You’re sitting in a coffee shop when you suddenly receive a call, on your laptop. Or else you’re on a road trip and you receive an urgent voicemail, directly into your email inbox. Your business has a California area code, even though it’s based in Florida.
Welcome to the new world of business communications, also known as VoIP (voice over internet protocol). VoIP is a revelation for business users, allowing your phone calls to travel over the web as data, just as your emails do. VoIP can drastically reduce the cost of your business communication while simultaneously boosting productivity and keeping you connected wherever in the world you might be. It offers massive advantages over the traditional telephone.
But while VoIP is gaining in popularity, many businesses are hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. They’re concerned that the audio quality might not be up to scratch, and that it’s costly and difficult to implement, so they’ve yet to take advantage of modern business communications the way other larger businesses have.
Chapter 1: The Historical Problem with Business Communications and VoIP
The truth is that while quality, performance and maintenance fears may have been justified several years ago when VoIP technology was still in its infancy, they are far from reality today. In addition, the benefits of VoIP far outweigh any of the drawbacks that may still exist in today’s always-connected digital age. Larger corporations have caught in. In fact, Dell has used VoIP technologies to “save $39.5 million and cut carbon pollution.” A lot of businesses and their customers, however, are finding it hard to jump on the VoIP train.
There was a time when run-of-the-mill telephones were the backbone of global businesses, allowing companies to instantly connect with customers, colleagues or business partners all over the world. Today, that simply isn’t enough to remain competitive and effective. For one thing, location is a limitation since it’s only possible to accept a telephone call if you’re located in the same building as the telephone system – if you’re out of the office, you can wave goodbye to any new leads that might call while you’re away. Telephones are also expensive to operate. It’s not uncommon for some businesses to run up telephone bills of thousands of dollars over a few weeks. Neither of these are problems with VoIP, which allows users to take and make calls anytime, anywhere, for a virtually non-existent fee.
Traditional telephones present other limitations, too. For example, it’s just a two-way street, with only two callers allowed at any one time. Most VoIP services, on the other hand, allow conference calls (with up to 100 users) as a standard feature, with collaborative options for sharing feedback and presentations.
The lack of features in traditional telephony has effectively made the technology redundant in today’s fast-moving world. In a phone call, all one can do is talk to the other person. Features such as caller ID, contact lists, voicemail and extra-virtual numbers, and especially document sharing, call recording video calls and more simply don’t exist with traditional telephones.
To sum it up – “telephones” are a relic of the past because they lack even the most basic features essential to running a modern business, and if your organization hasn’t made the step up yet, you should give serious consideration to doing so as soon as possible.
Chapter 2: Migrating from Traditional Land Lines to VoIP
The prospect of migrating to VoIP from traditional voice services might seem challenging, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Companies can prepare for the initial disruption that the migration involves by understanding that VoIP is always evolving – which is not a cause for concern but rather an opportunity for continued access to improved services and newer, better features.
Identify your business needs
Any company migrating to VoIP needs to define its goals. A move to VoIP will have a big impact on three main groups within your organization, namely executives, customer-facing staff and IT.
Customer-facing staff will be the most critical users of the new VoIP system, so employee training will be required. The potential advantages of VoIP will quickly offset any transition problems when the technology is first rolled out, and employees will soon realize how much more productive they can be. For example, features like a softphone can encourage employees to communicate more often with their colleagues and clients.
Executives will be interested in VoIP for its cost-effectiveness, increased productivity, and the capability to integrate the new system into a full Unified Communications platform.
Finally, your IT team will have immediate responsibility for the new system, but they won’t be too concerned. That’s because VoIP is extremely user-friendly these days, installation is simple, and updates are downloaded automatically, meaning IT staff time is freed up to work on more pressing matters.
Choose the best deployment model
There are three basic deployment models for VoIP, including on-premise, cloud and hybrid.
On-premises deployment is basically an extension of your legacy phone system. The software is installed on-site in company servers, which means less change and greater control of the system. However, such a solution is inevitably more expensive and usually requires a full-time support team to deal with any issues that might crop up.
Cloud deployment is just the opposite of on-premises deployment. The software and everything else is deployed outside of your organization, in another company’s data center. Think of it as outsourcing. It’s probably the most popular option for smaller and medium-sized enterprises.
Last but not least is the hybrid deployment option, which offers the best of both worlds. Companies that aren’t quite ready to dump their legacy system can choose a hybrid option that means their legacy system becomes VoIP-enabled.
