Tag - Cloud Telephony

The 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 4Sight, 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 article was first published by Mitel.

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4 Insights Prove Why Small Businesses Need Cloud Phones

Ask any small business owner what keeps them up at night, and we bet productivity will make their list. And no wonder: with smaller teams, small businesses have to get more work done with fewer people. The trick is figuring out how to increase productivity without burning out employees.

Good news! We’ve found an answer. It’s as simple as making the right communications and collaboration tools available. For instance, cloud phones, like the ones we provide at Mitel, increase efficiency by making it easier to get work done.

recent survey of business professionals looked at how communications and collaboration tools impact workplace productivity. Half of the respondents were from companies with between 25 and 2,500 employees. One data point sure to grab the attention of small business owners: 74 percent of employees believe their personal productivity would improve if they had better communications and collaboration tools. Additionally, 82 percent say the staff’s overall productivity would improve. That kind of impact can significantly improve your bottom line.

So how do you achieve such gains? The survey clearly shows how cloud phones can help solve the productivity challenge faced by many small businesses. Here are a few key findings.

Survey says! Cloud phones deliver for SMBs

Shared workspaces gain traction. The majority of survey respondents (70 percent) say using online workspaces is an efficient way to get things done. For one thing, they make it easy to see what needs attention and to make sure tasks are completed on time. A cloud phone system such as Mitel Teamwork improves employee productivity by offering individual and group chat, file sharing, audio conferencing, web sharing and a personal dashboard to keep employees on top of their daily “to-do” list. And you can forget about the hassle of needing a VPN: Your mobile device offers seamless access.

Phones are not going away. Despite the arrival of new technologies, people still rely on voice calls. A resounding 97 percent of respondents listed phone communications among their top five communication methods of choice. Cloud phones offer softphone, mobile and IP desk phone options so employees can talk with each other – and customers – from any device and location. Team members can also continue a conversation from one device to another without skipping a beat.

Video has potential, but it has to work. Thirty-nine percent of business professionals believe the use of video communications will increase over the next few years. Since employees are more likely to pay attention and participate in meetings where they can be seen and not just heard, video conferences present a real opportunity to increase productivity. Employees want video solutions to be intuitive and reliable, and cloud phones deliver by making video conferencing easy and effective with quality connections. After joining with a single click, it’s simple to share presentations, files and documents in real time. Users can even combine video sharing with one-to-one and group messaging to speed review time and collaborate more effectively than ever.

Time is money. For SMBs, every penny counts. However, by some estimates, employees waste about 13 percent of their day on inefficient communications, costing companies roughly $10,000 per worker each year. How to address that? Employees suggest using consistent communications and collaboration tools across the organization, integrating them into workflows and leveraging mobile apps.

Cloud phones check off every box on this list. A seamless experience across devices gives your employees access to voice calls, conferencing and messaging. Single-click functionality saves time, while mobile apps support employees on the move. Screen sharing and agenda tracking increase efficiency. Voicemail transcription allows people to read messages via email. Cloud phones simply “bring it” when it comes to saving SMBs time – and the cost associated with it.

As we wrap up these hard facts, we’ll leave you with a soft reminder: A happy employee is a productive employee. When it comes to cloud phones, an easy-to-use, intuitive system is a must. Powerful communications and collaboration tools don’t have to be difficult to use. On the contrary, some of the best systems out there, such as MiCloud Connect, require little to no training. Your small-business employees will be up and running in no time, smiling as they complete calls, projects and tasks with ease.

Employees have spoken. Cloud phones provide the tools they need to succeed – and you can reap the benefits of their productivity and maximize your potential for growth.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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6 Signs it’s Time to Update to Cloud Phone Technology

It’s easy to get comfortable with your communications system – until that moment when you realize you need more from it. Consider mobility, for example. Just a few years ago, most employees worked from the office. Today, more than half are likely to be on the go and working remotely at least some of the time. If your current phone system isn’t able to handle the office exodus, that’s a glaring sign you’re due for a change.

The good news? A cloud phone solution, like MiCloud Connect, ensures employees can work and collaborate anywhere by delivering the latest in mobility.

But mobility is just one problem solved by cloud phone technology. Chances are, your communications system is flashing yellow and red in other places as well. Some of these warnings are harder to recognize than others. If you’ve noticed any of the following signs, now is the time to make the switch.

6 Signs It’s Time To Upgrade Your Communications

You’re getting a lot of questions about security. This is a hot topic both in the news and at weekly IT meetings. Protecting sensitive information is a top priority. But if you’re not 100 percent confident in your communications system, you’ll want to ask vendors some hard questions. For example: Do they offer Secure Real-Time Transfer Protocol (SRTP), which ensures voice, web and signaling traffic is encrypted? What platform are they using and what levels of security do they offer? At Mitel, we decided to amp up security by partnering with Google Cloud. Our customers benefit from the same reliable and trusted network infrastructure we all use for search and videos on a daily basis.

