client project binders on a credenza behind me.  Remote video participants would zoom in, which was not appropriate, given the sensitivity of some of the large RFP vendor selection projects we work on. I re-engineered my office to protect my client information.

Some of these human factors may take longer for employees to learn and adapt their communications practices in order to be successful, and get the positive business results promised by vendors.

Summary

We suggest that companies start with a small pilot group, monitor and measure the areas that cause challenges.  They can then evolve their education programs, policies and guidelines based on the lessons learned for the future deployment.

This is what we have done internally at Fox Group over the past decade as we have evolved through three generations of unified voice, messaging and collaboration tools and applications.

Do not hesitate to contact Roberta Fox to discuss further. As always, I welcome your thoughts, feedback and comments. You can contact me at Roberta.Fox@FOXGROUP.ca or 905-473-3369 x 1001.