1. How you can enable a mobile workforce with cloud communications
We’re all busy today, but we’re not always productive. For example, we spend several hours every week checking emails, schedules, text messages, and voicemails in multiple applications and on multiple devices just to make sure we’re not missing something. But ironically, managing multiple collaboration tools on multiple devices is a sure way to miss something. Cloud communications opens up and unifies collaboration so businesses begin thinking outside their inboxes.
It brings employees, customers and partners into the conversation from wherever they are, on whatever device they’re on. And it lets them pick up the conversation quickly, by organizing everything into a single cloud‐based application where voicemails, videos, chats, and more can be stored and easily accessed whenever they’re needed.
The key to better collaboration is through your mobile phone. If you’re like most of us, it’s the first thing you check in the morning, the last thing you see at night, and it goes wherever you go. That’s a far cry from where most legacy phone systems are today, which were designed well before the mobile era and handle mobile communications as an afterthought. The rise of the mobile workforce has challenged modern perceptions of what a traditional office environment should be.
Gone are the large spaces filled with wall‐to‐wall cubicle farms. Instead, they’ve been replaced with functional work spaces where people collaborate and are more productive, and mobile working, once seen as a major hassle for organizations, is no longer considered a compromise for businesses trying to accommodate unique work situations like flexible working schedules and office closings due to severe weather. Today, everything is digital, and remote employees—equipped with the right communications tools—can be as productive outside the office as they are in the office.
Regardless of how your organization compares with other forward‐looking mobile organizations, your business is constantly moving. Work is done while eating breakfast at home, riding in a car, walking to lunch, sitting in a hotel lobby or waiting in line at the airport. Your employees work remotely—blasting out emails and text messages, and answering calls from customers and clients (or prospective customers and clients) at all hours of the day and night, whenever and wherever they’re needed—regardless of whether they’re “at work.”
Life is mobile, and your communications system should be too. You should be able to be as productive on your mobile phone as you are at your desk.
2. Supporting multiple locations with cloud communications
In addition to supporting mobile workers from any location, modern business communications systems need to support remote workers from multiple locations. Unlike mobile workers, remote workers perform their work from a fixed location—it’s just not located at your main campus or headquarters. Perhaps it’s a branch office located in another city or country, or a temporary office setup to support a new project, or even a home office for a teleworker.
Regardless of the specific situation, remote workers all have unique communications requirements that are often similar to deskbound workers at your main office location, but without the same resources—equipment, connectivity, and support.
Legacy private branch exchange (PBX) systems are usually cost prohibitive for smaller remote locations consisting of fewer than ten users. For this reason, remote workers at smaller locations are often equipped with Centrex phone systems, analog lines, or residential phone services that lack the features and functionality of a business communications system. They may also be required to connect to the main office over a virtual private network (VPN) connection, which can negatively impact voice quality.
Cloud communications effectively creates a virtual communications system across all remote locations for an organization, extending the solutions available for both mobile and remote workers, to include:
- Mobile phones
- Desk (hard) phones
- PC (soft) phones
- Contact center agents
Both on‐premises and cloud communications systems support mobile and remote workers. However, on‐premises systems treat these workers as the exception: Mobile/remote access has to be approved and set up, a VPN or other similar security measures need to be configured, and additional network bandwidth may need to be provisioned (for remote access).
Cloud communications treats office, mobile, and remote workers all the same.
It completely eliminates location from the equation and provides users with the same set of features that they have in the office, regardless of their location.
Learn how 62 local chapters and 27,000 Make-A-Wish volunteers rely on hybrid cloud communications from Mitel to make wishes come true. >
3. Reducing costs with cloud communications
Not all dollars cost the same. A dollar invested in a technology project that has a low return on investment (ROI) has opportunity costs that may amount to far more than the initial investment itself. Similarly, many technology projects require ongoing commitments—sunk costs—that further erode profitability for a business: the proverbial “throwing good money after bad.”
Not only is there a heavy financial stake, but also the organization is essentially placing a series of bets on the investment:
- Is this the right technology for our business? How will the technology change over the next three, five, and 10 years?
- Is this the right vendor to partner with for our business? Will they be around in three, five, or 10 years?