You operate in a regulated industry. In industries like healthcare or finance, compliance looms large. Violations are expensive and can tarnish your reputation. However, when you work with a cloud phone provider committed to ensuring high levels of security and protecting sensitive data, you’ll ease your IT burden. MiCloud Connect, for example, is certified to meet Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standards and Service Organization Control Type II (SOC 2) compliance, helping you adhere to even the most stringent requirements.

High traffic is reducing the quality of your communications. People might run on coffee, but business are powered by a reliable and consistent network. Slow-downs, dropped calls and low-quality video impede conversations, frustrating employees and customers. Ask about the provider’s track record. As a reference point, Mitel has 99.995 percent uptime backed by SLAs and financial penalties if we don’t meet these standards. Other important items to look for in a reliable solution are Tier 4 data centers with several layers of redundancy and multiple connectivity options with automatic failover. With these built-in capabilities, employees work fast and never miss a chance to drive customer satisfaction higher.

Cloud phone technology helps business adapt to change

Business is booming, so your company is growing – fast. Ask yourself how difficult it is to add or remove lines and users to your current system. If it requires a call to the vendor every time you need to make a change, then it’s time for a cloud phone solution. The beauty of the cloud is that it’s so easy to adjust to new conditions. You can add or remove seats and upgrade permissions in real time, which means your business is more agile. A scalable solution keeps you competitive, while also offering flexible pricing plans so you can stay within budget.

It’s getting harder to meet client expectations. In a competitive market, it’s all too easy to fall behind without integrated collaboration tools. A stellar customer experience builds loyalty, but it can be difficult to deliver when employees are taking extra steps to share documents or discuss issues. When collaboration is built into communications, it’s easier for employees to exceed customer expectations. For example, with click-to-join access for web, audio and video conferencing, a product manager can convene his team to resolve a pressing issue quickly, getting goods in the hands of customers at the right moment. In addition, a persistent workspace with chat, tasks and file sharing gives teams the ability to collaborate in real time. When employee collaboration is easy and seamless, customers get answers faster and satisfaction soars.

Managing multiple licenses is keeping you very busy. There are better ways to spend your time. With a cloud phone solution, you can mix and match license types on a single plan. Need a contact center? Collaboration tools? It’s simple to add licenses on-demand and manage each user via their own profile. And since your cloud provider is responsible for infrastructure, you don’t have to worry about maintenance or carry the cost of unused equipment or lines. Plus, budgeting on an operating expenses (OpEx) model is predictable and easy.

All signs point to cloud phone technology

If any of these signs are flashing red or yellow in your organization, it’s time to start exploring what cloud phone technology can do for your business. A solution like MiCloud Connect will adapt to your business needs, ensuring you stay current with the latest technology – and keep customer satisfaction at all-time highs.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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Public, Private or Hybrid? 5 Questions to Help You Make the Right Choice

How do you educate 30 baseball teams about new rules and policies – and make sure they follow them? That was the challenge Major League Baseball faced as it moved toward implementing “pace of play” rules aimed at shortening the length of games.

As part of the plan, the MLB installed phone lines in every stadium, connecting the dugout, bullpen and video review rooms. Although these are the exact areas the teams use to prevent sign stealing, they can also contribute to excessive visits to the pitcher’s mound. Now the league can centrally monitor, review and record every time a coach picks up the phone.

The league’s solution was in the cloud, specifically a private cloud securely accessed through the public internet so all stadiums could use it.

Private cloud was how the MLB changed its play. How will you change yours? Of course, every business has its own needs. As you consider which cloud environment makes sense for your company – publicprivate or hybrid – asking these questions can help you choose the best path for you.

What Level Of Privacy And Security Do You Need?

If you’re in a highly regulated industry, like financial services, government or healthcare, consider which data should be kept on-site versus a private cloud. Do you need to protect patient data? Comply with the regulations of multiple countries? A hybrid cloud solution could work well for you.

“When we first set out to make a decision around the cloud, we knew we wanted to get out of owning our own data center and migrate to a combination of private and public cloud,” says James Swanson, Monsanto’s CIO. “We consciously decided not to go all-in on public cloud because there were things we wanted to keep internal.”

A hybrid solution enables you to keep control of some parts of your communications infrastructure while still reaping cloud benefits like scalability, resiliency and cost management. So, if privacy and control are essential to your business, this route may provide the flexibility you need.

How Important Is Reliability?

In terms of reliability, public cloud environments have good track records, but they’re not as reliable as private clouds. Think bandwidth. If your company generates heavy usage both inside and outside the organization, reliability is bound to be compromised. If your workforce needs immediate and reliable access to complex data, for example, large multimedia files, consider either a private cloud or storing the data on site.

Another consideration is call quality. A contact center needs 100 percent dependability so that your customers can always get through. If this is essential for your business, consider a hybrid solution: a private cloud combined with an on-site back-up. Such redundancy protects you from costly downtime; if you lose your on-site system, the cloud is there. Likewise, if a network failure hits your cloud provider, your in-house infrastructure becomes your safety net.

Will The Communications System Grow And Flex With You?

The size and potential growth of your organization, in terms of both users and geographic locations, will also impact your decision about whether to use a private or public cloud.

