Collaboration in the cloud: Unifying comms in a unified era

David Macfarlane, Managing Director of Gamma - an exhibitor at Europe's #1 digital transformation expo DTX & UCX 2022 - delves into how companies can collaborate effectively within the cloud in the post-pandemic era of unified communications.

The big shift towards collaborating in the cloud wasn’t a choice: It was a necessity.

When COVID struck, organisations had to act quickly to move everything online, and they didn’t have the time or capacity to run staff through training. It was simply a case of adapting as quickly as possible, discovering how to use the tools on the job and manage as best they could.

The world might have reopened now, but there’s no sign of us going back to isolated operations - where everyone worked independently within a single space. The future of working is unified communications where workforces are connected from afar. Perfecting this modern work method is often described as a challenge - but in reality it should be seen as an opportunity.

Today, companies can take advantage of tools to finally assert some effective control over hybrid working - establishing a flexible, future-proofed unified comms strategy that enables staff to thrive in the new way of working life.

Remote working: A win-win all round

Between the lockdowns and The Great Resignation of 2021 - where employees began resigning from their roles en masse to seek new opportunities - business have routinely expressed frustration at the changes being enforced by the COVID pandemic, particularly the fact that staff are reluctant to return to the five-day office commute.

In reality, though, as much as this may feel like an adjustment, it is as much a positive thing for businesses as it is for employees.

With fewer staff in the office, organisations can downsize on office space to reduce expenditure and their carbon footprint - which can work wonders for helping companies hit their own eco targets. Environmentally progressive countries like Germany already plan to change the law to make employers justify why someone has to come into the office, rather than the employee having to justify working remotely.

There’s also huge benefits in terms of recruitment. With remote workers available anywhere in the world, employers can take their pick from a global talent pool - bringing in the best people for the right jobs so service quality can increase.

Customers and users are also expressing a newfound desire to communicate primarily online - with Forrester calculating the time saved for both employees and clients can be as much as 30 minutes per day via a fully integrated communication hub.

Improved team collaboration

Our new disrupted landscape means companies need to innovate better and faster.

Fresh entrants and business models are emerging in many industries - with advanced technologies compressing time to market. Improving the ability to collaboratively generate and share ideas, co-create content, and build more efficient workflows is right at the heart of innovation.

Online creation and editing of files (text, graphic, video, design) ensures everyone is - quite literally - on the same page. Sharing all the project details with the entire team also improves engagement since everyone has an equal opportunity to provide input. Contextual messaging around those files keeps the conversation contained and relevant. No more spiralling email sharing. No more ‘Who’s got the latest and greatest?’

Remote workers especially benefit from the move to collaboration in the cloud. It provides the same access, the same privileges and the same frames of reference to all team members - and it works brilliantly on mobile devices. This helps both to create and ‘groove’ more flexible working styles, which will meet the expectations of millennials and generation Zs.

A windfall from efficient communications

More efficient collaboration requires fewer and/or shorter meetings. Video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Teams can reduce setup length, whilst the ability to record these meetings and share via the same platform also saves time.

Overall, it is estimated that companies can make a colossal estimated saving of £5m over 3 years by utilising this tech.

Many larger organisations are managing a blend of on-premise solutions, home-grown cloud solutions, as well as third-party cloud applications - but this creates difficulties for IT in terms of integration, scale, and cost, complicating compliance with regulations like GDPR.

Telephony services, for example, are an often forgotten pocket of infrastructure with an ageing PBX sweating in a basement somewhere. Like any on-premise hardware, it has a cost to maintain and adapts poorly (if at all) to hybrid working. If the majority of a workforce is working remotely most of the time, it becomes increasingly redundant. Streamlining these solutions into the cloud reduces licence costs and the burden of legacy hardware.

If an enterprise communication tool doesn’t meet staff needs for features, mobility, and convenience, they will turn to public third-party applications instead, which not only seeds confusion, but could also pose a security risk.

Having an integrated, centrally-managed cloud environment reduces support costs and user downtime. It also means that wherever the data is accessed, it is protected and controllable.

Reductions in IT costs and complexity can save a company of 5,000 people a whopping £4m in three years.

A happier, healthier workforce

Integrated and empowered people are happier people - and even happier still if the flexibility extends not just to where they work, but how and when too.

A great benefit of cloud collaboration systems is that work can get done at the same time as team members (synchronously) as well as at the time that best fits the individual (asynchronously).

The collaboration system keeps track of the inputs, and managers focus purely on the outcomes. Additionally, an integrated cloud environment reduces the time to train and onboard all new hires, whilst a seamless easy-to-use platform also improves inclusivity for employees with physical or cognitive challenges.

Taking advantage of today’s fully digitised working model, however, involves putting plans in place to work successfully within the cloud. And that begins with creating a collaboration hub.

The ‘available from anywhere, anytime’ access to information manifested in a collaboration hub could create £190,000 of additional value for hybrid organisations.

Now, the support and tools are out there for business operations to thrive online. After taking the first step towards controlled cloud collaboration, you never have to look back.

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