New, flexible workstyles thrive with unified communications
Tech Trends · Jan 26, 2022
The office was created as a way to unify work. Long before technology advanced, you needed everyone in the same physical space in order to stay aligned. Now we have the ability to work just as effectively, if not more effectively, from a myriad of locations, through digital connectivity. As many businesses emerge from early pandemic era work-from-home arrangements, 71% of North American companies plan to pursue a hybrid work strategy, according to a recent Cavell Enterprise Insight Report. Everyone knows what working in the office looks like, and you probably understand what a full time work-from-home deployment looks like. But what is the most effective way to roll out hybrid work? How do you unify the office when where you work no longer has a set location?
In a recent Virtual event, host Patrick Watson, Senior Analyst, Cavell Group, along with panelists Alan Tsang, VP and CIO at Quikcard, Nicolas Nehme, VP Global SE and PM, GSP BU, at RingCentral, and Greg McCallum VP of Sales at TELUS Business discussed how a unified communications strategy provides distinct business and technology advantages to enable a seamless flexible work deployment.
Remote work doesn’t work for everyone
“The shift towards work-from-anywhere culture has impacted the types of solutions that businesses need to provide for their staff,” says Watson. “Businesses have encountered some issues with remote and flexible working.”
Cavell Group’s recent enterprise insights research has found that the top three pain points for businesses during the shift to remote work are:
Employees feeling disconnected
A void between remote and in-person employees
Lack of meeting participation
There are multiple solutions specifically designed to address these issues, ranging from project management software, communications platforms, video conferencing, and more. However, adopting different platforms can increase the risk of adding unwanted complexity to your business’s technology estate, especially if those solutions don’t easily integrate with one another. Put another way, each piecemeal solution you adopt may work perfectly on its own, but when placed together, they may increase friction or add other unforeseen problems, making work more difficult in the long run.Organizations need to ensure their tools for collaborating are not only up to date but optimized in a way that integrates them into the business’ culture.
Polling conducted amongst the webinar participants suggests most people have adopted some solutions to enable a work-from-anywhere deployment, but may not be fully convinced it meets their business needs. While the majority of participants were moderately satisfied with their current communications solution, 56% said they would change from their current communications tools if it meant increased unified integration capabilities. On top of that, 44% would consider switching from their current tools if they could get real-time analytics or a more reliable network with expert support for their businesses.
This means there is demand for tools that work seamlessly together, while also providing insight into the business and a need for expert support when it's needed. To overcome these kinds of issues, businesses are pivoting to technology partners to find integrated solutions and adopt a unified communications technology suite that meets their specific business needs.
Tools that support hybrid work
A successful hybrid work deployment isn’t only about the tools per se, it’s about reorienting your business to optimize flexibility and productivity. The right tools and partnerships help to enable this, but ultimately they will need to be seen through the lens of your business priorities.
While some of these may seem obvious, it’s important to note why having these capabilities accessible on any device through an internet connection is important for your business. Here are some of the kinds of tools you will want to consider and how they can help enable hybrid work.
While you may spend more time writing emails, being able to speak clearly with one another is the foundation of any team or business. It’s the fastest way to get complex information across. These kinds of tools include everything from voice meetings with multiple people, voice memos, to telephony. Making voice communication seamless prevents silos, and encourages full cooperation amongst teams.
Video conferencing has become ubiquitous for good reason. Non-verbal communication is the primary mode of human communication. The face tells you more in an instant than words ever could. Being able to see your team provides invaluable human connection, keeping team culture alive on a more fundamental level than achievable through voice or text. That’s crucial when your whole workforce may rarely, if ever, meet 100% in-person.
Collaboration tools are designed to organize workflows and communication. Often they arise as an alternative to email, which has a tendency to balloon into long, hard-to-follow threads and lose participants via replies. A successful collaboration tool can completely change the game for your business, but there are lots to choose from and many options for integrations. Training needs to be made available to everyone to unlock its full capabilities. Make sure any new collaboration solution has the full support of leadership and meets your business needs.
Equally important to internal communication is external communication, needing to accommodate customer expectations of how they can reach you. Practically every channel has the capability for some business communication, from email, SMS, website live chat, social media direct message, to the telephone, and many more. Despite online methods being the favourite way for consumers to initiate communication with a business, the telephone remains the most popular single channel, according to Cavell Group.
Benefits of the integrated approach
Being able to wrap all of the functionality you need for a hybrid work deployment into one package relies on a technology partner who specializes in creating these kinds of deployments for businesses, which comes with several advantages.
