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Forget the hype, I may have seen unified communications and collaboration utopia

Posted by Louise Andrews on 14th April 2015

14466920043_15d5c9ae49_nI’ve been working with IT companies in the unified communications (UC) space for a number of years and follow market developments closely.

There is no doubt the market has evolved dramatically, with analysts confirming the start of widespread UC adoption and predicting the increased adoption of UC-as-a-Service and cloud-based models.

But against this backdrop the conversations about UC haven’t really evolved. The benefits are highlighted time and time again. Workforce mobility, an improved customer experience, increased collaboration, enhanced productivity and more.

I’ve seen many instances where UC has delivered these benefits that are so often touted. It works. But I have yet to see a deployment that truly inspires me to imagine the future of unified communications and collaboration.

That is, until I received an email from the Royal British Legion (RBL) this week.

Let me set some context. As a volunteer, I’ve been running the local RBL Club in my village for about four years, looking after 300+ members in my role as membership secretary.

Post is the preferred communication method (maybe the odd email if you’re lucky), it’s up to you to set up an email address if you want to (but it will likely end with gmail.com or Hotmail.com) and if you want a local web page then it’s typically a DIY job on Facebook.

But all of that is changing. The Royal British Legion – that 90+ year old organisation made up of volunteers – is going all UC; and it’s an ambitious project.

The RBL has over 2,500 branches, plus supporting county and district teams. A new administration project will connect up all of these teams across the UK, with a central portal, cloud-based applications and a unified communications system.

What this significant cloud-based project means, in practice, is providing official RBL email addresses to as many as 20,000 people, alongside a cloud-based Microsoft suite, secure document storage facilities and unified communications applications.

It’s in organisations like the RBL where cloud-based communication and collaboration can truly deliver on its promises and deliver huge value to the end user, as well as to the business. Up to 20,000 people from all walks of life (including me!) can now share news and events in real-time, store and access information centrally, but securely, and quickly and easily talk to other volunteers and committee members via video or audio meetings online.

For me, this is true unified communications and collaboration in practice – connecting tens of thousands of people from across 2,500 dispersed locations to talk, share and work together.

I’ll be looking for more examples like these at UC Expo later this month.

photo credit: NEC-Monitor-53

Louise Andrews

Deftly switching between business and consumer accounts, the focus for Louise remains the same; how can Wildfire tell clients’ stories in a way that is faithful, relevant and engaging? Her wide technology PR experience makes Louise an agile and versatile Associate Director and fantastic resource for the team, combining the strategic management of PR programmes with a hands-on approach to get under the skin of clients and motivate her teams.