The debate is over and the cloud has won. Most businesses have ditched their quaint PBX phone systems and moved to a Unified Communications (UC) system that exists entirely in the cloud because they don’t want to be tied to a particular location to communicate. For today’s distributed and hybrid workforce, cloud-based enterprise communication and collaboration tools make sense.
If your team is clinging to the phones on their desks or your IT team is hesitant to support another cloud solution, it’s time to let go, especially if your business is adopting a hybrid working model. Not only is this phone likely to gather dust, but unified communications has become the technical glue that holds people together when in-person collaboration is a challenge. Failure to deploy it risks holding back the entire company.
Hybrid working is the way to go
Of course, distributed work is nothing new, but the hybridization of an entire workforce presents unique technical challenges for IT. As some employees come into the office – at least sometimes – and others remain completely remote, teams are increasingly relying on a range of communication tools to replace in-person connections.
According to a recent Impact Economist study commissioned by Google Workspace, more than 75% of respondents believe that hybrid or flexible working will be the norm in their organization in the next three years. A 2020 IBM study also found that 75% of employees want to continue working remotely, at least occasionally, while 54% want working from home to be their primary mode of work. With the exception of service businesses and those requiring a physical presence, hybrid is here to stay. It’s good for the workers. And since it puts fewer cars on the road, it’s good for the planet.
As hybrid working becomes the way forward, IT departments are under immense pressure to adopt technologies that will help employees work and collaborate in this new environment. Legacy communication systems and monolithic software solutions were designed for a workforce that congregate in one place. Since that’s no longer the case, your teams have no choice but to abandon them and adopt tools that work from anywhere, just like the people who use them.
This means implementing tools that enable effective internal and external communication to make it easier for workers and distributed teams to collaborate from any location. This is where cloud-based unified communications solutions shine. Bringing together voice, text messaging, video conferencing, and more, cloud-based unified communications or unified communications as a service (UCaaS) improves employee productivity and efficiency. Features like video conferencing, team workspaces, virtual whiteboards, and document and screen sharing allow your teams to work efficiently from any location or time zone.
The cost of these tools varies, but you can expect to pay anywhere from around $20 per user per month for basic calling and messaging to upwards of $60 per user per month for calling, messaging, meetings. , video, etc.
UC is no longer just a phone service
Providing mobile workers with the communication services that match their mobile working styles, UCaaS solutions seamlessly integrate multiple locations and connect mobile workers with features their desk phone could never dream of. The UC tools businesses are adopting today go far beyond basic VoIP phones. They consolidate calling, messaging (think instant messaging for business), meetings, team collaboration, file sharing, mobile access from any browser, and more, into one tool that improves internal and external communications as well as employee productivity.
New AI capabilities that have emerged over the past couple of years have further enhanced UCaaS solutions, especially for meetings and conferencing. These intelligent systems reduce background noise, understand natural language so they can provide meeting summaries and highlights, and automatically assign tasks to meeting participants based on conversations. These tools greatly enhance the meeting experience. As many workers are no longer in the same physical office with their colleagues and face-to-face meetings become less frequent, these tools reduce distance while improving internal and external collaboration.
Cloud communications and the big pivot
Cloud communication solutions have shown their value during the pandemic. Organizations already using them were able to quickly switch to remote work without wasting time while those not already using them struggled to stay connected and be productive.
Here are some examples from published case studies:
- Interstate Batteries used the Vonage Communications Platform (VPC) to transform the way employees communicate and operate from the office or anywhere, providing flexibility and ensuring business continuity. It allowed teams to quickly transition remotely and keep more than 600 employees connected, securely.
- Bennett International, the sixth-largest specialty transportation company in North America, keeps 3,000 employees and contractors connected with the RingCentral MVP cloud solution (message, video, phone). It doesn’t matter where someone works because contacts, video capability, and team messaging are on everyone’s phone and computer.
- The Department of Seine-Saint Denis in France uses Avaya Spaces to facilitate communication between its 8,000 employees and partners without location constraints. The tool’s video conferencing and other collaboration features are available on any device, and team members can create public or private workspaces, share and store files, and manage project tasks. For example, Spaces makes it easy to visualize workflows through a Kanban board, allowing teams to collectively prioritize and track progress on tasks.
Going further into a hybrid world will likely change even more the way we communicate and collaborate with customers, colleagues, partners and suppliers. Once UC tools become the norm, location won’t matter. Cloud communications and collaboration make it possible to create and dissolve virtual teams simply by bringing them into a virtual workspace where they can collaborate and connect with colleagues via voice or video. Starting a new R&D project, marketing campaign, or brainstorming a customer problem involves inviting the appropriate people into a workspace to chat, discuss, and share ideas and documents. And because everything is cloud-based, workers can access workspace and content from anywhere or on any device.
All of this leads to greater productivity for hybrid teams. Studies across the board show increased user productivity through cloud communications and collaboration. Companies have found between 10% and 25% productivity improvements from cloud communications and collaboration, resulting in faster project execution, more effective problem solving, and increased innovation.
Which tool to choose?
There’s no shortage of new offerings in this space from a growing list of cloud communication providers. From household names like Microsoft, Google, and Zoom to specialists like 8×8, Avaya, Dialpad, Edify, Intermedia, Mitel, Nextiva, RingCentral, GoTo, and Vonage, businesses have plenty to choose from.
And the vendor community continues to add more capabilities and features. As cloud communication services improve, you can expect to see AI capabilities such as real-time transcription and language translation in your meetings to improve collaboration within a base. of global employees.
The old way of working is changing, requiring new tools and approaches. As workers continue to redefine the spaces they will use for an office, they will increasingly turn to cloud-based communication and collaboration tools to stay connected with colleagues, customers and partners. For the new hybrid and distributed workforce, the cloud is the way to go.
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