Author - 4Sight Communications

Why Consumers Need Digital Interactions to be More Human

Over the course of the pandemic, consumer expectations for their interactions with businesses have climbed to new heights. In many ways, though, this isn’t surprising. After all, it’s the natural outcome of our innate need for human connection.


It’s a fact as old as mankind itself that humans crave connection with other humans.


During the pandemic, the loss of in-person interaction has been felt acutely and is a key reason so many are struggling with social distancing measures and stay-at-home mandates. Everyone misses socializing in real life with colleagues, family and friends. We’re all yearning for the moment when we can visit our favorite bookstore and chat freely with the owner.

Why Human Connection Is Vital

To understand why human connection means so much to us, it’s helpful to look back on history. In his 2016 book, “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind,” Yuval Noah Harari explains why humans are primarily social animals. One theory of language, for instance, is that it evolved as a way to gossip. “Social cooperation is our key to survival and reproduction,” Harari writes.

Indeed, the need to connect is evident in the relentless push throughout human history to develop new, more efficient modes of communication. A look at the evolution of communication technology puts this into perspective. Humans began to speak about 500,000 years ago and began to write sometime between 30,000 and 100,000 years ago when they drew symbols on sticks and eggshells. Both carrier pigeons and fire were once used to communicate across distances. For instance, around 200 BC smoke signals were used to send messages along the Great Wall of China.

The invention of the printing press ushered in the era of mass communication. The telephone allowed private conversations between two people across distances. But modern communication technology has evolved faster over the last 15 years than at any other time. The combination of smartphones and social media has capitalized on our natural need for human connection.


When you think about digital communications within this context, you can see why the physical distance created by quarantines and lockdowns has led to such high expectations.


As more people began working from home, video calls and webchat became virtual lifelines to our wider business and social circles. At the same time, consumer shopping habits changed out of necessity. More people bought groceries online and had them delivered. Since COVID-19, 21% of consumers tried online grocery shopping for the first time.

The New Bar For Customer Experience

Low-touch behaviors, such as grocery delivery, curbside pickup and buy online/pickup in-store, are likely to stick post-pandemic. McKinsey found 23% of consumers are having their groceries delivered, and of these, almost half (49%) say they plan to continue doing so after the pandemic.   

This rise in eCommerce, along with more people working from home, is raising the bar on customer experience. Prior to the pandemic, businesses were beginning to focus on customer experience as a way to differentiate themselves from their competition. But with more people shopping, working and socializing online, developing a stellar customer experience for everyone will be more vital than ever. 

For instance, in the pandemic, doctors and patients were forced to shift to telemedicine rather than in-person visits. That means more people who haven’t used digital communications before—such as older generations—are learning to adapt. Designing experiences with digital inclusivity in mind will be vital. Businesses will need to create customer experiences that adjust to the proficiency level of new users. They’ll also have to do so for those with disabilities.


Most importantly, to succeed in the post-pandemic world, companies need to deliver exceptional customer experiences that reimagine human connection.


Indeed, more than half (55%) of UK marketers say the consumer shift to online exposed gaps in the customer journey. That means there’s an enormous opportunity for businesses to set themselves apart by creating more personal interactions in the buying experience. 

The good news is that businesses have the tools they need to connect with customers through digital channels. Today’s communication technology is rising to the occasion, enabling personalization at scale. It’s now possible to infuse the consumer journey with more human and personalized interactions using communications tools such as interactive self-service, video, webchat and more.

Our human need for connection may be evolving into new channels, but it’s an age-old desire. Delivering a more tailored, immediate and satisfying omnichannel experience is the key to building brand loyalty now and well into the future.

 

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This article was first published by Mitel.

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3 Ways to Achieve Resilient Migration

Now more than ever, businesses need dependable communications no matter what’s going on in the world around them. Certainly, COVID-19 has emphasized this point. Employees need to provide customer service and collaborate with colleagues, even if they’re working from their kitchen table. Organizations can’t afford disruption to their business.

Migrating communications to the cloud has become the way to ensure business continuity. In the third edition of Mitel’s EU Cloud Survey, a third of respondents from European companies cited network availability as most important when considering cloud migration. Almost 40% said they want telephony applications to be available 24/7, 365 days a year. Unlike in previous surveys, European businesses are now more focused on network routing capabilities than the merits of cloud-based platforms in general. Service quality and guaranteed availability are paramount. In fact, survey respondents put them above the availability of software applications (17%) or platforms (27%).

Moving your telephony to the cloud is a major undertaking, but it has to happen. Legacy systems are expensive to maintain or become obsolete. However, just moving everything online without due diligence is a recipe for disaster. To ensure your cloud migration is smooth and resilient as you prepare for the big move, consider these three things:

Plan For Now, Plan For The Future

Identify stakeholders and discover their needs. As it does with most large undertakings, doing your homework pays off in the long run. Step one is to identify all the relevant stakeholders—those who will be most impacted by changes in applications and accessibility—and discover what’s most important to them. What are their key workflows? What applications and tools are essential for them to do their work? What’s most likely to be impacted by the migration? After the University of Liverpool completed this process, it was able to develop a detailed deployment plan that took each stakeholder’s unique needs into account.