For organizations with fewer than 500 users, the public cloud environment is the most cost-effective. For one thing, your business can pay on a user-per-month basis. In addition, even though you still use a public internet connection (also known as “over the top” or OTT), it can be combined with private network solutions.

A good example of this is the MLB’s system. Although the number of users is relatively small (fewer than 20 phones in each stadium) a hybrid solution using the public cloud via a secure private network gives the league room to scale up when necessary and allows it to maintain reliability and control.

How Can You Connect To The Cloud?

Public internet connectivity. In this model, public internet connections like business-grade DSL and E1/T1 are used for voice and video services. This is an economical choice for small and growing organizations.

Multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) uses high‐speed telecommunications networks to transport packets over virtual links. The technology routes data efficiently because it communicates known information about the network’s topology. It also provides high call quality and a secure connection.

SD-WAN (software-defined wide area networking) allows organizations to reap the benefits of both public internet and MPLS. SD-WAN employs one or multiple network connections to prioritize applications, using a mixture of OTT and/or OTT with MPLS services to review and evaluate all network traffic. To ensure data and call quality are maximized, it can switch circuits quickly.

What Goes In The Cloud? What Stays?

Preparation is key to successfully using the cloud. So before moving forward, be sure to evaluate your needs.

Monsanto’s Swanson recommends you start by assessing your current infrastructure. “Now’s the time to identify the applications that really matter,” he says. Identify redundant functionality across applications, then focus on the key business and technical reasons for moving to the cloud. Use those decisions to shape the specific criteria for determining which applications should move to the cloud. Start with an overall digital strategy and work backwards, he urges, evaluating each offering in the marketplace against your value proposition.

“What do you need to fulfill your strategy in the most effective way that gives you both the financial return but also the capabilities that you’ll need as you go forward?” he asks. “The more refined your strategy is, the more tailored your cloud environments can be.”

This article was first published by Mitel.

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WHAT TO DO: An Emergency at the Office

We don’t like to think about it, but the possibility of an emergency affecting your business is real. Organizations of all types and sizes are susceptible. And although many situations will turn out to be false alarms or have minimal impact, businesses still need an emergency preparedness plan in place to ensure communications with employees are swift and effective. Another necessity? The right technology, including a modern mass notification system, to support such a plan.

Planning is essential because a crisis poses three related threats to your business: public safety, financial loss and reputation loss. Any one of these could have a lasting impact on your business and your employees.

For instance, severe weather such as hurricanes or earthquakes could impede your ability to operate, even causing damage to facilities that might take several months or years to repair. In 2017, national and man-made disasters caused $306 billion in economic losses worldwide – up 63 percent from 2016.  Forty percent of small- and medium-sized businesses that experience downtime due to disasters will not survive.

Then there are the types of tragedies that unfold at the hands of people, some intentional and some accidental. Although workplace shootings have captured news headlines, businesses need to be prepared for other types of unforeseen man-made incidents, including fires, chemical spills, and even the spread of illnesses such as the flu.

How To Plan For An Emergency

Businesses can mitigate such risks by planning ahead. A solid emergency preparedness plan coupled with a modern mass notifications system significantly reduces risk, keeps employees safe and maintains the integrity of your facilities.

In crisis preparation, it’s critical to remember how much different communications in the workplace are today compared to a decade ago. For example, in its early days, email was one of the quickest ways to share information. Today, however, as more people rely on their mobile devices, a text message is speedier and more reliable.

Issues also come to light faster thanks to the prevalence of IoT-enabled devices because alerts can be delivered automatically, without human intervention. For instance, if an intruder forces their way into a building, sensors can detect the breach and send alerts to employees, your security team and even the local police. Employee communications preferences and technology advancements should influence every part of your plan.

Worried you’ll miss something? What follows are a few tips for covering all the bases as you put together your emergency preparedness plan:

  • Incorporate feedback from across the organization. Every team works differently. Sales, for example, is often on the road working from smartphones and tablets. In the warehouse, team members work in shifts around the clock. Reaching the right people at the right time means documenting how, when and where each employee works.
  • Conduct scenario planning. Working with your cross-functional team, talk through potential emergencies. You’ll need to understand how they might unfold from start to finish. As you assess the risks, you can put plans in place for the most likely scenarios and identify communications requirements.
  • Establish an escalation path. When a crisis occurs, know who needs to be alerted. Executives and teams are constantly changing, so have a plan to keep this strategy updated.
  • Have a back-up plan. Consider how you’ll execute on your emergency notification plan if the power goes out, critical equipment is damaged or IT solutions are breached or compromised.
  • Debrief after events. Learn from the crises you face. Take the time after executing on your emergency plan to re-evaluate what went right and what went wrong. The lessons will prove valuable should similar situations occur.

What to ask about mass notification systems

The success of your emergency preparedness plan will hinge on the technology you choose to support it. You have to be confident alerts will reach the right person at the right time. That’s why you need a solution that meets the needs of the modern workforce and can reliably support the broadest possible range of communications devices, channels and alert levels.

