On your marks. Get ready. Collaborate!
I love cycling – riding as well as watching a skilled road racing team going through its paces. Those guys in the peloton know all about working together. The lead rider powers along for 30 seconds or so, then slips back while the next rider takes his place, and everyone zips along in perfect synchronization.
It’s not just a style thing either. The reduction in air resistance is dramatic – in the middle of a well-coordinated group it can be as much as 40%. That means riders in a group can save a lot of energy by sticking close behind the leaders.
Businesses envy that level of collaboration. Numerous studies have shown that team projects take longer when employees work in individual silos rather than collaboratively. Companies have tried hard to boost this intangible but invaluable aspect of corporate culture, including tearing down cubicles and moving to more “open” workspaces. But, while that kind of thing definitely pushes people together, not everyone does their best work with colleagues constantly looking over their shoulder.
In any case, it’s too late. The workspace has already evolved well beyond the confines of the traditional office. People increasingly work whenever and wherever they want or need to. What’s more, they’re often working with colleagues and/or customers located in different cities, countries and continents.
But, just imagine if employees could interact smoothly, picking up and handing off projects with the grace and skill of a professional cyclist? Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. All it takes is practice and the right unified communications (UC) equipment, and any staff member in most organizations can work as collaboratively as a Tour de France-winning cycling team.
Putting It All Together
There is no shortage of collaboration tools, such as email, IM, phone and video conferencing. The problem is that, in most companies, they are implemented as stand-alone solutions. Individually, they can be quite useful. But managing them is almost always a headache and the piecemeal approach hinders productivity and hampers collaboration.
What today’s enterprises need is a unified communications backbone. By exploiting the advantages of IP communications and information mobility, UC transforms the way individuals interact. It seamlessly integrates all of those previously independent communication channels into a single, collaborative environment.
A comprehensive unified communications and collaboration strategy allows employees to communicate the way they find the most comfortable and effective. They don’t need to use a specific device or be in a particular location.
Of course, this also means enterprises need to have a well thought out and carefully monitored BYOD policy. But, that’s a big story and we’ll have to cover the dangers of employees going it alone and building “shadow IT” in another blog post!
Saving Time and Money
Unified communications can pay off. Studies suggest that it saves businesses time and money when people can reach someone on the first try. So does being able to easily swap from one communications channel to another. What starts as a 1-to-1 phone call, can morph into a desktop screen-sharing session or a video conference, adding participants via whatever device they happen to have handy.
In addition, there is also the big picture. UC reduces travel expenses and makes what used to be downtime more productive. It’s a win-win for businesses and their employees.
Solving the UC Puzzle
However, not all UC solutions are created equal. Some provide pieces of the puzzle, such as a desktop sharing solution. Or they may support video calling or messaging. But it's rare to find one that offers an entire suite of enterprise-quality communications tools designed as integral pieces of the core IP PBX business phone system.
ShoreTel’s Connect solutions are different. As well as integrating all the key components for robust business communications, they eliminate communications complexity for end users and system administrators. But, where ShoreTel really shines is in extending this communications suite beyond offices, across campuses, into remote locations, and even into home offices.
That’s more important than you might think, for today as well as tomorrow. For example, Millennials are expected to comprise nearly half the workforce by 2020, and preferences for communications are shifting. More often than not, these younger workers like to work in a variety of locations, and prefer to use video conferencing, chat and third-party applications to keep in touch. A personal UC system allows them to use these tools alongside more traditional solutions.
Ultimately, collaboration technologies such as video conferencing and desktop sharing enable businesses to balance organizational needs with employee preferences. So they can collaborate as and when they need to. Just like a cycling team going on the attack at the end of a race.
And, what’s more, they don’t even have to shave their legs!