How UC can give businesses the benefits of a mobile workplace
The changing nature of the workplace
The transformative impact of technology on today’s workplace shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But what is surprising is just how fully technology is reshaping the business environment. From the corner store that’s been serving the small-town neighborhood for 50 years to the farming operation that didn’t even use a computer five years ago, business efforts of all kinds
The changing nature of the workplace
The transformative impact of technology on today’s workplace shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. But what is surprising is just how fully technology is reshaping the business environment. From the corner store that’s been serving the small-town neighborhood for 50 years to the farming operation that didn’t even use a computer five years ago, business efforts of all kinds are benefiting from the boundless opportunities enabled by technological advancements.
One need only look at the numbers to get an idea of how workplaces are changing. Over the past few years, the amount of small companies migrating to the cloud has grown precipitously. In 2012, the figure was 34 percent. And by 2020, 78 percent of SMBs will be functioning in the cloud, according to a report by Emergent Research and Intuit.
With the move to the cloud comes a broader push among companies of all sizes toward increased mobility. Suddenly, organizations whose business was once limited to specific geographical sectors can enjoy a far vaster scope of operations. A mobile workforce enables workers to use the technology at their disposal in order to work anytime, from anywhere. By 2018, Global Industry Analysts Inc. estimates that the enterprise mobility market will be worth roughly $218 billion. Simply put, mobility – and the accompanying decentralization and globalization of the workforce that it enables – is the enterprise way of the future.
How the deployment of UC spurs mobility
The positive impact of a mobile workforce is clear, but the question arises: How can businesses that don’t currently enjoy such mobility get started? The answer lies in the deployment of a unified communications solution that allows employees to leverage the same UC features on their mobile devices.
In recent years, UC solutions have been taking the corporate world by storm. As a NextUC infographic points out, under legacy communication systems, businesses only had two choices for conducting day-to-day operations: They could do business in person, or over the phone. To call these two options limiting is an understatement. It was not until UC solutions were developed that companies began realizing how much business could benefit from the creation of a cohesive and multifaceted system of communications. According to the NextUC report, organizations leveraging a UC policy can expect to experience a 2800 percent surge in group-based collaboration. A report on UC issued by Formicary Collaboration Group pointed to other significant benefits including potential savings of more than $5 million per year at UC-enabled companies with 1,000 employees. This says nothing of the time saved when resources like video sharing, Web conferencing, IM, chat and desktop sharing are suddenly at fingers’ length. But perhaps the most significant benefit of UC is the mobility it enables. Below are some real-world examples of organizations that were able to substantially mobilize their operations through the enactment of a robust UC policy.
Design Within Reach
In the late 1990s, a company called Design Within Reach launched with a simple concept: To provide well-designed furniture that was, as the enterprise name implies, readily available to the consumer. In a designer world of exclusive merchandise that’s often backordered for extended periods, DWR’s populist approach came as a welcome relief to the average buyer. Soon, the business was making leaps and bounds in the design world. The only problem – its communications infrastructure couldn’t keep pace with the company’s growth. The company’s IT department quickly found itself overburdened, charged with overseeing many different retail locations that weren’t linked by a cohesive system of communication.
That changed with the introduction of the company’s UC system.
By aligning itself with a UC provider, DWR was able to quickly eliminate the cumbersome legacy phone system that had not only been slowing down its growth – since each location had to have its own separate phone system – but also racking up significant bills. But that wasn’t where the benefits ended for DWR. With its new UC system, the company quickly found that mobile operations became a breeze. Suddenly, it was possible for workers to be dispatched to out-of-office locations and still be tapped into the enterprise infrastructure via their mobile devices. By enabling some employees to work remotely, DWR paved the road for more rapid growth, and today the firm is a mainstay of the designer furniture industry.
