Cloud, mobile technologies drive support for new collaboration


    Video, cloud and mobile communication solutions are having a major impact on how employees, customers and partners collaborate.

    The business communications landscape is undergoing significant transformations as the consumerization of IT and other trends emerge. In recent years, the office phone system has evolved from traditional land line solutions to VoIP, making it easier to support a broader range of connections without compromising performance or availability. Yet, voice is no longer the only way employees collaborate with colleagues, customers and partners. This has largely been driven by the advent of unified communications.


    By implementing a centralized and unified platform, enterprises can still use business VoIP systems to communicate while also leveraging multiple other technologies at the same time. Among the rapidly emerging collaborative tools gaining momentum is video conferencing. This is because most people believe that having the ability to physically visualize whom they are speaking with allows for a more holistic experience, which is especially important in the contact center and other departments meant to improve customer service.

    A recent Frost & Sullivan report highlighted how using video conferencing can introduce significant benefits to the enterprise in terms of cost and efficiency. Analysts noted that this is largely because employees are less distracted when they are on a video call with someone, compared to an audio conference in which body language has no relevance.

    "While the primary reasons for deploying video conferencing are eliminating travel expenses and facilitating meetings with remote participants, its full benefits will be apparent only when, it is embedded in everyday work practices. The regular use of video conferencing facilitates productivity gains through enhanced user participation, the inclusion of visual components like document and multimedia sharing and enabling specialist use cases like medical examinations," said Mark Hickey, IT research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

    Although enterprise adoption levels have not yet topped out for video conferencing, the ongoing use of bring your own device (BYOD) and need to empower a remote workforce are contributing to the strong demand for hosting services capable of supporting this type of communication.

    Keeping Out-of-Office Operations Efficient

    Frost & Sullivan analysts revealed that business concerns regarding security and interoperability in today's BYOD-enabled enterprise have a valid argument as the number of endpoints used in and outside of the workplace grows. Still, there are several ways to get around these issues, including developing more robust governance policies that keep unsafe practices to a minimum. At the same time, decision-makers can also manage video conferencing and other collaborative solutions in a unified communications platform hosted in the cloud. Doing so provides executives with a centralized management system that can be accessed anywhere at any time, regardless of device.


    "For now, cloud computing offers flexibility and increased productivity gains by combining video with file sharing as part of a UC solution," Hickey asserted.

    A separate study of 1,300 businesses by Rackspace Hosting and the Manchester Business School highlighted similar findings, noting that more than 80 percent of respondents believe mobile applications and services will become the normal way in which employees access critical IT systems. In many cases, individuals will use their smartphones, tablets and other gadgets to access mobile enterprise VoIP systems and other collaborative tools remotely.

    Although there are numerous ways to support remote access to video conferencing, voice channels and other technologies, the cloud is quickly becoming the most popular. This is largely because hosted PBX systems and other cloud platforms are easy to use and provide real-time access to crucial resources from anywhere.

    "There is no doubt that cloud computing is enabling a more flexible workplace using a range of devices. What's interesting to see is how staff are wanting to access their corporate IT services; they're demanding the same consumer app experience in the workplace from their laptops, smartphones and tablets. With our reliance on the PC declining, the onus is on the businesses to deliver their IT services in a format that enables staff to access corporate cloud apps from any device or location," said Brian Nicholson at Manchester Business School.

    Frost & Sullivan analysts noted that the increasing deployment rates of cloud computing and unified communication systems suggest that the business communication landscape is changing from its antiquated stance to a more efficient, next-generation posture. The proliferation of BYOD and other sophisticated mobile initiatives will continue to drive this evolution, especially with the backing of video conferencing and other collaborative tools.

    In the coming years, business phone systems will take on increasingly heavy burdens as they are forced to adapt to ongoing consumerization trends that continue to disrupt enterprise operations. By embracing the cloud and unified communications, decision-makers can provide employees with a more holistic and centralized collaborative experience to boost performance, efficiency and connectivity without encountering unnecessary challenges.

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