As you assess your current system or evaluate new vendors, these are the questions to ask:

  • Is the platform capable of delivering both routine mass notifications as well as emergency alerts? The ability to handle both will ensure you get more out of your investment.
  • Does the platform support mobility? Does it offer mobile apps for iOS and Android devices? Remember that today’s workforce is mobile, so this is a must-have feature.
  • Is it capable of integrating with a wide range of hardware and software? Interoperability is critical because technology changes rapidly. The platform should be flexible to accommodate both the needs of today and adapt to future technologies.
  • How easily can it scale? Can it expand to support tens of thousands of devices, including desktop devices, mobile devices, overhead speakers, email, horns, strobe lights, digital signs and other communications channels? It’s important that your mass notification system grows with your business.
  • Does it allow you to create unlimited notifications, including live, pre-recorded or scheduled broadcasts? The flexibility to create messages ahead of time for any potential situation will allow you to respond faster – if the time comes.
  • Does it support notifications regardless of location? With a mobile workforce, it’s essential that employees can initiate notifications both on- and off-premises as well as send text message notifications to any location.

While the considerations above apply to all businesses generally, keep in mind that some organizations – such as schools and hospitals – will have unique needs. However, an emergency preparedness plan coupled with a robust mass notification system will benefit every business, allowing them to stay in control even as dynamic, high-risk situations unfold.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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How a True Collaboration Experience Makes Your Team a Superstar

In today’s workplace, the office walls have dissolved. There are people on every team working from home or on the road, in coffee shops or in flight. Their colleagues may live and work in another city, across borders or oceans away. Yet even so, the pace of work continues to accelerate, which means collaboration and communication must be seamless and in real time.

This is why many employees use their own mobile devices and gravitate toward standalone messaging and video conferencing apps. But this approach isn’t ideal and, in an effort to be more connected, we find ourselves endlessly switching between applications and logging in multiple times.

For a true collaboration experience, today’s workforce needs an all-in-one solution that lets them communicate and collaborate across time zones as if they were in the same room. With the launch of MiTeam Meetings, Mitel emerges as the only vendor to provide this experience.

MiTeam Meetings makes collaboration much more efficient and meetings increasingly productive. With all the information employees need available from a single workspace, team members find it easier to work, share and store project details.

Here’s how this new all-in-one collaboration app will enable you to work better:

  • Connect to the office from anywhere. As a 100 percent cloud-based video app, MiTeam Meetings makes all your contacts, data and documents available from any mobile device or desktop computer. You’re no longer tethered to a physical location. Wherever you are, you have easy access to all the details about your latest project.
  • Do away with multiple tabs. With a piecemeal solution, it’s all too common to end up with multiple apps, browsers and tabs open across your desktop or mobile device. MiTeam Meetings eliminates that hassle. One window provides a comprehensive view of your work and access to all your communications.
  • Stay on point. A key benefit of all-in-one solutions is that meetings become more focused and more efficient. When you’re switching among windows, it’s easy to get distracted by unrelated items. But when you never leave the environment, it’s easy to stay on-point and on-task.
  • Close the conversation gaps. How often do you start a conversation in chat, then realize you’d accomplish more with a verbal discussion? With MiTeam Meetings, you can seamlessly transition between talk, chat and even video.
  • Hop into a virtual meeting room. More than one person involved in resolving an escalating issue? You can also start instant meetings right from your chat thread or phone call.
  • Invite all experts―and then some. Many projects require input from a variety of professionals to move to the next level. With its multi-pane view, MiTeam Meetings allows up to 16 of your colleagues to appear on video at once. If more voices are needed, you can invite up to 100 participants to gather on a single meeting bridge.
  • Always be in the right place at the right time. No matter where team members are (a conference room in the next building, a hotel room 400 miles away or a home office on the far coast), they’re able to collaborate seamlessly. MiTeam Meetings allows you to communicate across time zones and geographies as though you were in the same room.
  • Keep everyone on the same page. When you want everyone’s input, passing around a key document by email or paper can feel terribly inefficient. But with file and screen sharing capabilities, you and your team can collaborate in real time. It’s faster and more efficient, and ensures everyone is clear on key decisions and agrees on next steps.
  • Stay on top of work in progress. Some projects have an extended incubation period or are simply ongoing. MiTeam Meetings provides you with a permanent virtual workspace where you can continue to collaborate on documents, in meetings and through conversations.
  • Avoid losing track of ad-hoc decisions. Projects are often complex with many moving parts. With multiple team members contributing, it’s easy to lose the thread of a conversation. With a persistent chat log, you always have simple access to key decisions or important discussions.
  • Be confident you’re securely connected. As you update a team document from the road, the last thing you need to worry about is who’s snooping the airport lounge Internet connection. Mitel has you covered. MiTeam Meetings was developed specifically with mobility and security in mind, so you can be sure your work stays under wraps.