What goes and what stays? Once you’ve identified stakeholder needs, decide what will go to the cloud. It doesn’t have to be everything. Examine each application and determine if it makes more sense to migrate it, keep it local or upgrade it to a native cloud application or Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) application. Evaluate how each decision will impact your overall infrastructure. The discovery and evaluation process may also help you to project future needs. Thirty-six percent of respondents to an ITPro Today study said they plan to use the cloud for advanced functions like warehousing, analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning. So, when designing your new infrastructure, be sure to take the long view.

Actively Manage Change

Change can – and usually does – create confusion. That’s why managing that change is half the battle with a project of this scope. In the EU Cloud Survey, over a third of the companies said it was important to consider the costs associated with change management when migrating to the cloud. When designing your cloud migration, identify each significant moving part that could create problems, and develop a plan to mitigate the issues.

The right team with the right stuff. When you shift applications to the cloud, will you have the IT personnel with the skill set you need? If not, you might have to hire new team members or retrain current employees. Workflows will change. Responsibilities and roles may change. Think ahead and assemble the players you need. Consider forming a dedicated team just to manage the migration. In a survey by McKinsey & Co, companies that had dedicated resources migrated over half (52%) of applications, as opposed to 29% by companies without a dedicated team.

Take it step by step. Experts agree that a phased migration is most likely to be successful. During the discovery phase, identify the applications that are essential to your stakeholders and pay particular attention to how those systems will migrate. To avoid disruption, take it slow. For example, the University of Liverpool connected the VoIP infrastructure into an existing Siemens ISDX to avoid service disruption.

Test For Resilience Before Migration

Because resilience is so crucial to the business, it pays to prepare and test your systems before deployment. Here’s where support from your vendor or partner is essential.

Rehearse. Ask your vendors for demonstrations before you go live. They should be able to walk you through every step in the process. In the EU Cloud Survey, 29% of companies said they’d continue to depend on vendors and partners during deployment.

Access to real-time data. Because there will be bumps along the way, make sure you’ll have access to real-time data in case you want to step back and change your plan.

Test back-up systems. What’s your back-up and recovery plan? Can you protect the critical systems that the business needs? An IDC report found that organizations spend only 12.4% of their IT budget on recovery systems. Preparing for cloud migration is a good time to reevaluate your back-up solutions to make sure they’re strong and aligned with the company’s business strategy.

Moving your communications to the cloud shouldn’t be scary. With a strong partner and good preparation, you can reassure your stakeholders—and yourself—that the migration will go smoothly.

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It’s Happening: EU Companies are Ready to Move to the Cloud

A growing number of European companies would migrate to the cloud to improve resiliency, mobility and remote collaboration using Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS). While even before the pandemic almost half (44%) were ready to shift their telephony online, the pandemic proved the cloud’s power and eliminated many executives’ fears about the technology.

With the turbulence brought on by COVID-19, companies are striving to operate in a new economic environment. Both employees and customers rely on technology to connect no matter where they’re physically located or what device they use. Customer experience, remote collaboration and distance working, while important before, have all become critical.

Findings from the third edition of Mitel’s EU Cloud Survey illustrate how EU businesses were on the cusp of change even before the pandemic, exhibiting more maturity in their views and decisions about their approach to the cloud. In fact, due to the telecommunications, information technology and telephone infrastructure put in place in recent years, European companies were in a strong position to handle the demands brought on by COVID-19.

Here are some of survey’s key findings:

Trust In The Cloud Is Up

In just a year, reluctance to move to the cloud dropped dramatically. Sixteen percent of respondents said they fully trust cloud technology for their call centers compared to only 1% in 2018. Further underscoring this point, only 39% now express reservations, compared to over three-quarters in the previous survey.

Companies Are Ready

In total, 44% of companies said they’re ready to shift to the cloud with some conditions.

Essential To Growing The Business

Over a third (35%) ranked the ability to grow their business as the most important reason for cloud migration, compared to 16% in 2018.

Network Availability Ranks High

When evaluating criteria related to service continuity and guarantees, 33% said network availability was key versus only 4% in 2018. Another significant shift was the importance placed on platform availability (site recovery, fault-tolerant servers, high availability). In the latest survey, 27% of executives ranked this as important compared to two-thirds in the survey’s second edition.

Why these changes? As companies become more knowledgeable about cloud technology and telephony, concerns about nuts-and-bolts issues—like software applications and platform availability—decline while higher-level functionality comes to the forefront. EU companies have deepened their understanding of the cloud and its potential for their businesses.

What Do Businesses Want?

Flexibility, resilience and adapting technology to a business’s specific needs were the most important criteria for moving telephony to the cloud.

