9
Dec 16

The Future of Unified Communications: Bringing Integration to a Diverse and Evolving Workforce

 

The unified communications (UC) landscape is changing and evolving as technology continues to integrate our workforce. The rising expectations of enterprises are causing the UC space to push boundaries and blur the lines between work, leisure and mobility.

To close out the month of November, we’ve pulled together articles from around the web that offer insight into the current state of the UC space and how it will evolve to accommodate employee work habits, generational preferences and the increasing popularity of the remote workforce.

Why the Goal Should be Unified Experiences – Not Just Unified Communications

In this EnterpriseAppsTech article, Curtis Peterson suggests that the UC sector will strive to unify the entire workplace experience, not just its technologies. “Mobile phones won’t be the only ‘smart’ phones; we need smart desk phones that connect naturally to workplace applications. Workplace communication and collaboration tools in the cloud will allow us to shift from text based messaging and file sharing to real-time voice and video calls without losing the context of an interaction.”

Is UC Ready for the Digital Transformation?

According to James Anderson in this Channel Partners article, the digital transformation will continue to impact and expand the UC industry. “There are now more solutions in the marketplace than ever before,” he explains. “It will be essential for businesses to align themselves with an expert to help them navigate all of the various UC vendors and deployment options.” Moving forward, partners will have a greater influence on the industry, as well as a greater opportunity to offer guidance.

The Enterprise Gets Serious about Connecting its Workforce

The workforce is ready for the UC space and office technology to mirror the experiences they've become accustomed to within their consumer lives, as Michael Affronti states in this No Jitter article. “People want choices for how they communicate and engage with their teammates. They want their employers to understand the value these tools can bring to fostering workplace culture and job satisfaction.”

Bridging the Gap: Unified Communications for the Multigenerational Workforce

In his CIOReview article, Rich Shaw explains how the UC space will continue to bridge the gaps that the global workforce once was accustomed to. “Companies continue to lean into a mobile workplace, and many employees use remote offices or work out of their homes. This structure is becoming increasingly commonplace, making UC vital to the competitive business environment in order to keep a competitive advantage,” he states. “No doubt a business will experience setbacks if employees cannot connect and collaborate cohesively across miles and platforms.”

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The UC space has many changes and innovations on the horizon as it continues to push the boundaries of workplace collaboration capabilities, providing organizations with the tools they need to satisfy employees while bolstering productivity and mobility.

 

 

22
Aug 16

Increase Productivity with Unified Communications

Unifed CommunicationsThere was a time when work typically meant going to an office, so it’s not surprising that traditional business phone systems were built around a single, static location. Depending on size, a facility could install a premise-based key system or PBX or could choose central office-based Centrex. Either of the on-site options typically involved a capital expenditure, took up space, anything from a closet to a room. It entailed maintenance, repair, and general "care and feeding” of the system, so the user either had to hire a telecom manager to handle moves, changes, and software updates or pay a contractor for support.

The Centrex alternative freed up capital and real estate but could still entail delay and “nickel-and-dime” charges for features, moves, adds, or changes. In-house systems had size limitations and could require costly, disruptive equipment swaps when those thresholds were reached. And as systems aged, components for repair or expansion would get harder to find and eventually disappear completely. And even if all those problems could be overcome, today’s businesses now function far away from the office—at home, in the car, or on the road—beyond the easy reach of those premise-based or CO-based systems.

Fortunately there is a modern alternative ideally suited to today’s business needs. A Unified Communications (UC) solution utilizes the vast reach of the Internet to provide feature-rich phone service wherever your business goes. Powerful office phones connect to cloud-based switching systems using IP (Internet Protocol), but the system can just as easily route calls to or from cellphones as easily as to a desk phone.

Conservative estimates show the per-employee time savings over traditional systems at about 30 minutes a day or 7800 minutes (16 work days) a year. At an average wage of $24.52 per hour, that works out to over $3000 per year per employee.