As personal and effective as working face to face, MiTeam Meetings offers plenty of advantages. Providing a true collaboration experience, not only will your team will be more informed and reach decisions faster, but it’ll also set new productivity records.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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A Beginner’s Guide to the Cloud

Core Features Of Cloud Communications

The way you communicate says a lot about your business and who you are as an individual. And yet many business communications systems are anything but personal. They’re one‐size‐fits‐all solutions that your business likely outgrew more than a decade ago.

Moving your communications to the cloud can help your business build around the way you work and not the other way around.

The benefits of cloud communications include:

  • Cost savings from reduced communications complexity and operational expenses and an overall lower cost per user compared to legacy PBX systems
  • Improved employee productivity through a rich suite of easy‐to‐deploy communications capabilities.
  • A truly mobile workforce connected with communications tools and virtual systems across multiple locations that give employees access to resources from anywhere

Many businesses across the globe are in the position of rethinking their business communications and are wondering why go to the cloud now—or how. We’ve outlined below the core basics to know as you plot your course. Let’s start with the primary reason to go cloud.

Integrating Advanced Applications With Your Communications System

Communications shouldn’t just start and stop on your desk phone. It can, and should, be integrated into multiple business processes. Moving communications to the cloud can help you reach greater levels of functionality:

  • Deliver the same phone features of a Fortune 500 company: mobile‐friendly communications, broad selection of end points, automated callbacks, announced queue times, and more—at a cost that businesses of all sizes can afford.
  • Ensure a better customer experience with intelligent call routing that sends customers to the right agent, with the right information, right away.
  • Provide deployment flexibility by only paying for the features that you need, where they’re needed, and custom bundle features as required.
  • Enable versatile communications by giving employees access their phones, unified messaging, chats, apps, and more—on any device.

By communications-enabling critical applications that support key business processes, your mobile workforce can be productive no matter where they are and what device they’re using. Here are some common places to start:

  • Salesforce.com (e.g., Click to Dial, Inbound Calls Auto-pop Customer Records, Find Contacts via Directory Search, Capture Notes and Call Details to the Record)
  • Microsoft Office 365 (e.g., calendar-based presence notifications, Click to Dial, Auto-create Calendar Invitations, voicemail to email integration)

Choosing Communications Deployment Models

Now that we’ve looked at the key reason for moving communications to the cloud, let’s explore how. Until the last several years, there weren’t many options for deploying business communications systems. For most businesses, the traditional deployment model required a substantial investment in on‐site branch exchange (PBX) systems. This model put all the risk on the buyer because it was a long‐term strategic decision that, among other things, potentially impacted:

  • Future business growth and scalability
  • Expandability to multiple locations
  • Agility and ability to support new features and capabilities in communications‐enabled business processes (CEBPs)

During the 1990s and early 2000s, many organizations replaced their legacy PBX systems with more flexible on-site unified communications (UC) systems. This enabled them to converge their voice and data networks and leverage many standard networking components in their telephony infrastructure. At the same time, it offered advanced UC and collaboration capabilities to users.

Cloud communications, the newest option in business communications, is one of the fastest-growing market segments in technology, growing roughly 27 percent year over year.

However, there’s more than one path to cloud communications, and different sized businesses have different requirements that drive their decisions on which cloud model to adopt.

Small Business (1 To 100 Employees)
  • Some integration into other key applications like Salesforce.com and basic contact center may be required
  • Ideal consumers of mobile and public cloud solutions displacing small-end customer on-site platforms
Mid‐Market (100 To 2,500 Employees)
  • Often have sophisticated business process integrations and contact center requirements
  • Interested in public, private, and hybrid cloud solutions preferring private networking instead of over-the‐top (OTT) solutions
Large Enterprise (2,500 To 10,000 Employees)
  • High interest in private cloud migration and hybrid cloud solutions to leverage existing investment
  • Integration into larger IT framework is a key consideration
Extra‐Large Enterprise (10,000‐Plus Employees)
  • Focused on solutions that can be effectively deployed to a large user community by emphasizing role‐based user types and multiple location scalability
  • Security, scalability, and third‐party integrations are key considerations
  • High interest in private and hybrid cloud migration strategies

Public Hosted Cloud Communications

Public cloud is the primary cloud communications deployment model for small and medium businesses (SMBs) and is a popular option. It can be easily procured on a per-user, per-month basis and can be combined with private network connections, although it’s often used over a basic Internet connection or runs on an “over the top” (OTT) service. Most public cloud communications services include contact center features and integrate with popular business applications.

Public cloud communications offerings can be delivered with private networking for increased security and reliability.

Private Cloud Communications

Private cloud communications deployment models are most popular with enterprises, key verticals, and government agencies. Private cloud communications take advantage of cloud benefits while achieving maximum levels of security and control for the organization.

Private cloud can be managed by a solution provider and often includes recurring cloud revenue components. Some executive decision makers may prefer the CapEx investments and perpetual licensing in private cloud models, instead of the recurring OpEx and licensing fees in public cloud models, for various financial reasons.

With the availability of leading public cloud platforms like Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, some innovative companies are making their communications solutions available off these platforms. This is in a way the best of both worlds, as you get the security, compliance and reliability of the leading public cloud platforms and the feature rich functionality in your cloud-based communications solution.