Flexibility

Almost half of respondents (46%) said they wanted the freedom to change suppliers “with no delay” if a service contract wasn’t fulfilled. One out of five respondents (22%) said reversibility was also an important issue. Over a third (35%) said that flexibility and adaptation of solutions to their business needs were important.

Resilience

Data and network availability are big priorities. Thirty-nine percent said they want their telephone data to be available 24/7, 365 days a year. Likewise, network availability, which also contributes to resilience, was cited by a third of respondents.

Technology As A Service

Some 35% of respondents mentioned Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) as one of the main drivers of their decision for cloud-based telephony. Over a third indicated the importance of full-mobility integration (36%), UC features such as presence, availability, secure SMS and video (35%) and advanced collaboration tools (33%).

ROI

More than a third (36%) said their prime criterion for ROI was the need to properly account for costs related to specific equipment and maintenance. Change management (34%) and migration from on-premise to cloud-based architecture (33%) were also cited as top criteria. Interestingly, in the 2018 survey, 84% said migration cost was the primary factor. This shows that as European businesses have become more experienced with cloud telephony, their ROI calculations have become more sophisticated.

Cloud Architecture

Almost half (47%) would prefer a private cloud (in their own data centers or a partner’s) and 22% are interested in a hybrid solution. One out of five respondents showed interest in a public cloud arrangement. This might be because smaller companies that want cloud-based telephony see this as an expedient solution.

One of COVID-19’s impacts is an economy based on distancing, whether it involves remote working and collaboration, customer responsiveness or supply chain management. Businesses need to deploy a wide range of technologies to support this new kind of workplace and marketplace.

About The Survey

The third edition of the Mitel EU Cloud survey was conducted by telephone and online between November 2019 and January 2020 with 1,108 corporate and IT executives of European companies.

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Workplace Evolution: Adapting to the Digital Office

Meet the next generation of working styles. Changing demographics and evolving expectations of technology are transforming the workplace into a modern, but complex environment. It has presented IT teams with the challenge of both maintaining current systems and allowing for more effective processes. To stay competitive and support the needs of the business, choosing to adapt in the right way, with the right collaboration tool, is compulsory.

The Changing Face Of The Workplace

The workplace of today is unrecognisable from the past, and it’s still evolving at pace. No longer faced with the static nine-to-five office of 50 years ago, IT teams have had to adapt tools and devices to the needs of an increasingly mobile workforce that’s expected to reach almost 2 billion workers by 2022. Currently over half of employees work away from the office for half the working week.

For IT, the trend of flexible working brings added challenges and can mean time that could be dedicated to innovative projects is now reassigned. With work being completed from home, off-site locations and on the go, cafés are the second most popular place to work. This introduces new outside devices and networks to corporate systems, which can leave organisations vulnerable. Add to that the huge number of networked devices used for work tasks, which is predicted to reach 38.6 billion by 2025, and it makes the task of keeping devices maintained, up-to-date and secure even more complex and time consuming.

A totally virtual working space is an approaching reality – and with it comes the need for powerful connectivity. To stay productive across different locations and working hours, businesses rely on their IT departments to deliver capabilities that support effective collaboration and communication. Without it, work simply takes longer and results suffer.

The Connected Generation

The workplace shift goes beyond bricks and mortar. Younger generations are entering the workforce in droves, and they’re leading the digital revolution.

In 2020, Millennials and Generation Z, those born from the early 1980s to early 2010s, represent a significant proportion of the workplace. These generations have grown up in a world where the internet, smart devices and instant connectivity are ubiquitous, and they expect the same simple, connected communication platforms at work as they’ve been used to in other areas of their lives.

The frequency and fondness of communication varies depending on generation. Millennials, for example, often avoid face-to-face interactions in the workplace, with 55% preferring online messaging software and 28% choosing email to communicate. And for the Gen Z, frequency is key. Over 65% say they need regular feedback from their line manager to stay in their job. For IT, it means finding a simple way to accommodate these diverse preferences to ensure maximum productivity and inclusion.

The Race To Stay Ahead

These changes have brought an influx of applications and communication channels, which can negatively impact productivity. Using disparate systems will slow down a business. When systems aren’t compatible with each other, transferring data and knowledge from one program to another, or one person to another, can be arduous. And for IT teams, staying on top of management and training to use the systems takes even longer.

Plus, employees are less than impressed with the daunting number of channels at play. Almost a quarter of IT professionals have found that the communication options available can be overwhelming to staff. It also makes it harder and more time consuming to keep track of information, forcing a long search across platforms to find the details needed. The solution is simple: implement one easy-to-use tool.

Today’s IT departments are under more pressure than ever. From the growing demands of the workforce to disparate systems, the current day-to-day workload is both complex and time consuming. So exploring a solution that unifies communication into one platform across the whole business makes it simpler for IT teams to manage systems. It means they can reassign their time to innovative, future-looking projects while boosting overall employee productivity. Plus, it helps IT to contribute to business growth and gain added flexibility over the implementation of new systems.

