AUTHOR: Whitney Matthews
Mar 11, 2021 - 7 min read

New Challenges in the New Normal: Why You Need Unified Presence For Remote Work Productivity

Last year, organizations were forced to quickly deploy cloud-based collaboration & communication to maintain employee and organizational productivity during the pandemic. Now, in 2021, we are at the cusp of yet another shift – achieving expected productivity targets as remote work becomes more entrenched than ever.

A World Economic Forum survey found that over 80% of global firms plan to accelerate the digitization of business processes and grow remote work even after the pandemic, no doubt propelled by its efficiency gains. This means a growing digital footprint (almost sprawling in most cases) and increased reliance on multiple collaboration applications. 

Indeed, 82% of business leaders see remote work (consequently, cloud-powered collaboration) as a fait accompli, finds Gartner. 

However, as companies settle into their collaboration apps, it is essential to step out of the reactive mode which defined 2020 and revisit the modalities of productivity from a different vantage point. The convenience of apps and the power of point solutions have to be balanced with the human need for a seamless UX, integral to staying productive.

Remote Work is Here to Stay but What About UX?

Despite remote work being a trend for several years, last year’s shift left most companies with collaboration tools with overlapping features and an underwhelming UX overall. New research demonstrates how badly the average employee experience is falling short in the new normal

  • 74% of managers think the tech they provide is easy to use but only 60% of workers agree. 
  • Less than 50% of employees feel that they have all the features needed to do their job despite 71% of managers being satisfied with technology features.
  • Less than 1 in 4 employees are happy with their collaboration tools across desktop and mobile 

Something as simple as looking up a colleague and initiating a conversation could take twice as long (and twice the amount of effort) when communicating virtually than in a typical in-person scenario. 

You could attribute it to the unprecedented pace of the transformation or you could blame it on cultural resistance, but the outcome remains the same. Employees have been saddled with a slew of online collaboration tools – some for the very first time – and find it challenging to navigate these systems

There is a disconnect between what employees need to get work done and what they are getting, and one of biggest causes of end-user dissatisfaction is the lack of unified presence across collaboration platforms. 

Fragmented Presence is Holding Back Productivity Wins

A major challenge faced by newly remote workers is the need to juggle between different collaboration platforms. To get work done, you are probably switching between different apps. That means hopping between the likes of Teams for messaging, Zoom for video conferencing, and RingCentral for voice calls – without a clear indication of your presence on either app. What this does is that it creates ambiguity around people’s availability and reachability

  • There are constant interruptions because users see a colleague as available on Teams, but they could be on a Zoom video call. Despite interoperability between Zoom and Teams (you can launch one from the other), there is no unified presence. 
  • Users worry about why their colleagues (or bosses) are not reading or responding to their urgent messages on Teams even when their presence status is available. They might try to reach them through other channels, hindering productivity. 
  • Ultimately, users must switch between different collaboration apps to figure out their colleagues availability and reliability. Shockingly, 68% of users waste at least 30 minutes every day switching between apps.

Also, a broken presence system could be costing your organization in other unexpected ways. 

Apart from making real-time communication almost impossible (as busy employees miss responding to messages received when they are shown as available), it erodes employee trust in the technology itself. If the platform cannot reflect a colleague’s presence accurately, a new remote worker’s inherent resistance to it will intensify. There is even a risk that employees will resort back to legacy means of communication

There is also the question of external systems that rely on employee presence. For instance, a contact center solution could fetch presence data from collaboration apps, keystrokes, logs, or other sources. But without effective presence technology, they would route calls to an unavailable/busy agent, leaving the customer in the lurch

Problem-solving and ideation also takes a hit, as employees’ best intentions to quickly hash out an idea before formally documenting it fall on the wayside. What was meant to be a real-time session turns into an asynchronous conversation with delayed back-and-forth, endless message trails, and broken trains of thought – causing lost opportunities for your company. 

In fact, poor communication could cost a company employing 100 workers around $420,000 a year

Presence Aggregation is Fundamental to UC Success

Improving technologies and processes around employee availability must be a top priority for organizations, with 42% already looking to increase transparency into available hours and “real” presence

Presence aggregation addresses this by enabling intra-company federation across different collaboration platforms so that users can always view accurate and combined presence for every channel

For example, a company using Teams, Slack, Zoom, Avaya, and Mitel solutions for communicating would be able to tell employees exactly which colleague is available and where. In a pre-pandemic world, you would step over to the next cubicle to check if your colleague is on the phone, writing an email, having lunch, or checking their social media, spontaneously determining if they are free for a quick chat. In a world of hybrid, shift-based, and remote work, you need presence aggregation to enable the same experience without missing a beat

At NextPlane, we help some of the world’s leading Fortune 500s iron out bottlenecks from their communication landscape and deliver richer employee experiences. Just because your colleagues’ status is available on Teams, it does not mean that they are available for a quick chat or a call. Why? Because they can be in Zoom video call. In all probability, they are engaged in doing work on siloed platforms that lack presence integration with Microsoft Teams. Our federation solution acts as a universal hub, aggregating and normalizing different presence states even if your collaboration platforms aren’t natively interoperable

Collaborate 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 need to continuously switch between apps or guest accounts to share ideas, make decisions, and move work forward with a common purpose and in a shared place. 

With unified presence between Teams and other collaboration tools, NextPlane automatically aggregates Microsoft Teams users’ presence status ((i.e., available, busy, or in a call) when on Slack, Webex Teams, Zoom, Webex Meeting, Avaya, Cisco, or Google Meet. This ensures that a user has a unified presence state regardless of the app and the device they use. It performs semantic translation for presence states within a presence document and uses equivalence-based mapping to map specific presence states on different platforms when there is no one-to-one correspondence. Using NextPlane, users on Teams and Slack can save time by determining their colleagues’ reachability when on Zoom, Avaya, or Cisco video or voice calls without leaving their preferred apps.

NextPlane transforms the way you work alongside your co-workers, partners, vendors, or customers by moving conversations out of siloed collaboration tools and into your preferred apps.

For more information, please visit NextPlane, or book a free 30-minute call with a NextPlane specialist.