Hybrid Cloud Communications

The hybrid cloud leverages existing on‐site communications investments, increases resiliency, and enables cloud management benefits and efficiencies of scale. A hybrid cloud communications strategy is often adopted by organizations as part of a transition strategy, from a traditional on‐site phone system to a more robust cloud‐based unified communications solution that provides unlimited scalability and advanced business capabilities.

A hybrid cloud communications strategy can also be adopted as an end strategy, rather than simply a transition strategy, offering organizations the advantages of both public and private clouds. For example, an organization may choose to maintain complete control of certain aspects of its communications infrastructure while leveraging the resiliency, management, and scalability benefits of the cloud. In these cases, primary communications functions may be handled on‐site in a private cloud deployment, while overflow call volume and business continuity/disaster recovery is handled in the public cloud.

Hybrid cloud communications favor large campus environments with geographically distributed locations. This model is embraced by IT organizations with limited resources and coverage, as it provides unified management tools to manage users across all sites.

Who’s In Control?

When considering cloud, we can’t ignore the question of outsourcing. The old IT adage was that outsourcing allowed firms to focus on their core business, rather than on technology. While that seemed like a reasonable proposition at the time, the mistake that many firms made was in giving up the control of their technology and their ability to differentiate themselves in a competitive global market. This is particularly true of firms that went well beyond IT outsourcing to farm out their customer service, sales, design and, in some cases, manufacturing processes.

Cloud computing (more specifically cloud communications) outsources the communications infrastructure, not the business processes. By simplifying network operations—such as managing firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), and session initiation protocol (SIP) trunks—and eliminating server administration, moving to a cloud communications provider enables businesses to reallocate IT staff to responsibilities that actually do create competitive differentiation and business value.

Make Your Move

The mobile, ultra-integrated way we function today makes it a natural choice to integrate voice with other processes within the business world. We’re already doing it in our personal life (think WhatsApp and Snapchat); it’s high time we reaped the rewards of in within the walls of our workplaces.

Although the benefits of cloud communications are clear, the way to get there is as individual as the pathways and folds of your internal infrastructure. Make your move to the cloud based on the knowledge, support and ease that comes with a plan based on your specific business culture and needs.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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16 Ways to Help Remote Workers Feel Like They’re in the Conference Room

We’ve all been there. The frustrating meeting: disorganized, without an agenda and far too many attendees – both in the room and on the phone. When you’re done, you feel like you’ve wasted an hour of your life.

For remote employees, it’s even worse. Because they’re not physically at the conference table, they miss the non-verbal cues and side conversations, while those attending in person often forget who’s on the other end of the speaker phone. It’s no wonder that people multitask during conference calls.

The problem is you need remote workers to contribute. You need their information, knowledge and feedback. Think of a sales manager in another state who can share what customers are saying. Or a franchise owner who’s identified problems with a new point-of-sale system.

To make your remote colleagues feel connected and valued, here are 16 ways you can help them feel like they’re in the conference room along with everyone else.

1. Make It Mobile-First.

The first step toward changing this dynamic is to provide remote employees with the right tools. They need to the ability to join meetings from any device – mobile, tablet, desktop – and any operating system. A cloud hosted phone system, like MiCloud Connect, puts them in the room with a single click and makes it easy to collaborate with colleagues.

2. Ensure A Strong Connection.

Nothing is more aggravating than a poor connection that makes it difficult to hear others or contribute to the conversation. A cloud phone – a Voice over IP (VoIP) based business telephone platform – enables your remote colleagues to connect to any conference call with one click, from any device, via the Internet.

3. Set A Clear Agenda.

It’s been said many times but it’s worth saying again. Distributing an agenda days before the meeting is essential. Choose a unified communications solution with a built-in agenda capability that enables you to send the meeting plan with the invite. This way remote employees aren’t at a disadvantage. Everyone is on the same page from the get-go.

4.Choose The Right Time.

A convenient time for participants in one time zone might be the kids’ bedtime for participants in another. This is a common complaint of remote employees. Everyone in the room thinks 3 p.m. is a perfect time for the next meeting, but the remote colleague is in the awkward position of reminding the group that it’s not a good time for them. It’s the job of the meeting leader to be conscious of this and proactively find times that work for (mostly) everyone. In some organizations, meetings rotate times so that everyone “shares the pain.”

5. Share Expectations For Participation.

With the agenda, let participants know you expect everyone to come prepared to fully contribute to the conversation, no matter where they’re located. Ask everyone to read through the agenda and reach out to the meeting leader with any questions or feedback.

6. Invite The Right People.

Not surprisingly, conference calls with too many participants are less engaging. Stanford University Professor Robert Sutton found that the magic number for a productive team is five to six people, no more than 10. But success is about more than a number. A sure way to increase inclusion and participation on a conference call is to have the right people involved.

