Door-to-door salespeople vanished into history years ago, as the telephone allowed them to reach prospects without leaving their desks, thus saving their company both time and money. Today, salespeople can take advantage of even more ways to connect, using text and email, for example, in addition to the phone. Increasingly, customers and colleagues aren’t down the hall or even in the same city anymore. So, salespeople conduct more meetings across time zones and geographic borders – often while working remotely themselves.
This ease of collaboration is the future of work, made possible by cloud communications. These systems allow organizations to integrate tools such as voice, video, messaging and email with essential business applications. By enabling businesses to collaborate more easily in real-time with customers and partners, the cloud is reinventing the way we communicate and improving the customer experience.
The cloud is the future of communicationsThe cloud now enables customization and personalization that was inconceivable just a short while ago. “What once was static is now dynamic,” notes Joshua Haslett, Mitel’s vice president of Strategic Innovations. With the push of a software update, businesses gain access to new features over time, “so your perceived value of the investment you made increases, not decreases,” he says.
More than a convenient and low-cost conduit for voice and email, the cloud allows diverse applications and devices to communicate. Using open source code, businesses and/or cloud vendors can develop APIs to connect a range of devices and platforms. Using apps and websites, both internal and external stakeholders can communicate quickly and effectively.
For example, with the increasing use of the Internet of Things (IoT) in manufacturing, rich, real-time data flows from equipment via the cloud to internal process experts. And as software develops, this will move from one-way communications to a more interactive process with IoT devices.
Greater flexibility means faster decision-makingRemember our salesperson? To deliver a deal, they may need to negotiate while in an airport using their mobile device, share contracts via email and hash out product details with colleagues in a video call.
With mobility now ubiquitous, more tasks are performed using smartphones. A mobile device untethers workers from their desks, while cloud communications puts the utility of traditional desktop computers at their fingertips, wherever they are. This improves decision-making because employees – from the salesperson to the CEO – can access key data from wherever they happen to be at that moment.
Another advantage: As business needs evolve, so can the tools they require to collaborate efficiently. New applications can be deployed with minimal IT involvement.
Organizations that aim to improve collaboration, productivity and decision-making may want to consider deploying cloud communications. The following questions can help you decide.
In order to reap the benefits of cloud communications, you must first assess your needs and define how the cloud can improve productivity and reduce costs.
Growth. Is your organization expanding? Moving across international boundaries and time zones? Can the cloud make communications easier by connecting disparate software and hardware?
Collaboration bottlenecks. Identify how and where your employees – and external partners – need to better communicate and share data. What are the current bottlenecks in decision-making? Can you integrate business applications with your current communications technology?
Know your users. Choose collaboration tools that support how your business actually works. “Start by having an honest conversation with employees about their needs,” advises Jon Brinton, president of Mitel’s Cloud Division. “Once you understand how and why employees use collaboration tools, you’ll have an easier time making decisions about which tools to keep and which to cut.” Brinton also recommends choosing platform-agnostic tools that allow you to customize collaboration solutions for both the individual department and the individual employee.
Flexibility. Choose a vendor that focuses on applications and functionality, not hardware and boxes. Find a partner that can help you get to the next level, as befits your organization’s needs, budget and strategy.