Select a vendor
Organizations will need to decide whether to stick with their legacy provider or go with a new partner. Those who have a positive relationship with their current provider may consider sticking with them, but they should have an affordable VoIP transition plan in place. Because there are many small and large VoIP providers offering a variety of systems with different features, it may pay to shop around for a better option.
Prepare for the migration
Your organization must be prepared for the switch to VoIP. This means creating a timeline for the transition with specific goals and targets. Certain employees will need to be assigned new responsibilities to ensure everything is set up smoothly. Reviewing your phone system contract may also reveal whether it’s possible to replace your existing telephones and system without any extra charges.
The next step is to perform a network readiness assessment to determine if it’s able to handle VoIP. This will impact your decision to choose a cloud or on-premises deployment. It’s also essential that employees are notified and prepared for the upcoming changes at this time. And don’t forget, before rolling out the system company-wide, be sure to test it out first with a small group of users, just to ensure everything works smoothly.
Migrating to VoIP might seem like a daunting task at first, but the vast majority of companies successfully make the transition with virtually no hassles.
Chapter 3: Bring Channels Together with Unified Communications
With a VoIP system installed and running, organizations can take full advantage of it’s always-on, remote connectivity to bring teams closer together with Unified Communications. Unified Communications is a new approach to the integration of real-time communication technologies, including voice, instant messaging (IM/chat), audio, web, and video conferencing, data sharing, desktop sharing, fixed-mobile convergence, call control, speech recognition and more.
Unified Communications doesn’t come as a single product, but rather it refers to the integration of numerous products under a consistent user interface that provides the services listed above.
Source: Global Workplace Analytics
With Unified Communications, users are able to send a message on one channel, for example, WhatsApp, and the recipient will be able to read it on a second channel, such as Skype for Business. Users could also send a voicemail for example, and the recipient would be able to listen to it via their email. The possibilities are almost endless.
With remote work having “grown by 115% since 2005,” this kind of integration makes it easier for employees outside of the office (and in it) to stay in the loop and be productive.
Chapter 4: Watch Your Team Collaboration (and Productivity) Soar
Unified communications can quickly become a major competitive advantage for any business that utilizes a variety of different messaging tools and collaboration platforms. By creating a single, unified interface for all the different platforms an organization uses, users become much more focused and productive. It’s especially useful for smaller companies with more limited resources who are looking to leverage technology to become more competitive.
Unified Communications is a kind of Swiss Army knife for workplace collaboration, thanks to the following benefits it provides:
Unified, flexible infrastructure
With a single server and a single user interface, all of your communications are located in one place, which means much easier management. Most companies, in fact, opt to have zero hardware on site. Instead, they have moved all of their communications into the cloud, which means IT teams are free to focus on more pressing problems with your on-premises IT infrastructure.
For business decision-makers, the improved productivity that comes with VoIP and Unified Communications is a no-brainer. By streamlining all of your communications into a single platform that can be easily deployed, you’ll see an immediate increase in response times while bridging the gap between dispersed groups of employees. VoIP and unified communications provide efficient, real-time communication between different teams of workers, leading to faster decisions and accelerated outcomes.
Source: McKinsey & Company
A second key advantage comes from adding remote working policies to your communications infrastructure – enabling workers to do business outside of the office. Studies have shown that staff who work away from the office are not only happier but also around 25 percent more productive.
In addition, with Unified Communications in place, workers see important updates or notifications in real time, no matter where they are. Colleagues can collaborate or interact with each other at any time, getting the answers and input they need with minimal delay, further boosting productivity.
Improved communication and collaboration through interactive technologies can raise the productivity of employees by 20 to 25 percent through faster, more efficient, more effective collaboration, both within and between businesses.
As work patterns are shifting and more employees are performing work-related tasks outside of the office, some studies predict that within the next decade remote working will become a mainstream policy for the vast majority of U.S. businesses.
Unified Communications enables the idea of “hypermobility” because it provides access to the company resources through a range of devices, including mobile phones, tablets, laptops and even wearable technology like smartwatches and smartglasses. When employees can recreate their working environment in any location with an internet connection, they can work even more effectively with greater collaboration than being limited to the office.
For any business that’s looking to do more with less, boost staff morale and improve customer service, it’s time to consolidate your communications and leverage modern technology from Axxys to stay ahead of the game.