Voice over IP (VoIP) is suitable for any size operation and delivers telephony as a Unified Communications service. Because it requires no on-site switching equipment, there is no capital outlay. You don’t have to tie up office space to house the system. Because you don’t own the system, you don’t have to manage it, upgrade software, or pay for repairs. And upgrades are handled by the service provider.  This kind of resource shift can help realize greater efficiency within your team.

Besides being convenient, flexible, and cost-effective, hosted voice is extremely reliable, using redundant systems located in hardened sites. These systems are at least as well equipped and protected as traditional phone company central office systems and better equipped than most user sites to stay operational in a disaster situation. In fact, when disasters have completely shut down the offices of hosted voice customers, they’ve been able to move to remote facilities and continue operations uninterrupted, routing calls to cell phones or other offices.

Security is also a concern with a premise-based system as it is accessible to people that may want to do your business harm. One disgruntled employee can take down your entire system. With Unified Communications your service is safe and redundant. The Technology Resource Center of America found in a study that “45% of businesses have had a major communications disaster”. With hosted and managed Unified Communications solution you’ll have greater peace of mind.

Unified Communications solutions can deliver the same quality of service as traditional phone network with quality of service (QoS) guaranteed under contract with the provider. A UC solution also includes a higher quality voice experience with HD voice. Such a guarantee, of course, depends on the quality of Internet service to your facility, since “cut-rate” Internet connectivity can allow latency—millisecond delays in signal transmission—that are perfectly acceptable when sending data; voice, however, requires real-time connectivity. If voice and Internet connectivity are provided by different vendors, it may be difficult to assign responsibility if there are voice quality problems, so the easy way to ensure voice quality connectivity is to let a single vendor provide unified communication service including both voice and data connectivity.

In short, UC is rapidly displacing on premise and Centrex telephony systems, and for good reason. It frees up on-site real estate and eliminates up-front capital cost. It provides near-perfect reliability, even in the event of disaster and, with proper Internet connectivity, ensures voice quality equal to that of the best traditional systems or even better with HD voice. Unified Communication systems are massively scalable, eliminating barriers to growth, and they come complete with the day-to-day support that would normally require a full-, part-time, or contract telecom manager. Best of all, they improve employee productivity and allow for better customer engagement. UC provides capabilities that traditional systems can’t match, e.g., the ability to fully integrate mobile devices into the organization’s phone system, creating a system that fits the way we do business today. And UC is just the beginning. A vendor providing both cloud-based voice and data services can provide economies of scale, a single point of contact, and room to grow both in size and capabilities for truly individualized, unified communications.

13
Jul 15

How to maximize UC potential

Unified communications and digital phone systems have the obvious benefits of flexibility and collaboration, but how can you get the most out of those advantages? What does better collaboration mean for your company? You can maximize the potential for your UC services with a communications-enabled business process. A CEBP is when UC taps into the power of other cloud based services to boost business competitiveness and responsiveness. Here are some key elements and advantages to a CEBP.

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Understanding and participating in internal processes
Some organizations, especially those in sale, might opt for setting up services that coordinate with key performance indicators. Software programmed with KPIs in mind can alert a supervisor if an employee has been on the phone with a customer longer than the predetermined time frame, for example. In the exact moment a KPI alert is triggered, a supervisor will know which employee is facing a workplace challenge and can step in to help.

Since supervisors receive this information in real-time, they can hop on the call with the agent and coach them through with applications that allow the supervisor to speak to the agent and lend advice without the customer on the line hearing anything. In this type of situation, a supervisor uses unified communications not just to collaborate with employees but to fix daily business practices that will ultimately boost competitiveness.

Additionally, the struggle one employee experiences could certainly be shared by others. Since this could be an issue for multiple people, it is best practice for a supervisor to review the specific policy and make corrections to adapt to employee needs. Updating internal processes is vital not just for having the workday flow smoothly but also for meeting customers' ever changing needs. That is the goal of a business after all.

