“2021 is the time to review and update your communications and ways of working,” says Justin Hamilton-Martin, Enreach for Service Providers (previously Centile Telecom Applications). “There has been much talk in the media about the evolving workplace over the years, and this jumped forward during the emergence of the compulsory ‘hybrid working’ that we experienced in 2020. Last year, many companies proved that (depending on the industry and job type) it is possible to have remote workforces, underpinned by communications and collaboration technologies.
This does not just apply to big enterprises, but also small and medium-sized businesses, who if they were not already tech-savvy, were certainly a lot more so by the end of the year. Most have now learnt how to navigate their mute buttons and are used to video calls. Many of whom were reluctant in the past are now past the point of being shy. Most also agree that we can overdose on video, yet many have learnt to collaborate better (through necessity) on a remote basis, and are starting to find the benefits that technologists have evangelised about over the years.
However, for some organisations, 2020 was very challenging and staff energy levels diminished quickly. This was partly due to social isolation, but also for many due to the tools they were using not being established or fit for purpose in this new environment.
In a lot of cases, ‘quick fixes’ had been adopted to become functional, without the luxury of time in which the evaluation of new technologies and paths would have been helpful: ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ right? Consumer-grade tools and services came to the rescue (often free or requiring minimal expenditure) and they helped many businesses through the emergency situation, but they have also exposed their boundaries in operation.
Dependency on these limited tools is not viable for the long-term, not least because they do not provide the deep integration with critical apps. The true hybrid workplace means giving users the same professional experience across all locations, networks and devices. If staff are having to adapt to new ways of working when at home, it is likely that the business needs to continue its digital transformation. I caveat this by saying that there are some exceptions, but almost all fit the rule — or need to — in order to survive.
Plus, keeping a disparate bunch of apps and tools, many of which are not designed for business use, is risky and costly. For example, a standalone video conferencing tool is great for virtual team planning sessions, but what happens before and after those meetings? How do you jump back to the notes or open up the call history and retrieve the meeting details, attendees etc? How are the actions discussed, captured and monitored? For effective communications and collaboration, there is a need to integrate seamlessly with other business applications.
Some companies are still holding back from making investments in communications tools, but this can be a dangerous false economy, because a disconnected staff base is an expensive one, with the correlated impact on effectiveness. Of course, there are also multiple organisations who have already embraced the need to upgrade their comms infrastructure choices, and it is arguably easier for smaller businesses to be more agile than their larger competitors, especially when using cloud-based communications. In reality, the 9-5 world has not been here that long and the times of true flexible working is coming: this relates to both location and time, as we are become more properly connected globally.
Regardless of company size, unified communications as a service (UCaaS) can serve as the foundation for hybrid working, providing the flexibility that is required. In this new, more fluid environment enabled by the cloud, the communications experience can revolve around the user, according to his or her current status, rather than being dictated by devices, networks and apps. This will enable true ‘work from anywhere’ approaches, with — for instance — a meeting able to be initiated from multiple app ‘starting points’. Video meetings can transition seamlessly from one location and device to another: start from a mobile while still driving to the office, then switch to the laptop (without other meeting participants being aware or bothered).
We can also expect to see a continued massive shift towards the mobile phone being a primary conduit for UCaaS, particularly if the SIM is part of a UCaaS platform. This is because it can lend itself so well to separating out different personas (work and personal) and enable professional remote working, whether from home or on the move in the future.
Mobile devices work very well in a pure UC environment. For example, with features like presence, when using a UCaaS SIM, managers can track team members’ complete working activities. Presence also gives users far greater control over their reachability, helping them to create some boundaries between work and personal lives (particularly important when working from home), without impacting on productivity.
Users can set their reachability at the beginning of each day, based on a calendar of events according to their meeting schedules. From this, they can decide how incoming calls during timeslots are handled. For example, if an important customer call is expected, then calls can be rerouted to a colleague who will be able to help when a user appears ‘busy in a meeting’, or failing that, to a support desk. Reachability can also be changed at a moment’s notice, and team members can easily see each other’s availability, which is helpful when working remotely.
Predictions are always tricky, but based on recent history, I think that there is one thing of we can be sure: companies need to accelerate their digital transformations, to enable workforces to work as flexibly as possible. Integrated unified communications are essential to this becoming a reality.”
This article was posted on BusinessComputing.com