Choose To Embrace The Future

The modern working world holds plenty of exciting opportunities, and collaboration in ideas and knowledge is essential to react to them. The right communication systems can facilitate a workplace that delivers exceptional customer experience and supports business growth in today’s fast-paced, decentralised environment. For mobile workers, three hours a week can be lost without using unified communications and collaboration tools.

At Mitel, we understand the pressure you’re under. Our unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions support IT teams – giving you the power to choose which systems to make available, and how to roll them out. It lets you have the choice of on-premise, cloud or hybrid, the choice of when to upgrade and which systems to make available to which employees.

We work with you to uncover your unique business requirements before tailoring solutions to meet them. It means the solution is adapted to your needs, powering efficiency in the areas you need it most, while making it considerably easier to manage.

Our approach is flexible and agile, and we work within your existing network – seamlessly integrating to eliminate technical complexity and make adoption simple. We’re here to help you drive business forward.

This post was originally published on: https://www.mitel.com/blog/workplace-evolution-adapting-to-the-digital-office

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Creating a Hybrid Workforce: What’s Next for Remote Work

Who knew that 2020 would the year that business changed forever? Across virtually every industry, there’s been a seismic shift in how we work, when we work, and how we actually communicate to get the work done.

Truth is, we may not have been communicating all that well when left to our usual devices in the office. Now is the time to consider what’s worked in both the past and the present—and then use these insights to better inform the future. Whatever challenges lie ahead, it’s clear that remote work, hybrid workforces and virtual contact centers will be taking center stage.

We recently published a guide to help business owners prepare for the Now of Work. Here are a few key takeaways to start you thinking about what comes next.

For Best Results, Invest In The Right Tech

As Barry Moltz, motivational speaker, consultant, and author of Getting Small Business Unstuck explains, “Be prepared to invest in business tools and processes that can build a profitable business and an engaged company culture online. This should include business cloud applications that are available everywhere and a focus on effective online communication tools.”

We’re fortunate to be living in an age where colleagues and customers alike are just a few clicks away, whether it’s on a face-to-face video call, via voice, or asynchronously in chat or SMS.

Taking full advantage of these technologies will help foster communication and collaboration for hybrid and remote workers. “Companies need to focus on chat rooms and videoconferencing applications for internal team members,” says Moltz. “Leaders also must be able to check in with staff members using these tools daily since they will not “see them” in an office environment naturally.”

Flexibility and adaptability are the watchwords for managing a remote or hybrid workforce. It’s important for workers to have many methods of communicating and working together so they feel connected with each other and clear in their purpose.

Develop A Culture Of Communication & Collaboration

As Bill Gates once pointed out, “Like a human being, a company has to have an internal communication mechanism, a “nervous system,” to coordinate its actions.” Communication has always been essential and should be at the centerpiece of your company’s culture—whether a company works in a single office, offices across the globe, or an entire network of remote staff.

We have the technology to stay connected during these socially distant times—but how we use the technology matters. As CEO and Co-founder of CareerGig, Greg Kihlström, cautions, “Technology works best when we allow it to help us do things in new and efficient ways, not simply recreate the way things are done in real life.”

One major example of this point is the tendency to replace every in-person meeting with a video call. Videoconferencing is a powerful tool, but these check-ins are still best used sparingly. As important as it is to replicate face-to-face time, even over screens if not in person, we also need to reserve space in the day to get work done.

In fact, “a lot of the fatigue that people are feeling is because the most natural reaction to a loss of face-to-face meetings in the office was to try to recreate them over video chat,” says Kihlström. He adds that, “while videoconferencing can be effective in moderation, what companies should embrace is to utilize technology to make things even quicker and easier.”

When someone needs to check in with a colleague to ask a quick question or simply be brought up to speed about a project—they can turn to plenty of other available channels. Email, phone calls, and chat messaging all work well.

Technically, these may be asynchronous, or not done in precise real time, but the comms will still be near-immediate.

Use Chat To Keep Up With Colleagues & Clients

Working from home can mean less face-to-face time with colleagues, and it can complicate relationships with customers as well. As industry analyst and Founder of CXOTalk Michael Krigsman explains, the traditional meet and greet “is foundational to sales, customer service, and ongoing relationships. If your business relies on in-person meetings, then you must change and adapt at once.”

Businesses can best adapt by giving customers their choice of videoconferencing, phone calls, or chat communication options. Chat is a seamless way to interact with customers and colleagues alike. It is a perfect solution for a quick, real-time communication need—and even allows for the sharing of multimedia files like audio and video.

It’s crucial that your business offer a simple and efficient method to interact. Per Krigsman, “customer experience means relationship building. Communicate clearly, always be empathetic, and let customers know you care deeply about them. Those attributes are universally respected, and your customers will respond in kind.”

Asynchronous communication can also be automated for more efficiency, but it’s important to keep the customer experience in mind. Author Marsha Collier says, “When deciding on technologies like a chatbot, be sure you have integrated an AI that addresses common problems your customers face so they don’t get frustrated while responding. Then, use intelligent routing so that when the call is routed it is sent to the agent that best fits the query. Keep in mind that customers are more emotional these days and may become frustrated by small issues. Be where they are!”