- How quickly will our business grow over the next three, five, and 10 years? Will this investment scale to support that growth?
Capital budgeting is always a very subjective process. A capital expenditure (CapEx) is usually defined by a minimum investment threshold, for example one thousand dollars, and the investment must have a valuable life of more than one year.
CapEx may, in some cases, include bundled equipment, installation and project management costs, implementation services, freight expenses, and initial training costs, among others. Businesses can depreciate a capital investment, typically over a five‐ or seven‐year period, but they must also pay property taxes and maintain fixed asset records on all capital investments throughout the useful life of the investments. And of course, most technology today is obsolete well before its five‐ or seven‐year depreciation period.
For these and many other reasons, most businesses prefer operating expenses (OpEx) instead of CapEx. OpEx costs—like utilities, rent, perpetual licensing fees, and software maintenance—are typically lower (in the short term) than CapEx costs. This is particularly true in terms of upfront costs required, which frees up cash for other projects that drive revenue and growth for the business. OpEx costs are typically more stable and predictable than CapEx costs and provide more flexibility for a business should requirements change.
For example, a service provider will usually charge a known recurring rate for a given level of usage, a per‐user (or per‐seat) fee, or a monthly subscriber fee.
The original thought behind premises‐based communications systems was to keep costs down by owning the solution. But as those systems have aged, businesses find themselves owning the problem of maintaining, upgrading, and expanding those systems. The cloud offers a better path for growth.
It not only saves you money through economy of scale, but also it scales cost-effectively as you grow. You never have to worry about adding more servers and switches as you add more employees. You simply add another seat in the cloud at a fixed monthly cost and have the assurance that new employees are connected into all of your business communications from day one.
If you’re looking to reduce communications costs, cloud communications can save you money:
- No costly, upfront investments in servers, switches, and PBXs
- No budget “surprises” with consistent or predictable calling plans
- No costly, across‐the‐board software upgrades as new features and versions are released — you get the latest versions immediately, automatically
- No wasted money on overprovisioned trunks or underutilized hardware
- No high energy and cooling costs to run a roomful of equipment, and rent to store it all
As part of your ROI analysis, you should compare the total cost of ownership (TCO) of cloud‐based and premises‐based communications solutions.
Remember, a cloud‐based solution consists almost entirely of OpEx costs, whereas a premises-based solution requires both CapEx and OpEx (in the form of ongoing software assurance and upgrades).
4. Focusing on business, not infrastructure
Technology has the ability to transform your business and drive innovation. But it can also drive you crazy if all you’re doing is putting out fires to maintain the status quo. Think of it this way: Would you rather have your engineers fixing the phones or finding new ways to wow your customers?
Cloud‐based communications solutions are exactly that: solutions. Fixing bugs and repairing hardware are the cloud provider’s problems, and most of them make sure it never becomes a problem for their customers—even going so far as to guarantee systems uptime and availability in their service level agreements (SLAs). While you never have to worry about losing dial tone, your IT department can focus on making sure you don’t lose your competitive edge in the market.
Innovation is the key to continued growth in today’s business environment. Cloud‐based communications ensure your business is on the leading edge and in tune with the millennial workforce that will drive your business into the future.
5. Staying current with evergreen cloud-based software
Keeping your communications systems current is important—not only to ensure your business leverages the full functionality and latest capabilities available in your communications system, but also to ensure security and stability.
However, software and firmware upgrades can be risky and challenging, particularly for an IT team that only occasionally performs system upgrades. They require a lot of planning and coordination. Maintenance windows must be planned around business cycles and downtime is never acceptable—even when it’s planned!
Most premises‐based communications solutions offer software maintenance for an added cost. But the risk and hassle of actually performing the upgrade belongs to the customer—and there are costs associated with performing those upgrades. The current state of the system must be documented, the upgrade must be downloaded and tested, the maintenance window has to be scheduled and communicated, contingency and back out plans prepared, and extended support provided for “the morning after.” A cloud communications solution also requires regular upgrades, but the risk belongs squarely with the service provider.
Of course, if the upgrade goes awry, your business may suffer, but your service provider should have the resources in place to minimize the likelihood, as well as service‐level agreements (SLAs) to mitigate the impact.