More than six out of 10 businesses today depend on remote or mobile workers. After much fanfare, the virtual workforce is finally here.
While a virtual workforce offers employees convenience, it can present challenges when trying to manage those distributed employees. When you consider all the elements required to get members of a dispersed workforce to communicate effectively – collaborating seamlessly and working together productively – you realize deploying unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) is the best solution.
UC&C is the umbrella term used to describe bundling a full spectrum of communications capabilities – voice, video and text, among other technologies – with collaboration tools such as virtual white boards, presence, screen sharing and advanced call controls.
According to IDC, one in four SMBs said deploying UC&C was a “top investment priority” in 2016 – a 9% increase from 2015.
But how do you choose the right UC&C solution? First and foremost, you need to understand that of all the capabilities of UC&C, voice is foundational to conducting effective and productive virtual meetings – both internally and externally.
It really comes down to the basics: if participants cannot hear one another speak, they simply cannot communicate or collaborate – no matter how good the other UC&C features may be. Wainhouse Research found that audio quality remains the most critical factor for a successful call for 90% of business users.
Here are some other voice-related features to look for in a UC&C solution:
1. Advanced call management controls
Leading UC&C solutions give you more options for managing your voice calls. They offer more dial-in numbers for more countries and better toll-free access to remote users and customers, so more people can be invited into important business discussions.
Such controls also enable users to have simple access to meetings from their desktop or mobile devices. For example, the ability to customize meeting invitations might sound like it’s nice to have, but not a critical element. In today’s hyper-connected world, however, having the ability to send intuitive invitations is essential for encouraging people to dial (or click) into your meetings on time. This is especially true when you are including outside partners and customers.
2. Support for mobile devices
It should go without saying that one-click mobile access is crucial in today’s always-on world. A recent report by Frost & Sullivan shows that 98% of employees use smartphones to call in to meetings, and 93% use tablets to conduct meetings. Look for a UC&C solution that offers an intuitive interface and delivers faster and more convenient ways for mobile employees to connect to conference calls. This solution should include a consolidated calendar view and one-click or one-swipe access to meetings.
3. Implementation and training programs
Yes, the voice feature of UC&C will feel familiar to your users. Still, don’t neglect implementation and training programs. These are key to ensuring that users make full use of all UC&C capabilities. After all, if your employees aren’t familiar with UC&C, or if they do not know how to leverage all its built-in features, they are far less likely to use it regularly. The more time that passes between initial rollout and training and actual usage of a UC&C solution, the less likely your users will be to use it in the future. Don’t forget to also address the training needs of your IT staff and continue your adoption “nurturing” efforts for all employees over the long term to maximize adoption.
4. Your users need dedicated, round-the-clock support for voice.
Another important criterion for investing in UC&C is support. Often, users cannot get the help they need from their internal IT departments, especially if they live in other geographic regions and time zones. By contracting a third party for 24/7 support, you both free up your IT staff and ensure all users get the help they need when they need it. Look for an offering that includes telephone, live chat and email support in all the local languages you require.
UC&C technologies are fast becoming the single-most critical way to help your teams engage in meaningful conversations with each other and with customers, eliminating the challenges that come with managing a distributed workforce.
Wainhouse Research, 2016 Conference Survey – End Users in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise, 2016