The Future Of Work Is Now

Whether your staff is remote, in-office or a hybrid of the two, the coming year is sure to bring unique challenges. It’s important to invest in technologies that help your team work together smoothly and seamlessly, enabling them to provide an excellent customer experience as well. But don’t stop there: a culture of collaboration, support, and communication is essential to make the most of the technology.

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Little-Known Secrets to Healthier Communications

Before COVID-19, patient care was almost entirely handled in person. But the pandemic forced healthcare organizations to pivot quickly, sending their staff home to work remotely and rethinking how they interact with patients. The shift has been a wake-up call for the industry, which now must find ways to evolve and improve both the patient and employee experiences.

“Healthcare is really waking up to the fact that they need to move toward a 360-degree view of the patient and that they need the capabilities to support the integration of data much more than before,” says Lou Gallagher, Healthcare Patient Experience Specialist at Mitel. “It was always needed, but Covid accelerated the urgency.”

According to Global Workplace Analytics, 4% of healthcare and social assistance workers were remote in 2016. That pandemic forced many healthcare agents to work from home. “Now, in the U.S.,” Gallagher says. “I’d estimate it’s well over 50% (of healthcare workers).”

Expectations For A Retail-Like Patient Experience

Since more people are at home (working, shopping and consuming a wide variety of services), they’re becoming more comfortable with the digital experience, even those who weren’t digitally enabled before Covid. As a result, their expectations for a seamless patient experience are rising.

“Retail has led the way in customer experience,” says Gallagher. “For example, Amazon has hundreds of databases, user interfaces and different systems behind the scenes, but its customers are oblivious to this. Instead, what they get is a consistent experience, no matter which device or mode of communication they use.”

“What retail has done, well ahead of healthcare, is to take all these disparate communications and bring them together. Now, because of Covid, patient expectations are higher for a more retail-like experience in their healthcare interactions.”

However, healthcare is more complex than any other vertical because of the sheer volume of interactions and the lack of workflow integration. For example, a patient may go to a clinic and see one physician for their annual physical and then make a separate visit to see another healthcare professional for a Covid test.

These two workflows each contain a unique set of information about the patient. Though they should work as one, that doesn’t often happen. For a consistent patient experience that’s on par with a retail experience, all of the disparate pieces of information need to be brought together. Of course, healthcare organizations operate hundreds of such workflows. With the right strategy and investments, they can achieve a consistent patient experience.

For example, with Mitel’s interaction software, the Electronic Heath Record (EHR) is able to contact a patient and instruct them to alert the office via text message when they arrive for their appointment. The patient’s message is delivered to a call center. When the clinic staff is ready, the system sends a text back to the patient saying the doctor is ready and to go to a specific room. It can even provide a map for the patient to follow.

Integration: The Key To Improving Patient Experience

To deliver a stellar patient experience such as this, it’s critical for healthcare systems to integrate their front and back offices. But how do healthcare organizations begin to pull all these disparate platforms together? And how in the COVID-19 era can they do so in a way that maps into the long-term strategy of the organization?

“Technology must support the strategy of the organization moving forward,” Steven Lawrence, Mitel’s Head of Healthcare, says. “It needs to improve both the patient experience and the workforce experience and transform them.”

For example, even before the pandemic began, plans to upgrade business communications were well underway at the Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopaedics. Though the practice initially halted implementation, they decided to switch over to Mitel cloud-based communications anyway.

With MiCloud Connect, the practice was able to integrate their communications with their business process applications, which allowed staff to pivot to remote work without interruption. Seamless integration with patient information along with richer reports and analytics help the practice optimize schedules and improve wait times for callers.

In the UK and elsewhere, Lawrence points out, healthcare is attempting to make a massive leap to remote working from legacy, on-site, basic telephony platforms that have been historically under-invested.

However, rather than following an integrated strategy, they’re adopting a range of alternative, free technologies to bridge the gap. This approach is likely to create a nightmare scenario not too far down the road.

“In six months, all this free stuff isn’t going to be free anymore,” Lawrence says. “There will be licenses and hidden costs and more complexity, making communications even more difficult to manage.”

“At Mitel, we focus on supporting organizational goals with secure equipment that can be delivered however the customer wants it delivered,” Lawrence says. “There’s a great deal of complexity and risk associated with healthcare communications. That’s why we work with what you already have to strengthen your patient interactions, so you can help you transform your practice at a speed and risk profile which is acceptable to you as an organization.”

Patient Engagement In 2021 And Beyond

The vaccination of millions of patients against COVID-19 will put a strain on the healthcare system in 2021, underscoring the need for seamless integration. Practices will need to identify and track patients as part of the vaccination process, so they can manage timing of doses. Effective communication will be the linchpin of success. Healthcare organizations that focus now on improving patient engagement by integrating frontline communications with back office operations will find the process of vaccinating patients much easier and more efficient.