Greater Efficiency: Having seamless communication and workflows with a deployment that works together means the most up-to-date information is easily available, and less time is wasted on context switching between platforms. This can translate into greater productivity and customer service.
Increased Flexibility and inclusion: Having the ability to work-from-anywhere will allow people to work more effectively while reducing burnout by increasing the ability to achieve work-life-balance. This in turn enables more people to participate in the workplace, while increasing employee retention and making your business more attractive to top talent, who may live far from your main office.
Lower Complexity: Having one provider deploying a suite of solutions means you only have to deal with one vendor, and you’ll know that each part of your solution will integrate together for a seamless deployment.
Lower IT load: Having only one vendor means your IT team spends less time managing vendors. The right technology partner acts like an extension of your IT team, building capabilities and resolving issues together, as opposed to having to do everything in-house.
Deeper analytic capabilities: Having an integrated , flexible work deployment allows for greater visibility into the day-to-day operations with data easily shared between the whole operation. For example, a call centre using Microsoft Teams integrated into their phone system will be able to record calls in the cloud, see how each team member is performing at a glance, and more.
Controlled Costs: Having a single technology partner mediating your deployment means you know exactly how much it will cost per seat, allowing you to scale easily and predictably.
On-going, expert support: Through the right technology partner, you can gain access to enterprise level support, even if you’re not an enterprise client. Plus, your partner’s technology teams should be there to provide expertise whenever you need them.
How Quikcard embraced TELUS Business Connect
Alan Tsang, Vice-President and Chief Information Officer at Quikcard, an Edmonton based company that administers employee health benefits for small to medium size companies across Canada, explained the benefits they found in transitioning to TELUS Business Connect. Before starting at the company, Tsang had a background in consulting.
“I was used to having unified communications where my office phone would be on my computer or my mobile phone. That would follow me wherever I was,” says Tsang. “So when I started at Quikcard, it was a bit of a shock to the system.
You know, we were still on analogue landlines… Our receptionist would have to answer every single phone call and make the transfer.”
One of the main drivers in making the transition to an integrated solution in TELUS Business Connect was the ability to report on key performance indicators. Previously, the only measured metric was the number of claims processed. It was either impractical or impossible to know things like call times, customer wait times, or even the total number of calls handled per agent.
“We’ve configured and implemented live reports through TELUS Business Connect. We’ve developed custom dashboards for each department displaying key calling metrics. We’ve displayed these on the big monitors at the office for each department, and now they’re also accessible on the supervisor’s desktop if they’re working remotely.”
In looking for a solution, it was important for Tsang that whatever the technology, that it works for both customers and employees, thereby supporting business priorities.
“The majority of our workforce works in our call centre, so how do we ensure that we can maintain that level of service with hybrid? How do we keep up with productivity? How do we support our staff?”
Call centre work by nature is independent, so using collaboration tools was mainly for support on a call if needed. After making the transition to TELUS Business Connect, employees were able to take control of their schedules and work more towards their strengths, based on key metrics. More people-friendly workers stayed on the phones, while more detail-oriented employees processed claims. They were also able to open up their talent pool from the Edmonton area, to the whole of Canada.
“I think the biggest benefit is, it’s given our staff flexibility. We have a fairly young workforce, with young families. With this pandemic, it’s forced us to rethink what the typical eight-to-five is. We need to be flexible,” says Tsang. “All of this has increased our staff’s work satisfaction.”
What to look for in an integrated technology partner
Finding the right technology partner for your integrated hybrid work deployment will help set your business up for success now and in the future. So what should you look for in choosing a technology partner?
Being able to provide broad support in deploying a suite of integrated solutions that fits your business is the number one priority. “You should look for a provider that can demonstrate experience in this area,” says Watson. “They should be able to provide case studies and testimonials from other businesses where they’ve helped with technology integration.” Ask what solutions they have off the shelf and if they have the ability for custom solutions, should your business require it.
The Right Integration Portfolio
A good technology partner will be able to take a holistic view of your business and match your solution based on your needs. That means understanding each aspect of your technological estate and how that aligns with your operation, and what options are available to meet those priorities. That’s how you know you’ll get a seamless workflow experience from anywhere.
Along with having the general knowledge, they should have experts available to help with deployment who have the benefit of experience from helping several businesses make the switch to their specialized technology. They can assist from design, planning, integration implementation and rollout to your entire staff, so everyone is able to hit the ground running as quickly as possible.
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