As your business grows, life gets complicated. What could be achieved with a phone call before now involves a lot more people. To get their work done, your employees need to collaborate easily with each other, and with external partners and customers.

The workforce – and its expectations – are changing rapidly, too. A recent PwC study found that 41 percent of millennials prefer communicating via email or some other electronic means rather than in person or over the phone. To accommodate their preferences, businesses need a collaboration and communications solution that’s mobile-first and cloud-connected, like MiCloud Connect. Cloud communications provides them with greater flexibility and support for different styles of work.

BYOD and Shadow IT

Because our world is so connected – via email, social media, smartphones and more – employees walk in the door with all their own mobile devices, apps and expectations. On one hand, this bringing-your-own-device (BYOD) to work can save your small business money in hardware expenditures.

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But here’s the rub. If your organization doesn’t provide good collaboration tools, employees will find their own. You can easily end up with a software Tower of Babel. In fact, one recent report found that the average employee uses more than 16 different cloud services, approximately three different content sharing services and up to three different collaboration services. Is your head spinning yet?

The result is lost productivity and inefficiency. Team members get frustrated because of the lack of consistency in the tools they use across different projects. The company can easily lose control of secure data. And it doesn’t look great to customers and partners, either. Using “freeware” and inconsistent or unreliable apps projects an unprofessional image.

Let's roll

Your organization needs a consistent, easy-to-use set of team collaboration and communications tools. But before you make any decisions, it’s helpful to review some of the typical obstacles businesses encounter when rolling these out — and how you can overcome them.

Obstacle #1: “It’s a really cool tool but it’s not integrated into the rest of our systems.”

If this is the case, then it’s not a really cool tool. It’s going to be another headache. You need a collaboration solution that connects all the dots — email, calendar, files, your company directory. For example, a cloud communications solution empowers employees to manage calls from a web browser and connect directly from emails or calendar events. They can set up audio and video conference calls with a click and even invite outside parties. A robust collaboration tool should also include desktop sharing, individual and group chat, built-in VPN and business text messaging. You want to give your employees the ability to communicate and share ideas over multiple channels, switching easily from one to another.

A hosted Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) system can deliver all this and more. By choosing a cloud-based solution, you free yourself from legacy phone systems, so there’s no more worrying about software upgrades or buying new hardware.

A VoIP solution also allows your staff to be mobile, maintaining quality even when they’re on the road or working remotely. Because they’re connecting via a web portal, communications remain as consistent and reliable as if everyone was at their desk in the office.

Obstacle #2: “Is this going to make my life more difficult?”

Another common obstacle to rolling out new software is employee resistance. But maybe they’ve got good reasons to resist. Because a new tool can have a big impact on people’s daily work life, management has to explain its purpose and business value. For instance, will the tool help sell more product, reduce costs or improve productivity? Will it make employees’ lives easier? Any change is difficult, so people need to know what’s in it for them. If there isn’t a strong business case, people just won’t go along.

Here’s an example: McKinsey reports that on average, workers spend almost 20 percent of their time looking for information inside the organization or trying to track down colleagues who can help them. What if this new collaboration tool could help staff quickly learn the availability of a colleague? With presence technology, employees can set their status and how to best reach them.

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To strengthen acceptance of the new tool, first identify your users and their needs. Do you have employees working out in the field or remotely? Do you have staff that needs to collaborate on projects, share files and conference often? How about sales and service staffers (e.g., the contact center) who need to quickly reach internal experts or field personnel? Any collaboration tool you choose must meet the needs of all these users.

Obstacle #3: “How long is this going to take to learn?”

We’ve all lived through painful software upgrades. If the learning curve is too steep, you’ll lose people and, in the end, they won’t use the new system. That’s why it’s crucial to find a collaboration and communications tool that’s intuitive and easy to use right out of the box. You also need a vendor who’ll be there after the sale, ready to answer questions, provide training and customize a solution that works for your business.

The beauty of a BYOD environment is that there’s little to no learning curve. People already know how to use their devices. And with a VoIP phone solution, your staff can access all functions and business information through a web portal. The interface is consistent whether you’re sitting at your desk or in your car.

Finding the right collaboration tool

When it’s time to simplify your communications system, make sure you cover these points with any vendor.

Does it have these team collaboration features? Be sure that your VoIP phone system will have easy and secure file sharing, point-to-point video and persistent communication across multiple channels. It should also enable real-time private and group chat and realā€time video chat from desktop and mobile devices.

Does it have robust team communications functions? Any VoIP phone system worth its salt will provide presence and awareness information, single-number reachability and dynamic profiles that modify communications options and routing. It should also have a mobile-first design so that employees can communicate from any web-enabled device.

Does the phone system work with our current IT framework? You want to make your life easier, right? Then you’ll need a system that complements your existing IT infrastructure so that it’s easy to administer and it lowers your total cost of ownership.

MiCloud Connect, a VoIP phone solution, gives you all this and more. When it’s combined with Mitel Teamwork, your staff can communicate and collaborate efficiently, resulting in more productivity, less stress and better service to your customers and partners.

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