The debate ended – and the cloud won. Most companies have abandoned their bizarre PBX phone systems and moved to a unified communications system (UC), which exists entirely in the cloud because they don’t want to be tied to a specific location to communicate. For today’s distributed and hybrid workforce, cloud business communications and collaboration tools make sense.
If your team is clinging to the phones on their desks or your IT team doesn’t want to support another cloud solution, it’s time to leave it, especially if your company is adopting a hybrid work model. Not only is this phone likely to collect dust, but UC has become the technical glue that holds people together when personal collaboration is a challenge. Its failed implementation is likely to keep the whole business afloat.
Hybrid work is the way forward
Distributed work is not new, of course, but creating a hybrid of an entire workforce presents unique technical challenges for IT. As some workers come to the office – at least sometimes – and others remain completely distant, teams are increasingly relying on a set of communication tools to replace personal connections.
According to a recent one Economist Impact study commissioned by Google Workspace, over 75% of respondents believe that hybrid or flexible work will be standard in their organizations over the next three years. And in 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 main way of working. With the exception of services and those that require physical presence, the hybrid is here to stay. It’s good for the workers. And because it puts fewer cars on the road, that’s good for the planet.
As hybrid work becomes the way forward, IT departments are under enormous pressure to adopt technologies that will help employees work and collaborate in this new environment. Legacy communication systems and monolithic software solutions are designed for a workforce that gathers in one place. Since this is no longer the case, your teams have no choice but to abandon them and adopt tools that work everywhere – as do the people who use them.
This means implementing tools that allow for effective internal and external communication to make it easier for workers and assigned teams to collaborate from anywhere. Cloud-based solutions for unified communications shine here. Combining voice, text messaging, video conferencing, and more, UC-based or Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS), improves worker productivity and efficiency. Features such as video conferencing, team workspaces, virtual whiteboards, and document and screen sharing allow your teams to work efficiently from anywhere or time zone.
These tools vary in price, but you can expect to pay from about $ 20 per user per month for basic calls and messages to more than $ 60 per user per month for calls, messages, appointments, videos and more.
UC is no longer just a telephone service
By providing mobile workers with communication services that suit their mobile work style, UCaaS solutions seamlessly integrate multiple locations and connect mobile workers with features their desktop phone can never dream of. The UC tools that businesses are embracing today go beyond basic VoIP phones. They combine calls, messaging (consider instant business messaging), meetings, team collaboration, file sharing, mobile access from any browser, and more into a tool that helps improve internal and external communications as well as employee productivity.
New AI capabilities that have emerged over the past two to three years have further improved UCaaS solutions, especially for meetings and conferences. These intelligent systems reduce background noise, understand natural language so that they can provide summaries and highlights of meetings, and automatically assign tasks to meeting participants based on conversations. These tools provide a significantly improved 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 cooperation.
Cloud communications and great support
Cloud communications solutions showed their value during the pandemic. Organizations that have already used them have been able to move quickly to remote work without missing a moment, while those who have not yet used them are struggling to stay connected and productive.
Here are some examples of published cases:
- Interstate batteries used Vonage communication platform (VPC) to transform the way employees communicate and work from the office or anywhere, providing flexibility and business continuity. It was able to allow teams to quickly switch to remote and keep 600+ employees connected, safely.
- Bennett International, the sixth largest specialized transportation company in North America, liaises with 3,000 employees and contractors through RingCentral MVP (message, video, phone) cloud solution. It doesn’t matter where someone works, because contacts, video capabilities and team messaging are on everyone’s phone and computer.
- The Seine-Saint-Denis department in France uses Avaya Spaces to facilitate communication between its 8000 employees and partners without location restrictions. Video conferencing and other collaboration capabilities of this tool 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 easier to visualize workflows with a kanban board, which allows teams to prioritize and collectively track the progress of tasks.
Going deeper into the hybrid world is likely to change the way we communicate and collaborate with customers, colleagues, partners and suppliers even more. Once UC tools become the norm, location will not matter. Cloud communications and collaboration make it possible to create and break up 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 research and development project, a new marketing campaign or a brainstorming session on a customer’s problem is a matter of inviting the right people to the workspace for a chat, conference and sharing ideas and documents. And because everything is cloud-based, workers have access to workspace and content from anywhere or from any device.
All this leads to greater productivity of hybrid teams. Surveys across the country show increased user productivity thanks to cloud communications and collaboration. Businesses have found 10% to 25% improvements in cloud communications and collaboration performance, leading to faster project completion, more efficient problem solving and improved innovation.
Which tool to choose?
There is no shortage of new offers in this space from a growing list of cloud communications providers. From household names like Microsoft, Google and Zoom to professionals like 8×8, Avaya, Dialpad, Edify, Intermedia, Mitel, Nextiva, RingCentral, GoTo and Vonage, companies have many choices.
And the vendor community continues to add more features and functionality. As cloud communications services continue to improve, you can expect to see artificial intelligence capabilities, such as real-time transcription and language translation in your meetings, to improve collaboration in the global employee base.
The old way of working is changing, requiring new tools and approaches. As workers continue to redefine what office space they will use, they will increasingly turn to cloud-based communication and collaboration tools to keep in touch with colleagues, customers and partners. For the new hybrid and distributed workforce, the cloud is the way forward.
Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.