Unified Presence — the Real Challenge for Cross-Platform Collaboration in 2021

Multiple collaboration platforms with a unified presence

Collaboration realities of the remote workforce

The need to improve productivity has only become more critical as the pace of business increases and workplaces become more decentralized. Many forms of work are now team-based, and it’s become more the exception than the rule where all members are physically present in the same space.

UCC landscape — a best of breed mix of platforms

This is the environment in which UCC providers — unified communications and collaboration — must operate, and the result has been a messy mix of both players and solutions. In addition to established players like Microsoft, Cisco, and Avaya, we have new disruptors like Slack and Zoom that bring a different collaboration approach. Add to that entries like Amazon and Google; outsiders to the UCC space, but by virtue of their cloud footprint are having an impact. Cloud opens the door to all kinds of new UCC players, and while choice drives competition and innovation, IT buying decisions have become more complex.

Collaboration needs to drive UCC platform choices

While these categories are somewhat arbitrary, the key idea is that UCC platforms tend to be built around one of three modes — messaging, video, and voice. Businesses will often choose a platform based on which mode best drives collaboration for their organization. All three types are well-established in the market, and despite the rapid pace of innovation, we’re not at the point yet where one platform does it all, in which case businesses can move away from point solutions that become redundant.

Why presence is so important

The above scenario would not be problematic if there was full interoperability among all platforms. Or if one platform could fully address each worker’s UCC needs. Consider the amorphous nature of collaboration itself — some tasks are simple, and others are complex. Some just need 1:1 communication, while others will be channels-based. Some teams meet sporadically, and some meet constantly. Aside from all these variances, today’s workplace is multi-generational, where digital natives have different communication styles and preferences from their older digital immigrant co-workers.

The diminished utility of presence in cross-platform collaboration environments

When everyone is doing all their communicating — and collaborating — within a single platform, presence has significant utility. However, the productivity benefit promise starts to break down when multiple UCC platforms are used. Every UCC vendor intends to keep users on their platform for as many applications as possible, and where necessary, provide integrations with strategic partners. The Internet spirit of being open to all applies here to a point, but these players are competing intensely in a big market, and we may never get universal interoperability for UCC.

Unified presence — the key to unifying collaboration

Based on the UCC realities outlined in this post, the value of presence is undermined when it does not reflect the users’ actual status on these islands. It’s not enough to have great communications applications on one or more platforms. These are just the tools to do a job, but communicating effectively and genuinely unifying communications — presence aggregation is essential to bridge these islands.

Making a case for the unified presence

In my view, then, the need for unified presence (aka presence aggregation) has never been greater — but not in the form you’re probably most familiar. To some extent, presence has been normalized across some of these platforms, but it needs to go further for businesses to get full value from UCC. The problem set does not seem to be widely understood, and when that happens, the solutions aren’t always easy to find.

NextPlane — Collaboration Without Boundaries — Connect. Any Team. Anywhere.

Finding your colleagues’ and clients’ availability can be challenging when they are on multiple collaboration platforms, including conferencing apps and softphones. As a result, you continuously need to switch between the apps or guest accounts to share ideas, make decisions, and move work forward with a common purpose and place.

Connect. Any Team. Any Where.