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Now This is What Great Communication Feels Like

With almost half the workforce now working from home full time, the need to create more meaningful connections has become critical. We’ve all had to learn how to communicate in different ways—and to function remotely. But how much of that is improving your work life?

The best technology improves your ability to communicate by giving you more capability with less steps. In other words, making remote communication, omnichannel communication, more natural and intuitive. These are the hallmark traits of Microsoft Teams and Mitel’s advanced integrations.

You can already make the most of Microsoft Teams with Mitel’s advanced telephony, video, contact center and third-party integrations. Now we are excited to announce our latest integration with Microsoft Teams across Mitel’s portfolio of products. With this integration Mitel customers can access advanced meetings features from Mitel directly within the Teams application.

Embedded Chatbot Helps You Do More

The Mitel Assistant, a newly available bot in the Microsoft Teams app store, allows MiTeam Meetings users to quickly start a meeting from within the Teams application with a simple set of commands. Quickly escalate from chat to video by launching MiTeam Meetings directly from a conversation in MS Teams. This gives Mitel customers who have chosen MiTeam Meetings as their video meeting of choice the ability to quickly escalate from chat to video by launching MiTeam Meetings directly from a conversation in Teams.

Switch From Chat To Voice Simply

With Mitel’s Teams integrations, Teams users can easily make softphone calls, click to dial a number or use a hotkey or web extension—all while staying within the Teams web or desktop app. Make calls directly within the Teams app via Mitel’s direct routing integration, so users don’t have to swap back and forth between applications. Mitel’s Chrome extension enables you to place a call within the Microsoft Teams web app with a single click. Or, with the app dialer, you can set up a hotkey so you can select numbers in the desktop app to dial.

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By combining Mitel’s telephony, collaboration, videoconferencing and desk phones with Microsoft Teams you can experience what great communication feels like.

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Is Remote Work Here to Stay?

Even before COVID-19 reared its ugly head, the idea of remote work wasn’t new. But in just a few months, the pandemic forced an overwhelming number of businesses to allow at least some of their employees to work from home. While many hoped the move would be temporary, a large number of workers are still connecting from home, with no end in sight.

In fact, statistics show that some degree of remote work may be here to stay. According to Gartner, more than 80% of business leaders say their organization will allow employees to continue working remotely at least some of the time. Nearly half, 47%, plan to let workers make the shift to remote work permanent.

Also worth noting: the look and feel of the workday has changed. Gartner found that many companies plan to offer employees either flex hours (43%) or flex days (42%). Some, 15%, plan to shift to a work week of four, 10-hour days.

Any way you slice it, the workplace has been changed by the pandemic. And as the new landscape emerges, organizations face both benefits and challenges in dealing with employees and customers. Companies must navigate the new terrain while keeping employees and customers engaged. Fortunately, the communications technology needed to support a remote or hybrid workforce is available, which makes it possible for companies to support a permanent shift to remote and flex work.

The Pros And Cons Of Remote Work

There are tangible benefits for companies that permanently adopt remote work. In particular, SMBs can reap significant savings by eliminating or reducing the costs associated with office space, such as rent, supplies and utilities. Companies can also cast a wider net when searching for workers, since employees will no longer need to physically come into the office. They can uncover completely new talent pools by offering permanent remote work.

While most people don’t enjoy quarantining or social distancing, the majority of employees do prefer to work remotely. Flexible schedules and the elimination of commutes are just two reasons that 98% of remote workers prefer to continue working from home, according to the State of Remote Work Survey by Buffer and AngelList. Businesses that continue to allow remote work―either all or some of the time―can benefit from a happier workforce and the improved employee morale that comes along with it.

Although managers may have concerns about the productivity of remote workers, studies show there’s no major cause for alarm. One survey of 800 employers found that 94% saw employee productivity remain the same or improve during the pandemic-induced remote work shift. We also conducted our own survey of SMB decision-makers and found that 52% saw productivity improvements when employees worked from home.

Of course, these benefits are only possible when organizations offer communications tools and technologies that empower employees to do their jobs successfully and efficiently from home. For example, an integrated communications solution that combines video, voice and chat, makes it easy for workers to communicate with each other, managers and customers. They can easily share files, notes and images, making collaboration simple, regardless of whether team they’re at home or in the office.

Despite its benefits, remote work also presents some challenges. It can be difficult to provide employees with a seamless experience when they’re working from home or alternating between in-office and at-home days.

A unified communications platform that provides a single experience across multiple devices overcomes this hurdle. Regardless of location, employees have access to the same suite of communications and collaboration tools and can easily switch from one device to another―without interrupting their workflow. A cloud-based solution that includes contact center service keeps remote workers connected with customers, so you don’t have to worry about losing touch during this critical time.

Maintaining corporate culture is another challenge that comes with permanent remote work. In the Gartner survey, some 30% of business owners expressed concern about it. Among the best ways to sustain corporate culture is to practice continuity and regular communications with employees, regardless of their location.

