What with the spotlight firmly fixed on social media and customer-facing technologies, you might imagine that enterprise communications have been pushed to the background. On the contrary, this sea change in communications tech isn’t just restricted to the more ‘glamorous’ fronts.
Cloud technologies, the message becoming more important than the medium, and integration with your existing infrastructure: All these are just as relevant when it comes to the enterprise communication market. In fact, the trends witnessed in this sector closely mirror those seen at the social, customer-centric end of the market.
Here’s just a few of the changes taking place even as we speak - changes that might be transparent to your customers and vendors, but which have a tremendous impact behind the scenes in terms of boosting efficiency and improving collaboration:
1. SAAS and cloud-based platforms emerge victorious
If any of you are old enough to remember what enterprise communications (and enterprise software in general) were like a couple of decades ago, today’s technologies seem like a different world altogether.
The expensive, resource-heavy systems of those days are well on their way out, replaced by ‘subscription-based’ services and cloud-based platforms.
No longer do you need to invest in a server-client system that affects your bottom line. Instead, with the processing and heavy lifting now moving to cloud-based servers run by giants such as Microsoft and Amazon, you have many more options.
Even traditional software companies - like Microsoft - are now big players in the cloud computing field. In essence, this has proven to be a win-win for everyone: Larger businesses don’t have to spend time and effort on planning out their systems as new dashboard-based systems (which are much easier to administer) come up, while small businesses and startups have access to class-leading tech as well.
2. Better pricing increases reach
One, of course, is how the economies of scale provided by the cloud make it possible for providers to price their offerings at a level even SMEs can afford. No longer is your business locked out by thought of having to pay for capacity you don’t need. With most services offering pricing and plans suitable even for professionals, your business now has access to the same tech used by your established competition. Cloud telephony, chat, collaborative software… it’s all available for any business.
3. Integration with existing systems
Communications don’t exist in a vacuum. On the other hand, an effective enterprise communication system is one which acts as close to ‘plug and play’ as possible. The previous generation of communications suite developers loved proprietary tech, and loved to lock out other services as much as possible.
Today, that attitude is history. Any successful enterprise suite now needs to integrate with your existing systems - whether it’s your VoIP system or your employees’ mobile phones.
4. Focus on internal communications
For quite some time, customer-centric and marketing-oriented social communications took all the glory. But what about how your employees work and communicate? That can essential to your growth and success as any marketing and branding effort.
In the past, even when internal communications were given their due importance, it was restricted to large, clunky enterprise suites. Today, with new business IM services coming up, that’s changed - your employees- even those that may never interact directly with a vendor or a client - now have access to specialised tools designed specifically for intra-business communications.
5. Your databases are everywhere
Building on from the previous point, what we see is an effort to make platforms that work well together. Any business - even a small one - has databases packed with vital data, whether vendor records or customer call information.
Thanks to the developers making their APIs available and encouraging others to ‘plug in’ as many sources of data as possible, your business can now harness its treasure trove of data efficiently.
Customer support execs can get access to a customer’s prior interactions with ease, newly hired sales executives taking over an account no longer have to read through spreadsheets or check old emails to see what a client wants, while your senior management can now have one-click access to all the data that pertains to their role.
6. The medium doesn’t matter
Think about how humans communicate: The medium we choose might seem to matter superficially, what eventually counts is the content of the message. And that’s yet another trend we’re seeing now. A certain degree of convergence has already taken place, with more on its way.
Customers start interactions on social media, move on to email, and then finally resolve the issue via voice; team-members discuss projects over collaborative apps, and move on to cloud-based project management suites to help put these plans into motion… What has always mattered is the message, and now this has also become true for the world of enterprise communication.
7. Email loses out
Email has long been the standard for enterprise communications. Whether you were dealing with employees, bosses or vendors, email would have been your medium of choice. But email is now slowly falling out of favour - it can often be less efficient, can obscure the real heart of the matter, and can even distract employees.
Due to this, email’s been supplanted by a mix of VoIP, business instant messaging, cloud telephony, and cloud-based collaborative tools and services. And this is one trend that will only accelerate - collaboration is the key to the world of future business and email is woefully under-equipped to take on this challenge.