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How to Consolidate Collaboration Without Single-Solution Risk

Richard Buxton

Practice Director – Collaboration

Although adoption of hybrid collaboration has improved, it’s not without its imperfections. User and customer experience can still be a little rough around the edges, even after 2 years of digitally dominant collaboration.

Here at N4Engage, we’ve found that this is in part due to businesses continuing with solutions built from many different technologies, or impersonal or impractical specifications implemented ad-hoc, at speed, or with budgets that didn’t quite stretch far enough. And in the context of hybrid working, it’s safe to assume that shadow IT is lingering on – a remnant of that mass switch to working from home and the following adjustment period.

Many organisations took the slightly-cobbled-together approach not because it was best, but because it was business critical. A tell-tale symptom of upheaval and unpredictability, these organisations are now struggling to deliver the levels of service and strategy they want using the tools they quickly deployed at the start of the pandemic

But inadequate hybrid collaboration should not be inevitable. To overcome pressing hurdles – from patchy data visibility and connectivity dropouts, to underdeveloped communications channels and security risk – businesses are migrating to a single, complete collaboration solution such as those based on Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex.

Consolidating collaboration technology is associated with stronger operations and service delivery. It offers a better way for your business to communicate with your customers, and for your users to work together. For example:

  • Customer service is enhanced by complete, real-time visibility across all collaboration tools and data sources. Customers can speak with you whenever and however best suits them, and your teams have the data and functions immediately to hand to deliver the best outcome – whether on-site or at home.   

  • Productivity is boosted by streamlining your users’ time. With all tools in one intuitive environment, less time is spent jumping between systems or searching for information, empowering a productive way of working that is focused on value.  

  • Costs are better controlled through minimising the amount of (separately billed or unmonitored) tools required to enable internal and external communication. Infrastructure that doesn’t add value can be identified and phased out, while admins can closely monitor usage costs that may spiral over time.  

  • Compliance position is clearer with all collaboration and communications data being generated from, stored within, and processed by a consolidated and governed environment. Collaboration is one of the biggest areas of shadow IT, which can result in critical blind spots masking regulatory risk or breach.  

  • Decision making is sharpened by access to fast, accurate and complete reporting encompassing all activity. Whether analysing areas where customer experience can be improved, or understanding where time is lost, consolidating collaboration provides that single pane of glass – the big picture and the pivotal details.  

However, concerns over how feasible it is to “live in” one environment are persisting - and the questions being asked are valid. 

Can one solution realistically perform all the unique functions that my business requires to operate efficiently, compliantly, and competitively? Will it prove costly to customise environments and their apps to specific organisational objectives? Is it actually riskier to consolidate and does it mean single point of failure?  

The concerns, though, overlook a very important piece of the puzzle and that is integration. Without integration, the above worries may become realities but by taking a tightly integrated approach, with resiliency built in, consolidating collaboration is a case of all the benefit with none of the business continuity or operational risk.  

Integration means that functions from a wider range of selective applications, systems and data sources can be performed, managed and reported on from a core, consolidated solution. You retain the flexibility and precision of specific, varied functions (including any data sources, legacy technology or industry-specific software you need), but benefit from the speed, visibility and accessibility of one remote hub.  

At N4Engage, every collaboration and communications consolidation project is tailored – the platform itself and its integrations. Whether using fully supported Microsoft Teams or Cisco Webex as the core collaboration solution, our best practice to bringing everything together includes:  

  • Reducing data silos and enhancing real-time, accurate and complete visibility. Data from a wide range of sources – such as private cloud or on-premises environments – can be integrated and shown within collaboration platforms. So, even if you are subject to strict storage and processing requirements, your business collaboration, agility, and decision-making isn’t negatively impacted. 

  • Mitigating single-solution risk with robust data backups and platform redundancy. When deployed in our private cloud, Azure public cloud or colocation environments, using a consolidated platform poses no risk to data availability, sovereignty, or security. Resiliency is built in. We work with you to design and implement backup and redundancy tailored to your operational threats and risk.  

  • Integrating all other applications necessary to successful operations. An organisation may benefit from integrating functions such as regulatory monitoring, payment processing and customer experience training into its collaboration solution. If a platform’s supporting functions don’t suit your business, we’re able to integrate with your preferred options.  

As hybrid working shapes up to be a permanent fixture, organisations are looking carefully at how to rethink their collaboration solutions to gain a more sustainable, competitive edge.  

For help planning your collaboration roadmap and understanding how consolidation can work in your business, get in touch with our experts today.