Employee productivity is definitely up there, but moving legacy phone systems to the latest Unified Communications (UC) solution also enables companies to tap a workforce and opportunities once out of reach.
Much has been written about the benefits of UC. We know productivity improves. We know certain costs go down. All great things. But how do those benefits actually play out for specific companies? And what’s the true value of realizing those benefits in your organization?
I examine the top five benefits that my clients have realized by implementing UC. Some they expected. Others they didn’t. But what they all realized, regardless of the specific benefits achieved, is that they created a competitive advantage by modernizing how they communicate. Doing nothing was just no longer an option.
1. Time shifting
To sum it up, work is what you do, not where you go. With UC, employees can be productive from anywhere. Having this flexibility is especially valuable in larger cities where rush hour traffic slows everyone down. Employees can plan their days around burst hours and commute to the office if required during less congested times. With reduced commutes, there are also reduced carbon outputs and less fuel consumption. Ironically, most companies don’t plan time shifting as a strategic initiative at the outset, and are surprised by its benefits once activated.
2. Pandemic planning/weather events
Regular remote working is one thing. But there are instances when even traditional office workers can’t physically make it in. Pandemic and weather event planning isn’t normally high on the UC priority list for most companies, however it is a vital piece of the plan and a big win for IT when implemented.
For example, a large motor association that offers roadside assistance is often busiest during severe weather conditions. Prior to implementing UC, extra staff would have had to make an often-dangerous journey to the office to answer calls and dispatch roadside experts. With UC capabilities, those same staff were able to stay safely at home while servicing customers. As a result, wait times lessened and employee and customer satisfaction increased.
3. Personalization of work
Traditionally, business hours are from nine to five. However, leveraging UC, employees can implement a flexible work schedule. As long as employees are meeting objectives/metrics, they can choose the hours that they work based on what is convenient for them. Having key performance measures in place is critical when enabling personalization of work, so employees are always balancing corporate objectives with their personal requirements. When employees have the ability to work when they are most productive, they are happier and less likely to seek out other career opportunities.
For example, one employee at a large technology company was faced with providing homecare for an ailing parent. Leveraging UC capabilities and working with defined objectives, the employee was able to care for his parent while accomplishing required tasks. Prior to UC, that same employee probably would have had to take leave or even quit to meet his familial responsibilities. While his work hours were usually several one to two hour segments spread throughout the day, this employee was still able to meet his performance measures.
4. Workforce diversity
Unified Communications enables companies to explore the potential and power of a previously untapped and underemployed workforce. A typical eight-hour, travel-to-the-office work structure often doesn’t suit the needs of workers with disabilities faced with mobility issues. However, by being able to work when and where they want to, these workers can contribute their talents and expertise. These employees gain an opportunity to reach their potential without having to overcome their disabilities to do it.
5. Future of business
Many of us are used to enabling customer and employee communication using phone numbers and email. But UC opens up new ways of doing business with previously untapped customer bases. Customers now have more choice, variety, opportunity and customization in how they reach, communicate and interact with you.
Think about this – consumer Skype accounts now match 40 per cent of global telecom consumption. What that tells me is that there is a lot of real-time communication going on without any numbers being dialed. My accountant is a perfect example. He doesn’t have a phone. He only has a UC address that’s associated with his Skype account.
Richer ways of reaching out
While the benefits of UC vary from organization to organization, one thing is certain – convenience, flexibility and rich interaction is the way of the future.
Restricting yourself to one traditional way of interacting with customers is limiting. Voice is ok. But customers want more. They want video. They want to share files. They want to interact in business the way they interact in life.
The future will no longer abide by one way of communicating.
It’s important to put all of UC’s modalities in play – voice, presence, video, collaboration and instant messaging. And it’s also important to do so systematically so you enable the right capabilities at the right time.
Read my post about building a UC roadmap to find out how.