7. Establish Meeting Ground Rules.

When you’re calling in remotely, it often feels like you have to fight to be heard. Set ground rules for how people should communicate during the call. For instance, one person speaks at a time with no interruptions. Or ask your team what they feel the ground rules should be. A remote colleague might suggest, for instance, that everyone say their name before speaking since she isn’t in the room. This also serves to remind the people in the conference room that remote colleagues are on the call.

8. Start With Introductions.

So simple, yet so important. Ask everyone to say “hello,” give their name and role, and explain why they’re on the call. Small talk can help make everyone feel included, especially remote colleagues. If the call’s a video call, make sure everyone is on video (not audio). If someone can’t be on video, ask them to post a photo of themselves.

9. Invite Participation.

Since it’s easy to forget who’s calling in, it’s the job of the facilitator to make sure everyone contributes. Keep track of who has spoken – and who has not. Ask direct questions to those who haven’t contributed like, “Ashley, what do you think of this idea?” Use a cloud business communications service, like MiCloud Connect, that enables participants to give their input via cloud collaboration tools such as chat, IM or polling.

10. Manage Speaking Time.

One of the hardest tasks for a meeting leader is controlling who speaks and for how long. This is particularly difficult for remote colleagues, who often find they can’t get a word in edgewise. The meeting leader must be aware of this dynamic and counteract it. For example, if one participant is rambling, the leader can interrupt gently, acknowledging and reflecting back their contribution before moving the discussion on, or asking for input from another participant.

11. Speak Clearly.

When speaking to someone face-to-face, you get a lot more information. Speech clarity isn’t as important because the listener is picking up non-verbal cues, too. That dynamic is missing for those not in the room. Therefore, it’s important that the facilitator speak clearly and slowly, with more pauses to make sure everyone is following.

12. Make It Visual.

Use collaborative conference software that allows anyone on the call to share their screen. Use visuals to keep everyone engaged. Ask different participants to share documents.

13. Break It Up.

When planning the meeting, be conscious of keeping it interactive. For instance, stop after three slides to ask questions. Assign different items on the agenda to each participant. In this way, the remote worker feels like an important contributor to the meeting.

14. Rotate Roles.

Effective meetings need more than a leader. Other roles include a notetaker and a time-keeper to keep the agenda on track while the leader focuses on content and presentation. A good practice is to rotate these roles. Sitting in the passenger seat is very different from being the driver. When meeting participants share responsibilities, they feel more ownership and engagement. This is particularly important for remote workers, who often feel peripheral.

15. Create A Shared Workspace.

Remote employees need access to the same information as everyone else on the team. In the past that meant dialing into the mainframe. With the cloud, it’s so much easier. Choose a cloud business phone system that provides a virtual shared workspace containing all documents and communications pertaining to the team’s efforts. With a click, remote workers can see all the team’s work in one place.

16. Record The Call.

Sometimes colleagues have to drop out of a call early, or something comes up that prevents them from attending. Use a cloud-hosted communications and collaboration solution to record the call and store it in the shared workspace. Drop the meeting minutes in the workspace, as well.

Conference calls have always been challenging, but with more team members working remotely, it’s essential for businesses to make sure they contribute and feel included. Choose a cloud business communications solution that gives you the tools to create an inclusive, collaborative workspace.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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How to Host an Effective Meeting with Mitel Teamwork

Meetings. They provide a chance for us to get away from our desk, interact with a few co-workers and collaborate to get projects done efficiently, but they don’t always run perfectly. Sometimes it can feel as though a meeting is never ending or that nothing important has been accomplished. In fact, the typical professional attends over 60 meetings per month and approximately 50 percent of meeting time is wasted.

Whether you are organizing meetings or simply attending them, you owe it to yourself and your team to make the most of every minute. Just imagine how much more could be done if your meetings become just one percent or even five percent more effective. Here are 5 ways to improve your meetings.

1. Set An Agenda

Create a list of topics to be discussed and make sure that necessary materials are provided to attendees at least one day before the meeting. Upload the agenda to the respective workspace on Mitel Teamwork, a cloud collaboration tool, so that it is easily accessible by all attendees, even if they are attending remotely. For frequently held meetings, such as a weekly project check in, you can save time by creating a meeting template. Once you have that in place, preparing an agenda is as simple as filling in the blanks.

2. Check Progress Of Tasks Already In Place

Already have tasks doled out in Teamwork? Check their progress easily within each workspace. Completed and not, you can easily swipe through to know what items may need to be addressed or covered in your next team meeting. Tasks allow you to stay updated on any project and ensure everyone on the team knows what has been accomplished and what still needs work.

3. Start On Time And End On Time

You don’t want attendees counting down the meeting minutes, but you should be watching the clock. Take charge of managing time. When people attend a meeting, they cannot do anything else. Make that time count! Starting the meeting on time and ending on time (or even a few minutes early!) will quickly enhance your reputation as an organized person. If you are running a complex meeting or a meeting with a large attendee list, consider asking a colleague to serve as timekeeper. Arrive early if possible and avoid back to back commitments on your calendar whenever you can.

