What exactly do we mean when we talk about ‘team collaboration’? What kind of software tools does it and does it not include? Are we, for example, talking specifically about file sharing solutions, task allocation and scheduling tools, messaging and conferencing? And if so, where do the lines with other communications tools, voice and video for example, begin and end?
Some UC vendors like to be very clear about how they categorise their various products – this one is a team collaboration app, this a general UC suite, that a PBX solution, and so on. Others don’t see the need for such dividing lines. They view communication and collaboration as different sides of the same coin, and prefer to keep everything housed under the same roof in a single platform.
One of these is Fuze. Named a leader in Gartner’s 2016 UCaaS Magic Quadrant report, Fuze very much has its sights set on the future of UC solutions and, indeed, the future of how people work. It believes firmly that communications technology is a great driver and enabler of innovation in the workplace, and takes its role at the forefront of that process very seriously.
On the topic of collaboration, Fuze views it as a matter of workforce engagement as much as improving productivity. On its website, it cites research which claims that disengaged workers cost businesses up to $500 billion in lost productivity every year. For Fuze, the mission UC vendors face is creating tools which help to re-engage employees, by making work more flexible, more accessible and more in tune with changing lifestyles, many of which are being driven by experiences with new technology.
Breaking comms solutions into different branded categories plays no role in the Fuze solution. Everything – video, messaging, voice, file sharing, conferencing – is offered as part of the same unified platform. Enterprise collaboration describes not so much a specific set of tools, but a means of enabling new ways of working across and beyond the workplace. And that is in itself just part of a bigger communications whole.
In this review, we will focus on what the Fuze platform has to offer from a collaboration perspective. We will look more closely at the rationale behind Fuze’s unified approach, and ask what benefits it might have to end users. Please remember, the views contained in this review are those of the author only, and that CommsTrader plays no role in the promotion or marketing of any brand or product.
What can it do?
Fuze is a single platform offering numerous communications solutions. What the company refers to as its Global Platform is a hosted cloud service which makes available voice, video, conferencing, messaging, collaboration and contact centre tools, all accessed from a single integrated interface available on desktop and mobile. By only choosing and paying for the tools they really need, Fuze customers create their own bespoke communications solution, and control costs in the process.
Fuze argues that the emergence of collaboration as a specialised niche within UC has grown from specific user demands regarding the purpose of staying connected in the workplace. It claims that businesses have seen beyond having tools just to help people communicate, and are now looking for solutions which enable everyone to work more effectively, wherever they might be.
Fuze would no doubt argue that its entire platform aids collaboration, by offering flexible options tailored to the needs of each client, and ready support for mobile to keep everyone working from wherever they are.
In terms of specific features, Fuze places a big emphasis on the importance of content. In an age where even people in the same office share and work on documents digitally rather than on paper, Fuze has made real-time content sharing a key feature. Wherever you are working from, on whatever device, Fuze supports instant file, screen and application sharing. It supports HD and 4K playback if videos are shared, and provides a full suite of mark-up tools, so colleagues can make notes and annotations as they go.
If content sharing and annotation tools replace the physical passing around of paper documents, Fuze also provides the virtual equivalent of meeting rooms where the sharing and collaborating can take place. Fuze offers one-click audio and video conferencing from any device, with a consistent user experience across mobile and desktop, including HD quality. Conference calls can be scaled upwards by adding new users without limit, and participants are free to chose whether to join in via video or audio only.
Fuze also operates a meeting room solution, plugging into single or dual HD monitors, speakerphones and cameras with a simple USB plug-in from the computer you are using. The video conferencing solution is compatible with Cisco, Polycom and LifeSize endpoints, as well as Fuze’s own range of hardware. As a final conferencing solution, Fuze also offers a fully managed Webcast service, making sure your presentation broadcast runs without a hitch.
What do we like?
The sheer range of features and tools available, all consolidated into a single platform, is very impressive. The seamless integration of content sharing and conferencing with HD video, voice, IM and presence harks back to a time when people didn’t talk about collaboration and UC as separate things. But the nod to the future Fuze offers is that all of this, if you so wish, can be run alongside a full PBX and contact centre solution, all from the same place.
Who is it for?
Fuze very much targets the enterprise market, with a keen focus on guaranteeing the levels of security, redundancy and QoS enterprises demand. It is ideal for enabling closer collaboration between teams at different branch offices or in different departments.
What is it compatible with?
Fuze apps integrate with a large range of popular business and productivity platforms, including Salesforce, Google G Suite, Microsoft Outlook, Box, ZenDesk and more. The company also makes its APIs readily available.
Where can I find out more?
To find out more, see a demo or to find out how to buy, please visit the Fuze Collaboration homepage.
Whether providing a range of handy tools is enough to motivate every recalcitrant Millennial to work their hardest is perhaps a debatable point. What Fuze does recognise, however, is that working practices are evolving, and the UC vendors which thrive over the next decade will be those which evolve with the demand.
There is a hint of chicken and egg about this – do changing expectations and working patterns drive changes in the technology, or has digital transformation caused the shifts in behaviour? Fuze is comfortable in either scenario, creating a communication and collaboration solution which answers demands for greater flexibility, mobility and access to content, while also positioning itself as a leader looking to influence the way we all work with its ingenuity.
Do you use Fuze at work? How would you rate it on collaboration? What are your thoughts in general about the distinctions drawn between collaboration and other areas of UC? As always, we would love to read your thoughts in the comments section below, and why not share this article on social media and invite friends and colleagues to join in too?