Virtual Reality: How to easily establish consistent communications with anyone, anywhere

When the London Business School hosted its annual Global Leadership Summit in June 2014, the school surveyed attendees about a variety of modern business issues and challenges. While the results of that survey covered a variety of topics, one of the really interesting findings was that respondents believed that half of their employees would be working remotely by 2020.

Think about that for a second. In just six years, 50% of your organization may be working from somewhere other than your business’ corporate or regional office. That figure may sound like a stretch, but a recent New York Times article revealed that telecommuting grew by 79% between 2005 and 2012 — and that number is expected to rise even more over the next decade.

So, what does this mean for the future of business?

For starters, it means that organizations must find ways to empower their employees to work effectively and efficiently from any location. Thankfully, cloud-based technology is making that a reality — allowing employees to access virtually any file, application, network, or communication service from any place with a secure Internet connection.

The challenges of modern communication with traditional equipment

Modern phone systems are critical to making sure remote communication operates functionally and effectively – be it an employee working from home and feeling connected to headquarters, or communication across multiple office locations. Imagine for a moment that you operate a healthcare system with teams of physicians who operate out of multiple offices and hospitals. In order to effectively manage patient care and billing, those physicians and their staff must be able to easily communicate with each other (and their “main” office), regardless of where they are or what equipment (landline, cell phone, etc.) they’re using.

With traditional on-site phone systems, creating that kind of network connectivity and flexibility would be incredibly challenging. And even if you managed to make it work, it’s very likely that you would still deal with a handful of other issues.

  • Quality of service: While it might seem like on-premise phone systems would be more reliable, the issue is with the quality of the equipment and network across all remote offices. If the “pipe” from one remote office to the corporate headquarters isn’t big enough, it can lead to significant call and system quality issues.
  • Cost of service: Over the life of your phone system, on-site solutions can cost just as much (if not more, when you factor in long-term maintenance costs) as cloud-based managed phone solutions. You could end up paying the same amount to set up a less flexible, less feature-rich network. Meanwhile, your competitor could pay less to flip a switch and tap into a VoIP solution with much greater functionality and system integration.
  • Scalability and flexibility of service: Every time you open or expand an office, onsite phone systems require significant investments in additional hardware and installation services. And if staffing levels change, traditional phone systems often aren’t flexible enough to adapt on the fly. 

Traditional communication systems deliver fewer features and less flexibility, could cost you more when you factor in the equipment needed for each remote office, and the support costs of setting up and managing each of those private networks.

Regardless of the vertical your business operates in, that math doesn’t makes much sense.

Cleaning up the way modern businesses communicate

From a data and communications infrastructure perspective, there’s little doubt that cloud-based phone systems can improve the speed and capability of your company’s remote offices. There is much less effort required, and, ultimately, much greater functionality available to your staff.

And while all of that will no doubt lead to greater organizational efficiency and effectiveness (not to mention fewer technical headaches), it’s important not to forget that 50% of your workforce could be remote in six years. To prepare for that possibility, your company’s systems, processes, and applications must be incredibly scalable, flexible, and reliable.

If those aren’t words you’d use to describe your existing phone and communications systems, then it might be time to consider making a change.

Five Communication Tools Your Millennial Employees Need

The Millennials—young people aged 21-34—are ranked as the largest generation in history and, by 2025, 75 percent of the global workforce will be comprised of Millennials. These 80 million men and women are digitally fluent and have the potential to reshape the business landscape.

Millennials are extremely mobile and prefer to conduct business on their smartphones and tablets across a number of different channels. They are extremely team-oriented and enjoy collaborating and building friendships with colleagues. Social media is a hot spot for communicating and research. To help Millennials be as successful and productive as possible while working, employers need to understand how they communicate and provide the right solutions.

Here is a shortlist of five UC functions Millennials need:

  1. Videoconferencing. Having multimedia tools that include video available in the VoIP phone environment is critical. Employees need to collaborate instantly and turn a simple phone call into a group discussion. Millennials at work expect to use the latest collaboration tools, such as video conferencing with room-based systems, peer-to-peer video and web conferencing.
  2. BYOD. Millennials already own their favorite smartphone and tablet, so make sure you can integrate their devices with your existing office phone system—securely, simply and cost effectively. Doing so will help Millennials stay connected from any location around the world on any network: voice over Wi-Fi, voice over 3G/4G or cellular.
  3. Instant messaging. Millennials have no time or patience to wait for responses or a call back. Rather, they expect instant gratification and answers. Providing instant messaging and chat tools between employees needs to be an important cornerstone of your business phone system.
  4. CRM. Your entire staff needs instant access to CRM tools and directories, and Millennials (even though they are young) know the value of having phone data aligned with business data in a CRM system.
  5. Visual voicemail. Millennials are multitasking pros and can juggle many responsibilities and communication channels at once. Millennials are accustomed to having easy-to-use visual voicemail like their mobile devices provide. Ideally, their voicemail is integrated with their Microsoft Outlook inbox, giving them the ability to send and retrieve voicemail messages from email and also sync meetings with their Outlook calendar.

Make sure your Millennials have the UC functions they need to get your job done. Your aging phone system may need a makeover to keep up with the digital generation workforce. Learn how ShoreTel’s onsite and cloud UC gives all of your employees modern communications tools built for today’s highly collaborative world that is being transformed by Millenials.

