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Consumerization Of IT Changing Employee, Customer Interactions

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In the enterprise, a shift in IT should not be considered an isolated incident. Seasoned information technology staffers have probably seen their fair shares of changes in hardware and programming, requiring them to adapt their practices as new developments unfold. But the most recent innovation - the consumerization of IT - has not just impacted the ways that employees are interacting with computers, but has also had a profound effect on how a business connects with its customers.

"Businesses aren't the only ones changing the technology they use day to day," wrote SmartData Collective contributor Rick Delgado. "Consumers are also adopting mobile technology and cloud storage at a rapid pace. This constant connectivity gives businesses an opportunity they've never had before to connect with consumers at any time and place. The rapid accumulation of data produced by consumers also provides new insights via data analytics that companies can exploit in order to better segment consumers and adapt their marketing messages in real time."

Now that more people are empowered by mobile devices in their daily lives, it will be important to consider how best they can be engaged. More often than not, this will come in the form of a cloud unified communications deployment. Cloud UC services are increasingly being sought for their ability to tie different platforms together in meaningful ways. It will be essential not only to streamline connections into a singular interface, but also to ensure that different channels are able to interact and be leveraged together.

Mobility: A Driving Force Of Change

As recently as a decade ago, the adoption and use of mobile devices was nowhere near where it is today. Fueled in part by the growth of the cloud in both personal and professional computing scenarios, smartphones and tablets have been finding themselves right at home in workplace settings. Much of this also comes from the general infrastructure upgrades that service providers have been making their top priority.

"With the proliferation of high-speed connectivity, some industrial users have established a similar kind of access to real-time information that consumers have been enjoying with their smartphones while on the go," wrote AutomationWorld contributor James Koelsch. "Others are just now considering what mobile applications can justify investment in the digital infrastructure needed - whether that infrastructure is made up of 4G cellular service, wireless mesh network access points, line-of-site radios or something else."

As a result, workers are now expecting their employers to support the use of these devices. If there are no provisions made, then staffers are likely to find their own solutions - which are often inferior and ill-chosen - or else seek out a new job where they feel enabled.

Unified Communications Market Worth Exploding

The need to retain top talent is something that more companies are realizing hinges heavily on the quality of the telecom infrastructure in place. This is mainly illustrated by the current and projected market value of the UC sector. According to Grand View Research, over $75 billion will be spent annually on unified communications assets, including hosted cloud services, by 2020.

This is representative of a massive sea change in how UC is perceived. While it once may have been considered a novelty by many enterprise professionals, the increasing sophistication of consumer devices is the perfect complement to a well thought-out unified communications strategy. But problems can arise if the transitions are not approached properly.

"Some companies' existing aging communications infrastructures may not support the increased functionality required by ever-changing employee needs and customer demands," wrote No Jitter contributor Barb Grothe. "Typically, these infrastructures were built in separate environments and have undergone modifications, customizations and upgrades. Most of the time they represent a jumble of different voice, video and data technologies that were never intended to work together but have to do so."

Re-Evaluating Business As A Whole

Developments and evolution in IT mean more than just different technology - they represent new assets in the quest for innovation. Rarely have communications been as disruptive as they have been since the first mass production of the iPhone. As people find more ways in which they can leverage these tools, it will be essential to take a step back and recognize UC for what it is - a business strategy.

As such, practices are going to need to change. It is not enough to drop this technology into place if people are still treating it like their previous systems. Workers may be demanding these solutions unknowingly, and as a result telecom initiatives can fall flat, ironically, due to a lack of communication regarding the assets that have been put into place.

"Large and small businesses alike need to recognize the importance of re-thinking the business process," stated Grothe. "More than just phones or VoIP, now communications is about connecting, communicating and collaborating using almost any device, any media and any method of communications from voice to data to video - virtually any time or anywhere."