Is it too late to get the benefits from unified communications and collaboration?
It’s 50 years since the first email was sent – it may be time to consider new ways for your organisation to collaborate and communicate.
Australian businesses are more mobile and geographically dispersed than ever, accessing markets and talent everywhere in the world.
For smaller businesses serving global markets, the upfront cost of traditional communications hardware is prohibitive. Mid-market firms and enterprises also question the logic of big system overheads when they must connect employees, partners and customers.
Since it was invented 50 years ago, businesses have increasingly relied on e-mail as the lowest common denominator for electronic collaboration. Passing word processing files, contracts, design documents, images and even video over email is now the norm. Although e-mail has evolved to handle diverse new tasks, it was never intended as a real-time collaboration platform. Add in the growing threat of hackers breaking into systems through malicious emails and the seams in the venerable technology are showing.
Emerging talent in organisations also demand their work communications be as easy to use and real-time as the instant messaging services on which they were weaned.
Technological advances unite these macro trends in new ways to communicate and collaborate in real-time and lower cost for greater benefits to the organisation and participants.
As an early leader in the field, OBT has provided unified communications and collaboration (UCC) for 10 years, including under its own platform, Communicate Anywhere. Founder and managing director Shane Muller says the tools deliver choice and freedom to employees at a lower cost per seat than PABXs. Providing UCC ‘as a service’ through the cloud also removes expensive up-front hardware costs.
“People using a plain old telephone service won't be using it for too much longer because it won't be supported or offered. And it is simply limiting,” Muller says.
People now also have different expectations for their work environment that older technologies can’t satisfy, he says.
“Unified communications allows people to have all those familiar channels of communication from where they are, not where the plain old telephone line is. And in a world where organisations are trying to empower their staff to work from various locations whether it’s in office meeting rooms, client sites, at home or on the road, it’s a tremendous differentiator and productivity boost,” says Muller.
Many organisations already have elements of UCC but over the next few years, greater automation and the spread of hyper-fast 5G mobile wireless transmission networks, artificial intelligence and social technologies will transform the work experience.
Here are a few benefits on which you miss out if you’re rusted on to the plain old telephone and e-mail.
Collaborate and inspire in real-time
E-mail won’t disappear overnight but, in organisations that move at the speed of thought, its limitations start to show through the seams. Emerging talent especially values the ability to communicate at work as easily as they do online in their off hours. Instant messaging will fill the void progressively as e-mail falls from favour.
Softphones enable employees to take a call anywhere
Already widely deployed in many organisations, software that performs like a physical phone is familiar to many workers. The other great advantage of a softphone is it works on your smartphone or coupled to a desk phone with advanced routing and conferencing features.
Headsets cut handsets costs
Most workers no longer need a desk phone and work more productively with just a headset, which can also be cordless for greater convenience. Headsets also cut the cost of physical maintenance, repair and replacement as they break down or become obsolete.
No more server hardware to manage when it’s all in the cloud
Organisations on a managed UCC service or in the cloud have no physical branched exchange (PBX) or server hardware to manage. Their communications will also operate through a localised catastrophe such as a fire or flood.
Scale to suit your growing business
Sizing a PBX requires the business to know how big they’ll be at a set point in the future. And a hefty up-front investment. Managed solutions scale up or down in line with the business.
Switch a conversation from smartphone to room-sized conference room, and go from one to many or voice to video conference seamlessly
Start a customer call on the way into the office, then switch over to the greater presence and visual definition a high-bandwidth desktop or room service offers. People on mobile devices are more easily conferenced into a meeting so the team benefits from their knowledge.
Share your screen so everyone as the best seat at the table to see your presentation
Although screen sharing has been around for a few years, in practice, flicking on a screen to demo often requires a mishmash of cables, compatibility questions and luck. UCC systems are now easier to integrate with end-user devices such as laptops and smartphones, smoothing the act of presenting.
Video enables someone out of the office to have equal presence as other team members
According to US researchers at Aragon, “video meetings are the new normal”. Video is a great way to enhance ‘presence’ and equalise contributions of all participants in a remote meeting. Video also builds empathy and portrays nuanced interpersonal cues essential for effective decision-making.
Although recent UCC developments show the possibilities for transformed business communications at a distance, legacy systems be around for some time. For many organisations, they may even run parallel systems while features come up to parity, or for compliance purposes. So a few things to consider while moving to UCC:
- Email isn’t going away any time soon but its role is diminishing
- Many UCC systems work best inside the organisation so you need a solution that embraces partners, customers and suppliers
- UCC should enhance the organisation’s culture through face-to-face contact and not replace people meeting in real life, where possible
OBT’s Shane Muller says customers have seen great benefits on their UCC investments.
“They either have achieved complete satisfaction on their services or they're seeking to roll it into state offices, or to empower their staff to work remotely.
“Our job at OBT is to share our mobility vision with clients outside of just buying software and hardware, to show how unified communications and collaboration strengthens their culture and satisfies the needs of 21st century employees and customers.”
Is your old phone system groaning under the weight of 21st century demands? Ask OBT how our Communicate Anywhere platform will help your people collaborate to bring out their best ideas and serve your customers better.