Three UC Trends You Need to Embrace Right Now

Starting the year off with resolutions is a time-honored tradition, but here are three UC trends that will deliver business value today—rather than in 12 months. The following are ways UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS), mobile UC and video collaboration can change the way you work—right now.

  1. UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS) – Organizations are no longer dipping their toes into UCaaS—they are moving to the cloud with gusto. Hosted PBX and UC services grew at a double-digit clip last year, according to market research firm Infonetics, who predicts the market will be grow quickly to reach $12 billion by 2018.Cloud UC and VoIP makes it easier for workers at many small and midsize organizations to collaborate and save money. Having a business phone system that combines voice, video and instant messaging communications in a single, intuitive interface that is accessible anywhere, anytime is just the start of increased productivity. A cloud UC solution helps IT by offloading the work of buying, building and maintaining the necessary hardware and software, allowing them to focus on more strategic projects.

    ShoreTel lets organizations have their VoIP systems their way: on-site or in the cloud. ShoreTel’s onsite PBX is ideal for organizations that want hands-on control, while ShoreTel Sky, our hosted VoIP PBX service, is designed for companies that want to get out of the business of running their phone system.

  2. Mobile UC – More people than ever are using their personal smartphones, tablets and laptops for work-related tasks, from accessing email and applications to phone calls and texting. Gartner calls tablets “the sweet spot of BYOD programs” and predicts that by 2018, twice as many employee-owned devices will be used for work than enterprise-owned devices.People want the same capabilities and UC features on their tablets and smartphones that they have on their desk phones. They want to transfer calls, dial extensions and access calendars and corporate directories from their mobile devices. Even greater convenience comes from the ability to collaborate instantly through video and place phone calls from within business applications, such as Salesforce.com.

    ShoreTel Mobility integrates your employees’ favorite smartphones and tablets with your existing phone system—securely, simply and cost-effectively. Employees can use personal or company-owned devices and stay connected anywhere around the world on any network.

  3. Video collaboration – Once the domain of formal meetings and expensive room-based systems, videoconferencing is fast becoming an important form of communication that is breaking down barriers of time and place. With a few taps on a mobile app or clicks on the laptop, your employees can have an instant collaboration experience that’s almost as good as being there—but far less expensive and time-consuming than traveling.With ShoreTel Collaboration, you can give your workers simple, seamless, mobile-enabled video conferencing, whether you’ve deployed ShoreTel onsite or in the cloud. Users have single video calling from the keypad. Workers can make video calls or connect with a team using a room-based video conferencing system. And with ShoreTel Conferencing, user can view spreadsheets, presentations and work sessions from others’ desktops.

Learn how ShoreTel’s onsite and cloud UC can help your team communicate better. View a demo today.

Remote Control: How your phone system may be stifling remote employee productivity

Imagine for a moment that you’re a sales manager at a growing company and you’ve just been tasked with building a remote team of 40 sales reps. Your company’s headquarters is in Boston, but these reps will primarily work out of their home offices and much of their time will be spent on the phone — either initiating conversations with prospective clients or engaging existing customers.

While most of your sales reps have personal smartphones they can use on the go, you know that business calls are better conducted on a private line that provides more reliable call quality. Your sales reps will appear more professional, while the features of a business phone system also allows them to be more productive.

But here’s the issue: How exactly are you going to set up each of those sales reps with their own phone lines and all the tools they need to be as productive as possible?

The challenges with remote workers and on-premise phone systems

With traditional onsite phone systems, business owners or in-house IT experts would need to take several laborious steps to get remote workers’ phones connected to the company’s internal network.

First, they’d have to purchase an expensive phone for each employee — typically through their TelCo provider. Next, they’d need to do some circuit work to ensure that the company’s on-premise system could manage the additional call load. And lastly, they’d have to perform regular monitoring and maintenance of the onsite equipment to ensure its ongoing reliability.

Then there’s the issue of system features and functionality.

Generally, the benefits of legacy onsite phone systems are limited to reliability, caller identification, and voicemail functionality. Modern VoIP systems, however, allow employees (including remote workers) to easily link their phone to CRM and ERP applications, leverage click-to-dial technology, and unleash powerful call analytics.

If your business can’t provide those tools to remote employees, then it’s likely limiting your remote staff’s efficiency and productivity.

Is a cloud-based phone system the answer?

The emergence of cloud-based VoIP technology has largely rendered each of the challenges and obstacles listed above moot. With a cloud-based phone system, getting a remote employee up and running with a phone system is as simple as purchasing a phone, connecting it to the Internet, and downloading some software.

There’s no added setup, maintenance, management costs, or headaches, and your remote employees can immediately tap into the same functionality that in-house employees have access to. Even better, cloud-based phone service providers ensure the system is constantly upgraded and protected, which improves uptime, call reliability, and customer experience.

In a word, a cloud-based phone system just makes things easier.

If your business has a legacy onsite phone system that’s failing to deliver that kind of connectivity to your remote staff, or if you just think there’s a more effective way to sync remote workers to your company’s network, then you may want to consider moving to the cloud. Your remote employees — and their customers — will thank you for it.