4. Take Notes And Send Out A Recap

Taking notes in meetings is an essential skill that not enough people take seriously. The key reason to take notes in a meeting is to record any questions or assignments that have been directed to you or that you have assigned. Taking notes on paper can be more effective than using a computer, tablet or other device. Even if you have a fantastic ability to focus on the meeting, other people may assume that you’re catching up on email instead of paying attention. Bring a copy of the agenda and use it to guide your note taking. Focus on the decisions made in the meeting and items that require further work. Marking down who has been assigned what can also be a way to keep attendees accountable. Sending out meeting minutes within 24 hours of the initial meeting, even a few paragraphs or bullet points, is a best practice. Minutes can be uploaded to the cloud collaboration space in Teamwork to ensure everyone has access.

5. Assign Tasks

After a meeting, run through your notes and find what tasks need to be updated or created to ensure all projects are up to date. Easily delegate project with Teamwork in the appropriate workspace and assign tasks quickly. Additional information necessary? Send a file out in the workspace, or in a 1:1 chat, to allow easy access at any time.

Equipping employees with virtual workspaces, Teamwork is a spot where employees can come together to work closely and communicate effectively, all in a secure environment. Accessible by PC as well as the mobile app, team members can be updated from anywhere, at any time. Whether you need to share documents, create and assign milestone tasks, or even host a meeting, Teamwork is the application for you.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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6 Communications Habits of Agile Teams

An agile team is “marked by ready ability to move with quick, easy grace; having a quick, resourceful and adaptable character.” Sounds good, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want their teams to be agile?

But creating a truly agile team is no simple feat. How do they behave? What qualities do they possess? In other words, what does an agile team really look like on a typical day? Of course, there are numerous communications habits that characterize agile teams. But some habits in particular can be enhanced with the right technology. Consider, for example, how hosted phone systems and solutions help teams collaborate, share ideas and get more done in their workday. Curious? Here are six communications habits of agile teams – and how technology enhances collaboration.

6 communications habits of agile teams

They’re Always Reachable.

You can’t be agile if you’re disconnected. A hosted collaboration and communications solution, such as MiCloud Connect with Mitel Teamwork, provides a single experience across devices and lets workers seamlessly move from one device to another. Team members are always “on” and thus more responsive. Agile employees work best when they have access to all communications features, even on their mobile devices, so they can keep working no matter where they are.

They Share Information In Real-Time.

Being quick and resourceful requires real-time communications. Hosted phone systems and solutions that mirror conversations across all devices in real time allow team members to keep their finger on the pulse of all projects and discussions. Single-click audio, video and web conferencing, in addition to individual and group chat, keep the lines of communication open at all times. No one feels “out of the loop.” The result? The team makes smart decisions based on the latest information and on a collaborative discussion that takes all viewpoints into account.

They Keep Team Members Informed.

Information is useless if it’s not shared with the right people in a timely manner. Persistent workspaces foster collaboration and allow users to chat, share files and even create tasks. Everyone has access to the information they need to do their jobs, and people know what they’re responsible for. The tasks performed by each team member complements those of their colleagues, with everyone working toward a well-understood solution. Of course, it’s not surprising that well-informed people accomplish more, since they don’t waste time searching for information or make decisions that have to be undone after the fact.

They’re Organized.

We dare you to find an agile team member who’s disorganized. Organization is a critical quality of responsive and adaptive teams. A robust hosted phone system such as MiCloud Connect makes it easy with task management and file sharing. Consolidate conversations and activities into one space for quick access to anything you need during the workday. Calendar and email integration take organization to a new level, keeping team members on top of events, client meetings and messages.

They’re Mobile.

In today’s world, agile and mobile go hand-in-hand. A communications solution is nothing if it doesn’t offer full mobile support. Features such as a mobile app for Android and iOS, Siri integration and Bluetooth support provide teammates the hands-free experience they need to stay connected without being tied down.

They Track Progress On Projects.

Agile teams reach the finish line faster by knowing exactly how far they’ve come and what they still need to do. A virtual workspace app such as Teamwork lets them know what activities still require attention. A personal dashboard makes it easy to see project status, propelling each team member toward their ultimate goal.

All you need is the right hosted phone system and solution

Ready for an agile team? All you need is the right communications technology. A hosted phone system and solution that provides innovative features and functionality can turn any team into a well-oiled machine whose information and ideas flow freely.

In addition to the system features mentioned above, other key items to look for in an agile-friendly system include:

  • CRM integration, so your team has instant access to customer and client data.
  • Flexible phone options, such as IP phones, softphones and a mobile app, so people can choose how they communicate.
  • Ad-hoc audio and video conferencing to share information and get answers to questions quickly.
  • Business SMS, so co-workers can text each other from their business lines.
  • Shared contact lists with search functionality, so team members can reach out to the right people when questions or issues arise.

Be graceful. Be nimble. Be responsive. Be adaptable. Be agile. Arm your team with a hosted phone system that makes it easy to talk, chat and share ideas and information easily and quickly. Create an environment that makes collaboration a breeze and completing projects a snap. Make your team the best version of itself. Give them the tools they need to begin your transformation today.

This article was first published by Mitel.

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