Working from home once meant something different than it does today. Serious investments had to be made on the part of employees in home office equipment and a certain level of trust needed to be established before such undertakings could occur. But as consumer technology continues to become more advanced, these reasons that prevent people from clocking in remotely are beginning to carry less weight. Smartphones, laptops and the cloud are all anyone really needs to get things done – regardless of where they happen to be located at any given time.
Just because it is possible to embrace the mobile workforce, however, does not mean that doing so comes without serious considerations. The first thing that has to occur is the implementation of a unified communications network. But what is unified communications? What is the actual purpose of establishing these kinds of systems? The literal definition of UC means having multiple channels in a single location – generally within the same software-defined interface.
Yet, merely having access to voice, email and other platforms within one program is not enough. Many smartphone users have already experienced this brand of unity, but what about the kind that comes from advanced collaboration? It's easy to stick a bunch of connections into an app or onto a single device, but there is little point if they cannot work together in innovative ways. An example of this comes in the form of having voicemails instantly transcribed into text for later reading. This kind of interoperability allows people to become more accessible and improves the way in which they can collaborate with others.
In this way, DISA UC portfolio manager Lisa Belt believes that UC is "more than just telephony solutions."
"[A]t the end of the discussion things all have to work together," Belt said to C4ISR & Networks contributor Amber Corrin regarding recent UC initiatives in the United States military. "That's the impetus behind standing up the portfolio … to ensure that we're on a trajectory to all of this interoperating at the enterprise level."
When developing a UC strategy, it is important to recognize that collaboration is the ultimate goal. Connecting employees is the easy part of the equation, but enabling them to succeed will require planning and thought regarding the future.
Millennials Changing Communications Requirements
One of the biggest factors in the evolution of enterprise communications has been the arrival of a younger generation. Millennials are one of the first age groups to enter the working world that have grown up around computers. As such, they are more likely to not only ask to be supported in working remotely, but perfectly apt at doing so.
This is something that a great deal of organizations are starting to recognize. Attracting top young talent takes an investment in the technology that is going to help millennials succeed. Businesses today need to present themselves as relevant in a digital world.
According to Unified Communications Strategies contributor Jon Arnold, this will come in the form of finding tools that are not only effective, but fast.
"Technology impacts us on many levels, including what we value," Arnold wrote. "The pace of business keeps accelerating as globalization creates a constant state of cutthroat competition. Compounding this is how fast everything happens on the Internet and how our expectations are measured now in seconds or even less."
Cloud Enables Quick Responses
Since there is such a strong need for agile, flexible communications tools in the enterprise, companies should be planning their UC strategies with the cloud in mind. Be it achieved on-site or through a hosted provider, cloud unified communications are the way to go.
Cloud systems are accessible from anywhere an employee can get an Internet connection. This not only allows them to work effortlessly from home, but can also come in handy when travel is a job requirement. Where a staffer on the road might have been unreachable for long periods of time before, cloud UC can keep them constantly connected. Collaboration is capable of happening everywhere when the cloud is present.
Unified Communication And Collaboration
Modern workers need to be enabled in ways that meet their changing needs. Organizations have to understand how best to adapt. Some of them have, while others are still trying to figure it all out. While some of the details are company-specific, they generally come back to the idea that unified communications are the best way to foster employee productivity, and they will need to be available in the cloud.
But how these tools work together is going to be just as important as having them within the same software. The new ways in which they can be utilized can help to improve the overall quality of work, not to mention employee satisfaction as a whole.
Businesses today need to embrace cloud-based collaboration as their definition of unified communications. Keeping this in mind will help to breed success in any organization.