“In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” –General Dwight D. Eisenhower

“Your plan has to suit who you and your team are right now.” – Mike Krzyzewski 

We’ve all felt embattled by the global health crisis, social upheaval, financial volatility and complete disruption to our daily lives and routines. Whether we planned for it or not, both Mike and Ike, in their own ways, suggest that your plans have to suit the moment. Current events have been thrust upon us, and most of our well-intentioned planning has gone out the window. Without restating what every talking head out there is observing, concluding and predicting (with varying degrees of accuracy), we all know that we’re on the doorstep of a “next normal” that’s going to require a heavy dose of flexibility, resilience, agility and a clear-eyed focus on organizational continuity.

An imperative variable in the coming “next normal” is how organizations are going to adjust to completely different and continuously fluid work arrangements that stress-test how we connect, collaborate and support each other. The consumerization and democratization of enterprise technology has spawned broad experimentation and adoption of communication and collaboration tools that are cloud-ready, highly accessible, easily scalable and, sometimes, IT-free. Current events have pushed this movement over the edge, accelerating the adoption of all-of-the-above communications solutions as organizations scramble to stabilize how work will get done across their “communications value chain” for the foreseeable future. Thankfully, we find our industry in a place where assembling that value chain can involve enterprise communications solutions that are both best-of-breed and work well with others.

What is the Communications Value Chain?

In maintaining business continuity, organizations have to consider current challenges to their core business models and must digitally transform to weather the next storm. Building resiliency into the communications value chain is central to that continuity and transformation. This chain runs all the way from how organizations communicate with technology vendors, partners and suppliers, to integrated business communications processes within the org, and extends through customer communication channels. It impacts customer engagement and employee productivity for sure, but the next normal is already pointing to new, vital ways in which communications value chains will determine the ongoing success of a business.

Video communication fits into that value chain in an obvious place: Connecting knowledge workers for internal meetings, collaboration and productivity, whether in offices or distributed in remote locations. But video as a medium can contribute to many more links along the value chain too, driving resiliency, differentiation, cost savings and even net-new revenue streams. Some examples:

  • Elevating customer service through high definition visuals, tutorials, face-to-face contact and assisted self-service.
  • Extending mission-critical services like healthcare into underserved markets via telehealth.
  • Delivering more personalized sales and account management calls with customers and prospects.
  • Educating and training employees en masse, wherever they are based.
  • Streamlining or altogether eliminating supply chain steps for manufacturing and design.
  • Enhancing executive communications that engage the market and partner ecosystem.
  • Streamlining field support in areas like utilities by enabling more visual interactions between engineer and customer without “rolling a truck.”

To put it bluntly, organizations and leaders need to be thinking more profoundly about video than just custom backgrounds, Brady Bunch-style interfaces or what their child’s elementary school is using. They need to start competing and differentiating via video. If you don’t believe me, ask Irwin Lazar from Nemertes Research, who revealed that 42 percent of enterprises are already using or planning custom video applications or embedding video into other business applications as a direct result of the pandemic.

Not every communications value chain use case will require deploying best-of-breed technologies, but they will almost certainly require the ability to accommodate and interoperate with multiple solutions inside an enterprise environment, leading to a more heterogeneous stack.

Key Considerations Along the Path to Communications Value

As those solutions are selected and incorporated into the communications value chain, there are several key considerations that help define best-of-breed, some of which are often overlooked.

  • Ease of use: Platforms that don’t meet the bar for ease of use inevitably cause IT departments pain. The real root of driving value through ease of use is in reducing the burden on ever-more-limited IT (or customer success) resources as well as lessening the financial overhead required to deploy, manage, support and maintain solutions. Total cost of ownership (TCO) is the tell-tale metric of how much value solutions are bringing to or sapping out of the chain. By the way, you can conveniently calculate the TCO of popular video conferencing solutions here.
  • Continuity of experience: These communication solutions in the value chain should provide a consistent experience, whether for employees or customers. They should bridge all devices as well as work-from-home setups, meeting rooms, boardrooms and other remote workplaces, which may require extensibility like PSTN dial-ins to connect and preserve that continuity.
  • Collaboration and productivity: This stems from an emergent need for organizations to provide more seamless omnichannel collaboration outlets that are highly integrated, intelligent and can more efficiently harness digital teamwork in real time.
  • Security and privacy: Enterprise-grade security and privacy should be fundamental to every technology or vendor in the value chain. One data breach or erosion of customer trust that their communications are entirely private, and the value vanishes. True end-to-end encryption plays a part, as does a commitment to developing communication solutions with strong moderator controls, secure cloud data storage and unwavering privacy practices.
  • Integrations and interoperability: This consideration is a major one that we will come back to in a moment.
  • Administrator features and reporting: IT and AV administrators are the unsung stewards of communications solutions and, in many cases, investments. Without proper features to support end users and accurate, detailed, real-time reporting to understand, manage and justify those investments, the recognized value in the chain dissolves or goes unrealized.

The Crux Behind Adding New Links to the Value Chain

In many ways, adding new links to the communications value chain starts with relying on and selecting platforms that are not walled gardens, but rather those that favor open integrations with common third-party applications and devices, even from direct competitors or frenemies. This approach to interoperability and openness is something Lifesize has excelled at for some time, whether by building, acquiring or partnering for solutions and integrations.

This pillar of our business has only gotten stronger of late, with our recent announcement supporting customers who want to leverage the power of leading Lifesize meeting room systems along with other cloud video conferencing services that meet the diverse needs of their respective communications value chains and stakeholders. Similarly, we have now made our cloud video conferencing service and apps available to customers who need to use them within Citrix virtual desktop and app environments, ensuring compatibility and reliability regardless of how they go about enabling remote work.

On the contact center side of our company, this approach is evident in a newly-signed partnership with Fuze. If customers prefer to use Fuze to strengthen their value chain with unified communications (UCaaS) solutions but CxEngage to globally scale their cloud contact center (CCaaS), then that should be a real and uninhibited possibility for them. It’s the first step in delivering on the promise of integrations and interoperability: Customer choice of best-of-breed technologies that lets them determine their own communications value chain destiny.

Resilience is the single-most important attribute that organizations can build for right now while deciding what communications solutions fit their needs and unique value chains. Easy to use, cloud-based, secure, interoperable, API-friendly communication tools provide ultimate flexibility and resiliency to help bolster the value chain, weather the immediate storm and ride the “next normal” wave of opportunity in front of us. And while it doesn’t hurt to have a plan, it’s best to proactively implement solutions that can help you be ready for the next battle or help your team adjust to meet the unique demands of the moment.