Businesses should reach out through more than one channel to keep employees engaged. Video in particular is an excellent way to keep engagement high, but it’s also important to encourage employees to interact with each other. Tools such as shared screens and smart workspaces will help you out here.

Organizations that want to overcome the challenges of remote work need to invest in the right technology. In our survey, we discovered that 20% of SMBs plan to implement solutions to support remote work, including remote IT support and cloud collaboration tools. While this is a good indication that businesses understand the importance of investing in the right technology, we encourage more to follow suit.

Who Is Making The Permanent Shift?

Businesses of all sizes and across industries have already made a long-term commitment to remote or hybrid work arrangements. Some have even given employees a choice in how they’ll work once all restrictions are lifted.

The list of companies adopting this approach is getting longer by the day, with some big names in the mix. Just a few examples:

  • Google extended its remote work policies until the summer of 2021 and is making plans to accommodate a permanent remote work solution.
  • Twitter announced in May that employees have the option to work from home permanently.
  • Microsoft is allowing employees to work from home on a case-by-case basis, but also gives employees the option to work from home less than half-time without needing approval.
  • REI sold an eight-acre corporate campus as part of its shift to making remote work a regular occurrence.
  • American Express is giving employees the choice to stay home and has also extended its remote work policy through the end of June 2021.
  • In late July, Zillow said it will allow employees to work from home permanently.
  • Nielsen is converting some of its offices into meeting spaces for employees, so they can gather in-person after the pandemic passes while continuing to work from home most of the time.
  • Coinbase is allowing most employees to work from home indefinitely. Once restrictions are lifted, those employees who want to return to the office will be able to do so, either all or part of the time.

This is just a sampling of some of the companies that have realized remote and hybrid work models actually offer a sustainable way to run productive and successful businesses. With the right communications tools and technology, organizations can keep employees connected, customers engaged and run day-to-day operations from anywhere, and from any device.

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5 Surprisingly Effective Considerations to Adopt Tech More Easily

For many organizations, the pandemic has meant reactively implementing new technologies to enable home working and remote collaboration. Although many were moving towards flexible working anyway, COVID-19 has undoubtedly pushed things along faster. We’ve found that today some workers are saying they may never go back to the conventional office, while others may do so on a more limited basis.

What is the impact of the pandemic on the adoption of new communications technology? And how has this impacted the public sector in particular? There are unique complexities that the public sector faces in adopting any new communications tech. Let’s explore these in more detail.

Public Sector Challenges

In 2010, 38% of public sector organizations said they were using cloud-based services. Today, that figure is 78%, according to the Cloud Industry Forum (CIF).

Local and central government and healthcare bodies rely on cloud technology to provide vital services, communicate with each other, manage data and keep IT costs within budget.

Yet public sector organizations are facing more challenges than ever before. They are tasked with delivering essential services at the same time as looking to cut costs and meet new budget targets. In light of the pandemic, austerity measures have been put in place to accommodate the downturn in economic growth. This is true in local government and healthcare in particular, where a lot of estate has become dated, potentially “end of life”, or is recognized as “legacy”.

Budget constraints are also a continuous source of frustration when IT departments are keen to fast-track cloud adoption, which is why many public sector IT teams still need to support and operate legacy systems while looking to deploy cloud technologies in a phased approach as and when investment becomes available.

Complex Cloud Requirements

The complexity of technology within the healthcare and government environments needs serious consideration. Historically, public sector technology has often operated in silos, parts of their estate are not set up for pure cloud. For example, they might not be LAN-enabled or still using analogue devices, e.g., at nursing stations, within highly secure environments, or even within much older buildings across public sector estates.

For these organizations, a hybrid cloud solution provides the security, control and peace of mind of on-site with the agility, scalability and versatility of the public cloud.

Technology providers need to have an in-depth understanding of what each organization is facing on a case-by-case basis if they are to provide the right mix of on-site equipment and cloud-based services.

Specialists In Simplicity

Mitel has nearly 50 years’ experience and skills in understanding the intricacies of integrated on-site and cloud solutions. It has honed its technology to ensures that any organization’s transition is seamless, maintaining that all-important data sovereignty while choosing cloud options that meet security and privacy requirements.

Agility Of Deployment

Long buying cycles and approval processes in the public sector can hinder the change process. Large government or healthcare estates may have stringent time frames allowing for the deployment of complex solutions, aligned to budgets and internal resources, yet they still require business continuity throughout the process.

Drawing from its in-depth understanding of public sector procurement processes, Mitel can integrate with incumbent technologies and transition over time, in line with budgetary demands and at a speed that is aligned specifically to each organization. For example, linking into a legacy PBX system and seamlessly transitioning organizations to virtualized environments is possible as a first step in moving to hybrid cloud.

Control And Flexibility

Control is one key benefit of implementing a hybrid cloud model, being able to decide which servers you want hosted in the cloud and which you want hosted internally. Some business applications are easy to migrate to the cloud, such as chat and videoconferencing software. Others, particularly those aspects that handle sensitive data, may benefit from a slower migratory path.

