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Small companies state collaborative tools boost productivity

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Collaborative strategies are gaining momentum in the business world, especially among small companies.

Today's organizations are privileged in the fact that they are among the first to witness a new era of collaboration in the workplace. Rather than maintaining legacy business phone systems that are no longer effective at supporting a growing workforce, companies can embrace social technologies, mobile devices and cloud services. These solutions improve the availability of mission-critical communication tools that are needed to maintain operations in today's fast-paced corporate environment.

Small businesses in particular are taking advantage of these next-generation mentalities by augmenting office phone systems with cloud and mobile-enabled technologies, social collaborative applications and other solutions that promise to improve communications in and outside of the workplace. The consumerization of IT, which is a phenomenon in which the business world embraces tools intended for the consumer setting, is the main driving force behind this ongoing transformation.

Yet it is not a one-and-done metamorphosis. Instead, the introduction of advanced collaborative services acts more like the spark to the funeral pyre for the old phone system. Individuals are no longer content with having to travel to the office every day. People want freedom and the ability to work from home, on the road or the coffee shop down the street, and the proliferation of cloud, mobile and social technologies are allowing them to do just that.

A recent study of more than 1,200 small businesses across North America, Europe and Australia by a major cloud collaboration provider highlighted how more than a third of respondents believe they are more pressured today than they were five years ago to build upon or develop a remote working strategy.

The future of working

In a sense, tomorrow's office will not necessarily be confined to a single location. This has been an ongoing process since the definition of "work" changed from a physical place to an activity. This transformation is primarily being driven by employees, as 29 percent of respondents said the workforce was the leading evangelist for change.

The study revealed that 45 percent of companies believe the use of advanced collaborative tools make employees more productive in and outside of the workplace. Organizations also believe that mobile technologies can improve performance transitions between the seasons. While 32 percent of small businesses usually see a drop in productivity during the summer, more than 40 percent believe the adoption of a remote workforce and teleworking mentality reduces this impact.

"It's great to see a 'work anywhere, with anyone' environment delivering such big improvements in productivity, most obviously in North America and Australia, and that the demand for flexible work continues to grow. However, it's a concern that two-thirds of businesses overall still don't have the tools and processes to control remote access to their corporate networks," cloud collaboration expert Brett Caine said.

Nevertheless, these technologies are undoubtedly on the rise, especially as organizations begin to see the benefits behind adopting video conferencing, bring your own device and cloud services.

Understanding the true benefit of collaboration

While many organizations pursue hosted PBX solutions and other advanced telecommunications technologies to save money in today's competitive business world and unstable economy, it is important that decision-makers understand the true benefits associated with embracing these solutions. While it is true that they can save companies money, their true purpose is to drive operations and improve teamwork throughout the business as a whole.

"The 2013 survey highlights a major shift from the findings of a similar study in 2011. Pressure to work wherever, whenever and however we choose is more common. The real value of social collaboration lies in enabling greater creativity and innovation, by allowing those inside and outside the company to work better together, serving customers, creating value and improving the quality of life," Caine said.

A recent Strategy Analytics report highlighted how the global collaboration market generated more than $7 billion in revenue in 2012, up 12 percent from 2011. This was largely due to the proliferation of cloud services, a technology that analysts believe will cause the entire communications industry to reach a tipping point in two years when there will be more cloud-based solutions than premise-based applications.

The report noted that the use of email and web conferencing solutions during the past 20 years has only encouraged organizations to embrace a newer and more efficient work style that enables individuals to work from wherever they please, on any device they deem necessary. In the coming years, it will be increasingly important that executives embrace this mentality, as failing to do so will make it more difficult to keep employees and customers engaged. As a result, productivity, user experience and revenue streams will all suffer.

Forward-thinking decision-makers need to plan ahead and implement the most innovative tools that align with their long-term objectives, giving their companies a competitive advantage in terms of innovation.