Benefits of an Integrated Communications Platform

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala, Author at eWEEK.

The most successful organizations use an integrated communications platform, according to experts from 8×8, Oracle, and Frost & Sullivan.

In a post-pandemic world, organizations are dealing with various challenges and strategic imperatives, whether it’s improving the customer experience (CX), boosting operational efficiencies, or automating business processes. These needs are driving investments in communications, collaboration, and contact center tools.

The most successful organizations have adopted an integrated communications platform approach, according to a panel of experts from 8×8, Oracle, and Frost & Sullivan, who recently hosted a webinar titled Three Strategies to Boost Customer and Employee Experience.

Hybrid Work: The Path Forward

In the webinar, the experts explored the evolution of work over the past two years. Research conducted internally by 8×8 found that about three quarters of organizations are adopting a hybrid work model – 82 percent of companies in the U.S. and 76 percent in the UK.

The findings are staggering, noted Amrit Chaudhuri, chief marketing officer at 8×8. That’s because work is no longer a physical place. It can be anywhere. People are now working digitally across boundaries and across teams.

“A lot of work now takes place in the digital universe, rather than a physical space. We use technology to communicate and collaborate,” said Chaudhuri. “The multi-device and work-from-anywhere practice only increases the challenge to get a 360 degree view for employees and customers, which creates a new set of requirements for IT leaders. All of us have to evolve to meet our customers where they are.”

A Heavy Load on IT

There’s a massive burden on IT today to manage multiple disparate solutions to support hybrid work. The strategic approach should be for IT decision makers to adopt solutions that empower enterprises with modern communication experiences but aren’t siloed to just the CX or the employee experience (EX), explained Chaudhuri.

At the Enterprise Connect 2021 conference, 8×8 introduced a new offering that brings together unified communications-as-a-service (UCaaS) and contact center as a service (CCaaS) in a single, cloud-native platform. 8×8’s experience-communications-as-a-service (XCaaS) platform has been in the works for a long time in order to bring EX to the same level of importance as CX.

Much like customers, employees are becoming more demanding. 8×8 data shows that four in 10 employees are willing to quit if their employer isn’t flexible about remote work.

CX and EX Improvement Drives Cloud Communications

Every year, Frost & Sullivan surveys thousands of IT decision makers across the world. At the height of COVID-19 in December 2020, the research firm asked IT decision makers what is driving their investments in communications, collaboration, and contact center tools. The majority said the key drivers were to boost the CX and EX. Both have become equally important.

In addition to improving the CX, IT decision makers said they were looking to invest in tools that enhance information management, teamwork, and remote worker productivity.

Frost & Sullivan also asked the survey respondents what their top goals are over the next two years:

  • 43 percent said dealing with pandemic-related challenges.
  • 32 percent said improving the CX and customer satisfaction.
  • 28 percent said improving operational efficiencies.
  • 24 percent said automating business processes.

The other goals included expanding to new markets, enhancing sales, and launching new products/services.

Digital Tools Impact Worker Productivity

The survey findings show that employees need to be given the right tools to be successful, which plays a key role in employee retention. With hybrid work becoming the norm, organizations need to be flexible with the tools they provide. Therefore, they must adopt strategies to create a supportive digital workplace that drives productivity across the board.

“Productive employees are happier employees and happier employees lead to happier customers. They really do go hand-in-hand,” said Chad McAfee, vice president of cloud engineering at Oracle. “When you think about embracing cloud solutions, it plays a big role around providing scalability, agility, and operational efficiencies in a hybrid world.”

Ultimately, moving to the cloud is the way forward. The cloud provides organizations with the ability to scale up and down as their needs change. However, not all cloud solutions can deliver on the privacy, compliance, and security that customers and employees expect.

When selecting a cloud provider, the leading criteria for IT decision makers are security, reliability, and price. Year after year, these are the top three requirements for organizations, according to Frost & Sullivan. In a hybrid workplace, security presents many new challenges related to managing devices and users across multiple remote locations.

Integrated Communications Improve Security

With an integrated communications platform approach, organizations get consistency in managing security policies. Such a platform treats security as a first class citizen and doesn’t come at the expense of functionality.

The Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI), for example, was originally developed with enterprise-class workloads at the forefront and evolved into a cloud infrastructure platform for communications providers. OCI’s architecture assumes zero trust, where a user’s identity must be validated before they’re allowed to get on the network.

By transitioning away from point solutions to an integrated platform, organizations gain a common security framework, improved usability and manageability, and vendor accountability. Chaudhuri believes there are many other benefits for organizations, including:

  • Company-wide collaboration.
  • Unified administration for IT to provision, configure, and manage from a single pane.
  • Single integration framework to accelerate workflows and meet customer needs.
  • Cross-platform insights and analytics to help make better decisions.
  • Guaranteed service-level agreements (SLAs) for more reliable services.

Chaudhuri concluded: “We are entering a new era of integrated cloud customer and employee experiences. It will accelerate information flow across the enterprise. It will remove silos and create more agile organizations. And it will empower every employee to be customer-facing, bringing intelligence into how we interact with our customers.”

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.