Seamless Transitioning

To unlock the true value of communication and collaboration, local government and public sector services must look to invest in technology that makes the most sense for their services. Mitel has always offered the easiest solution to scale and has vast experience in adding mixed deployments to an organization’s network toolkit.

Mitel provides expertise in deployment methodology and can help de-risk a project with a proof of concept or trial deployment if required, to ensure compatibility and integration with other systems and applications. No matter how you combine on-site and cloud deployments, you can always be assured of the highest reliability and an exceptional user experience with Mitel.

Future Needs

Most organizations demand business continuity, greater flexibility and cost savings where possible. The public sector has also put focus on digitizing their customer / citizenship services. Digital transformation and automation is key, giving government bodies and healthcare providers the ability to deliver an exceptional customer experience across all available channels

As more public sector customers look to implement Google AI and chatbots, while integrating with social media and video technology for home working, Mitel is on hand to provide innovative, responsive solutions.

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Four Principles of Innovation in a Post-Pandemic World

There’s no denying that COVID-19 has forced the hand of many individuals and organizations to accelerate their digital transformation.

Suddenly we were working from home, teaching and learning remotely, using tools we had either never used or only used fleetingly, and finding new ways to stay connected and productive.

Forward-thinking organizations have seized this as an opportunity to rethink every aspect of their business. How they engage with customers, how to better enable their teams, and how to become leaner when the entire operation may have been turned upside down. One thing is for sure, we’ve seen a surge of innovation from organizations determined to thrive through the pandemic and beyond.

Now that we’ve had some time to get used to new ways of doing things, and come to the realization that some things will never go back to the way they were, it’s time to prepare for what’s next. These four principles of innovation can help us do it.

1. Prepare To Support Hybrid Workforces

Remote working used to be considered a perk but that’s not the case for the future. While many organizations have had to make it work for everyone, moving forward, a hybrid model will more likely become the norm.

We will see a mixture of fully remote workers, some who work in the office because they prefer it or because the nature of their job requires it, and others who are in the office some days and at home for the rest. To make hybrid work successful, we need to adequately support it.

Layer onto that challenge the fact that the nature of work, not just the location, is evolving. We don’t work in the siloed, linear way that we used to. Organizational structure has flattened, people wear multiple hats, and they work in cross-functional teams. It’s all about collaboration and the quality interactions people have with each other.

Peter Skillman illustrated the importance of these interactions―the kind where people ideate and iterate together to get things done―in his marshmallow design experiment. We must level the playing field for everyone with unified collaboration (UC), which includes virtual white boards, real-time audio and videoconferencing, and enhanced call control capabilities.

2. Don’t Just Migrate To The Cloud―Master It

Companies that leverage the cloud used to be considered innovators, but today the cloud has become a business requirement. It’s necessary to provide the flexibility and security that organizations need to support remote work, to become leaner, and to improve operational efficiency.

While the need to move to the cloud is clear, it doesn’t have to be a traumatic experience. Organizations can undertake the change at their own pace, and on their own terms. Leveraging existing infrastructure investments during the transition may be the best way forward for your organization, especially during turbulent times.

Hybrid cloud models allow organizations to gain the benefits of scale, while maintaining the customizations they enjoy with on-prem environments. Keeping the familiarity with on-prem applications and processes can reduce disruption, make change easier, and reduce training costs which can go a long way towards realizing value quickly.

3. Realize Promise Of AI Faster Through Embedded-AI Solutions

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), once only feasible for the largest organizations, are now available to virtually any company through the host of embedded applications with AI baked in.

Your company can start augmenting decision-making and improving efficiency with these solutions that provide out-of-the-box implementation and eliminate the need for expensive data science resources or teams of analysts.

The value of these solutions is clear: putting more power into the hands of more people, from the field to the back office, to drive business impact.

4. Do What Your Competitors Are Not

When things are in flux, our natural tendency is caution. It’s evident in the organizations that are holding back from new investment due to uncertainty.

But when others are holding back, isn’t there a good opportunity for you to move forward? Throughout history there are plenty of examples of organizations that were able to leap-frog over competitors by doing what others were not.

In most cases, that means continuing to invest in advertising, product development, and digital transformation when your competitors are pulling back on spending.

Resilience Is Built On Agility

It’s a brave new world out there and the companies that will thrive are the ones that are agile and take on the challenges of getting back to business, possibly in a whole new way.

Consider agility the new currency for businesses of all shapes and sizes. We’ve seen the proof of this as companies that we thought were too big to fail did so, and others that were too small to make an impact created shock waves that disrupted established markets.

The message here is that now is not the time to be stagnant or to keep the status quo. COVID-19 has presented us with the prospect of enormous change and unprecedented opportunities as we move from being reactive to planning for the future.

With change comes the chance to choose your response. Will you choose to return to business or rethink the business? The choice is yours.

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