Making effective changes
With every update, new information regarding what the processes entail and when they will be implemented needs to be communicated to employees in a clear and efficient manner. By tapping into the wealth of knowledge provided with real-time monitoring of internal processes, changes to company procedure will be more influential on the overall success of the business.

Those policies, though, are not effective until they are put in place. The quicker employees understand the new concepts, the faster an organization can gain competitiveness. Applications like video conferencing, instant messaging, conference calling and presence information, all of which are standard for UC solutions, help communicate information to employees more efficiently. Not only are these communications methods faster, but the variety of mediums of communication ensure that all learning styles and needs will be met.

3
Jul 15

Get the most out of working from home

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Working remotely can have some huge benefits for both employees and their managers. Setting up shop at home has been proven to improve staff satisfaction by creating more flexibility. The hassle of commuting is removed, and people are less likely to leave early for personal reasons because they're able to work right up until the end of the day without leaving the house.

"More and more entrepreneurs are working remotely," wrote Fortune contributor Jacqueline Whitmore. "They may have an 'office' at home, in a co-working space or even at the nearest coffee shop. Fortunately, technology has allowed everyone - even entrepreneurs who commute to a traditional office every day - to benefit from the flexibility of working from home when it's needed or preferred."

But there is a misconception among some professionals that working from home is like living on Easy Street. No bosses, no co-workers and - therefore - no responsibility. Some treat remote connectivity as a permanent vacation. Others, however, may simply be unaware of how to treat the work day when they technically never have to get out of their pajamas.

Working from home is a powerful way to keep employees moving and happy, but only if there are clear guidelines and expectations in place. Here are five tips that can help the remote workforce to get the most out of the opportunity presented to them:

1) Prepare yourself

 Some people might think to themselves that working from home is just an excuse not to put clothes on. In reality, being dressed and cleaned up can go a long way in terms of performance. There is a saying: Look good, feel good. Feel good, do good. We're not talking about putting on a full suit here, but even just jumping in the shower and throwing on your favorite band shirt and jeans can be a major productivity boost - not to mention keep you prepared for possible video conferences with management.

2) Designate a workspace
Chances are that sitting on the couch in front of the television is not going to be conducive to progress. Just because you're working from home doesn't mean that you don't need a designated workspace. It helps to arrange things around your abode and create a place where you can feel most like you're at work. While some might protest to this idea, remember that it still beats trekking out into the elements on a cold day. Even just sitting at the kitchen table and away from certain distractions will do if you find yourself lacking a "home office."

3) Set actual working hours
While one of the biggest potential problems for remote employees is getting things done, some find themselves with the opposite problem. Many professionals are inclined to continue working well past when they are expected to as the line between the home and the office starts to blur. Without having to come to and from work every day, some people can lose sight of their personal lives. It's important to provide a hard stopping point for yourself. Any time that wouldn't be spent staying late in the office shouldn't be spent working from home, either.

4) Stay connected
Out of sight, out of mind - right? Sadly, the lack of a physical presence can sometimes lead valued team members to fall by the wayside. It's important to stay involved. This goes for both employees and their supervisors. Things like regularly-scheduled video check-ins will go a long way when trying to maximize the effectiveness of remote staffers.

5) Don't let potential shortcomings turn you off of working from home
While it's true that there is some diligence required, remote connectivity is still an amazing way to promote modern productivity. The biggest crime would be for enterprises to avoid it altogether when it has been proven to provide a new way of working.

"[W]orking from home offers plenty of traps that working in a standard office environment doesn't typically produce," wrote TechRepublic contributor Jack Wallen. "As a long-time member of the working-from-home department, I've learned how to avoid most of them."

Clearly, the potential is there in working from home. So long as expectations are firmly laid out - and employees stick to the tips that will let them be successful - having a remote staff is one of the best things that an enterprise can do for itself.