The COVID-19 pandemic forced most organizations to fast-track digital transformation initiatives, and no line item shot to the top of the priority list quite like video and digital collaboration. As leaders reevaluate their employees’ work environments, they have to account for how much more revenue-generating business is happening digitally. At the same time, they have to respect the fact that the social fabric of their organizations has changed due to reduced in-person interaction.
We call this intersection of professional and personal digital interaction the Human Enterprise — a subject we’re exploring in this series from CMO Josh Kivenko. Read the first piece on “Building the Capacity for Hybrid Work” here, the second on “Evolving Video Tools for Modern Work” here and the third on “Enabling Collaboration Through Interoperability” here. In this fourth and final installment, Josh adds a layer of why “verticality” matters if communications solutions are to form the steadfast foundation of the Human Enterprise.
It’s decision time. After adopting new video conferencing and collaboration tools or relying much more heavily on their existing platform investments, most organizations face a reckoning as working in the office becomes possible again and hybrid models take hold for the long haul. They know the tools they’re using work at a baseline, but are the tools really working for them?
There’s a major distinction here. Most of us have used off-the-shelf video conferencing and collaboration platforms that work just fine. But for a solution to really be working for them, it needs to be able to replicate the nuance and bespokeness we encounter in situational communication. A working solution has features, functionality and technical capabilities designed around the primary users, ideally built into the application, business system or platform they already work within on a daily basis. A working solution can simultaneously operate in and connect the physical and digital worlds in one common, cohesive experience. And a working solution can be tailored to accomplish revenue-generating tasks and to address unique use cases — from digital signatures in legal proceedings to telehealth diagnoses, and from presenting detailed engineering or architecture schematics to taking physical measurements in retail or field service — that are critical requirements for the business success of organizations in certain vertical markets.
Video communication and collaboration pivots vertically
The ideal state of video communication and digital collaboration looks different depending on the industry. While it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future state of collaboration looks like for every given profession, it isn’t hard to imagine some of the possibilities. We’ve evolved rapidly as a result of the pandemic, and we’ve been given a glimpse into what is possible through technology. Here’s what the future looks like within a few verticals where hybrid work necessitates specialized communications solutions:
Healthcare was perhaps the industry most disrupted in 2020. As doctors, nurses and medical technicians navigated one of the worst public health emergencies of the last century, they were learning on-the-fly how to adapt to new tools and processes. This led to disjointed and cumbersome first-time virtual care for many patients. But that doesn’t have to become the status quo.
Healthcare is moving towards creating a “virtual front door” for all patients, where check-in, check-ups, follow-ups, diagnoses and even basic testing are done within a single digital experience — not on different platforms or across disparate apps like most care experiences now. Patients and doctors should be able to connect seamlessly via a secure browser and medical practices should have the ability to augment the “visit” experience with video, document/image sharing and folded-in administrative tasks like appointment scheduling and billing. On the back end, practitioners won’t have to leave Epic (or whatever management system they use regularly) to connect with and treat patients. They’ll be equipped to send health information in real time and log symptoms in a digital chart in the same window where they are communicating with the patient, complete with an option to record and store each session securely and compliantly in a patient’s file.
Since college campuses closed and technical education programs went virtual, trial and error has been the name of the game for professors and instructors. While large, rote Zoom lectures and previously planned remote learning went on, more specialized forms of education were difficult to translate to video.
The future college classroom or technical program will be fully furnished for communication, teaching and learning in a virtual world. Students in a mechanics program, for example, could effortlessly draw or annotate on a video feed to point to parts of a vehicle where they may have questions or need to inspect more closely. Professors in a biology lab could pass control of the lecture without pause to a group of remote students conducting a time-sensitive experiment.
As a consequence, better-equipped educators and learning environments greatly increase accessibility to knowledge. The classrooms of esteemed higher ed institutions will no longer be limited by physical space in meeting demand, and will be able to scale infinitely to accommodate significantly more students from all over the world, without making the experience feel crowded or impersonal.
The pandemic didn’t keep frontline workers like maintenance experts, delivery drivers and IT professionals from doing their jobs. While common video apps can keep these workers in touch when they’re out in the field, they aren’t as useful or dynamic in practical, industry-specific situations yet.
In the future, however, we will see the blending of the physical and virtual worlds for these individuals inside of existing applications, allowing them to do their jobs more effectively. A maintenance worker, for instance, could use augmented reality (AR) to see an exploded view of a particular plumbing part or an overlay on a vending machine’s controls while they communicate with engineers back at headquarters. Or, during an emergency outage, IT professionals from multiple locations could quickly gather on video in real time from within their preferred ticketing system to coordinate their efforts and get things running again.
Customer service will see a totally new set of success metrics as a result of better video applications for the contact center use case. In the past, call volumes, lengths and handle times were used to calculate some sort of “cost per call” that solely determined success or failure. But as consumers have come to trust human interactions to solve their most complex customer service issues, those metrics could be shifting from quantitative to qualitative.
In an industry where AI and chatbots are making strides at resolving or routing routine calls, contact center agents that take live calls can deliver more vivid human interactions to solve customer problems like insurance claims, utility repairs or furniture assembly questions over video. Call centers that embrace video and collaboration solutions tailored to the modern customer experience will no longer be considered cost centers — rather, they will be acclaimed as an emergent channel for deeper customer engagement.
The future of communication and collaboration will be more human
The Human Enterprise comes full circle when we consider what the future of communication and collaboration will really look like, not just in times of crisis, but in our everyday roles as well as in the applications and platforms we’re comfortable using. Nuanced interpersonal communication is, after all, one of the things that most starkly defines us as human. As the modern communications solutions we’ve discussed in this series pervade all sorts of teams, organizations and industries, they will inherently progress us towards a more human enterprise.