Grande Cache Coal
When one considers the types of business operations that would be at the forefront of technological development, a coal mining company is perhaps not the first that comes to mind. Yet Canada’s Grande Cache Coal is a testament to the applicability of UC to any kind of enterprise. Located in Alberta, the company has been conducting large-scale mining operations for premium coal for years. While its business has been flourishing below ground for a long time, its functions above ground were a different story. Before implementing a UC solution, Grande Cache used an unreliable legacy phone system whose intermittent service led to connectivity problems that persisted for several days each month. The connectivity issues coupled with the remote conditions of the business’ work – most of the company’s functions, after all, are carried out within mountains – made for a less than ideal organizational model, one characterized by a large communicative gap.
Fortunately, Grande Cache turned to UC, and immediately began experiencing a world of positive difference. Among other things, Grande Cache’s UC system provided exactly what the company needed to guarantee a cohesive enterprise: mobility. Rolled out over a period of several months, the system allowed Grande Cache to install high-quality communication solutions at its various remote work sites. These deployments led to an immediate boon on productivity, as well as the understandable boost in worker morale born out of being connected to a central base of operations. These days, administrators at Grande Cache rest easy knowing that communicative barriers and the isolation of remote workers are things of the past.
Changes your business can expect when it becomes mobile
As the examples above illustrate, the move toward mobility is feasible for any kind of company, and the benefits are evident both immediately and in the long run. Here are just a few of those advantages that businesses can expect from a UC-enabled mobile workplace:
1. Peer-to-peer video calling
The best enterprises are those that function collaboratively, with people in different locations working in tandem to produce the best product or service possible. With peer-to-peer video calling, this kind of collaborative strategy – in which workers share ideas via their smartphones – is made easy. Let’s say, for instance, that the company using P2P video calling is a design firm that does custom home interiors. With P2P technology, a representative from the business visiting a prospective client could keep in touch with the main office while surveying the possible space to be remodeled. As an example, if questions from the prospect about available materials and different design concepts arise, those queries can be answered directly through the video chat interface.
2. Remote conference calls
With remote conferencing, employees can participate in business meetings regardless of where they are in the world, and the entire company can be on the same page at all times. According to a PowWowNow infographic, the option to remote conference is quickly becoming the new normal among small and medium-sized businesses. Overall, 70 percent of SMBs prefer videoconferencing to physical meetings. Videoconferencing, it should be mentioned, is far more popular than regular conference calls, with 75 percent of those in the infographic arguing that videoconferencing will usurp conference calls in the future.
3. Leveraging mobile business apps
Most everyone in the enterprise world these days has a smartphone, and within that phone is a repository of business resources in the form of applications. Many free business apps offer enterprises functionalities that would otherwise cost money – provided, of course, that those businesses have a mobile workforce in place. One of these apps, for instance, is called TripIt, and it offers a host of travel-related functions that make it incredibly easy for enterprises to plan trips for their employees. Another great work-centered app is BillMinder, which works to consolidate recurring payments on a single platform. This resource is perfect for smaller businesses that might not have a large finance team but still need to ensure that all the bills get paid on time.
4. Happier employees
Taking a look at the benefits of mobility outlined above, it should come as no surprise that the mobile business is also the happier one. Simply put, workers like being able to use their phones, work from home and remotely, and soak up all the other perks of mobility. According to an IDG report, more than three-quarters of employees at various surveyed enterprises said the mobility allowed by their companies’ BYOD policy had enabled them to achieve a better work-life balance. As an IdeaLoop infographic pointed out, nearly three quarters of employees say they eat healthier when working from home, while almost one-third chalk up a direct surge in happiness to dialing in without leaving their home.
5. Better business
Finally, and perhaps most self-evidently, mobility leads to better business. According to a Wavelink infographic, companies that have a mobility plan in place can expect to save at least half an hour a day. Multiply that by the number of workers at the company and pair that figure with the number of days in the business year and you have a whole lot of spare hours. By the time a company implements enterprise mobility, it’s already ahead of the pack.
- http://www.shoretel.com/resource_center/results?#/?success_story=&content=90999399 (“Challenge” sec)
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ShoreTel. Brilliantly simple business communications.
ShoreTel, Inc. (NASDAQ: SHOR) is a leading provider of brilliantly simple IP phone systems and unified communications solutions powering today’s always-on workforce. Its flexible communications solutions for on-premises, cloud and hybrid environments eliminate complexity, reduce costs and improve productivity.