02 Industry view 03 Work up an app-etite 04 Remote control 07 Making the switch 10 Myth-busting the cloud
Evolution of communication In association with:
Industry view A
s technology continues to evolve, we’ve entered an era where work is no longer confined to a specific desk, phone or computer screen. Driven by trends like digital transformation (DX), customer experience (CX) and the rise of remote working, communication has evolved. Today’s companies are interacting through a range of different platforms, using tools to measure performance and implementing strategies to keep the diverse global workforce connected. Thanks to the cloud and unified communications and collaboration (UC&C), businesses don’t have to worry about switching between different apps and tools to accomplish their goals and are able to empower their employees with simplicity, context and mobility. Communication and collaboration are natural partners in the digitally transforming and globally-distributed workforce. As work becomes less of a physical place and more of a collection of values and software solutions, collaboration has emerged as a critical factor for businesses and professionals worldwide. Now that half the UK workforce is set to work remotely by 2020, and many other countries are
following suit, companies are searching for ways to serve experts that refuse to be tethered by wires and physical locations. The result has been an influx of fantastic cloud communication tools, designed for almost every touchpoint in the business. More than ever, companies facing a changing business are beginning to understand how UC&C can help them better serve clients and employees alike. In fact, recent research indicates that the unified communications market will reach $62bn by 2020 – almost three times the size compared to five years before. Perhaps the biggest trend driving the adoption of UC&C is DX and the rise of the digital workforce. At its core, the digital workforce thrives on the idea that people should be able to access the tools they need to perform wherever they are and on whatever device they use. Combine that with the everemerging move to cloud communications and agile methodologies and you’ve got an environment primed for UC&C. As the workplace innovates faster, breaches global boundaries and discovers new opportunities, UC&C is the path to better connections and productivity. Sunny Dhami, director of product marketing EMEA, RingCentral
Work up an app -etite Long gone are the days when staff must be glued to desktops to get things done. Instead, with app-based services at their fingertips, workers can be on the move and just as efficient. The result? Some seriously booming businesses, as we discovered with these first-hand accounts Colin Yates, chief support officer at WorkMobile, the data capture business Digital data capture solutions allow colleagues to work on documents at the same time, see each other’s updates and make amends in real-time – even if they’re on opposite sides of the world. Colleagues can even message each other to check in on how they’re doing, on both a personal and professional level. And, to reassure those at the top, managers have complete visibility of the status of all work in progress and can monitor for any changes or approaching deadlines. Applications such as these can also significantly benefit the field worker, who still has an office
element to their job. Simon Harrow, founder of Crabshell Inn, the quayside pub An easy-to-use app provides both my managers and shift workers with the assurance that nothing will slip through the cracks or be miscommunicated. By having everything in one place, employees at all levels and in different departments can communicate effectively to ensure we’re providing the best service. In turn, I can rest assured that as an employer I’m adopting the solutions that go the extra mile to improve my staff’s work-life balance. Waseem Haq, director of digital and innovation at Travel Counsellors, the travel company The use of app-based services has enabled our franchisees to get closer to their travelling customers, providing even more personalised experiences. [Our] myTC app supports the entire customer journey, from initial enquiry to landing back home and beyond. It provides leisure and corporate customers with instant access to travel information and alerts via push notifications, itineraries and documentation, as well as providing constant contact with the customer’s own Travel Counsellor at the tap of a button. Mike Teasdale, planning director and co-founder of Harvest Digital, the digital marketing agency As a digital agency, we’ve always been interested in – some would say obsessed with – deploying new apps and technology within the business. Of course, there were a few teething problems but it’s now working well and people are taking the new functionality very much for granted. I think there would be a lot of grumbles if we moved back to our old systems. 3
With half of Brits on course to work remotely next year, SME honchos can’t afford to fall behind the curve and miss out on the benefits of telecommuting. However, keeping up takes strategy
ust as the computer replaced the typewriter, remote working is the workplace’s next evolutionary step. After all, with younger generations giving their stamp of approval, it’s clearly not just a phase. “Millennials started to overtake Baby Boomers as the dominant workforce generation in 2018 and Gen Z-ers aren’t far behind them,” explains Colin Yates, chief support officer at WorkMobile, the data capture solution. “These generations have certain expectations of what a working environment should look like and pretty soon it won’t be an office.” Indeed, according to job board Timewise, 92% of young employees work flexibly or wish to. And by next year, 50% of Britain’s workforce will arrive at their job remotely, according to the Office for National Statistics. It warrants something of a check-up for what going to work actually means and, more importantly, what employers should be offering. “No matter the industry, business leaders need to be equipping their workforces with the tools to work remotely now to avoid getting left behind in the very near future,” Yates advises. That goes twofold for SMEs. After all, due to current sky-high employment levels it takes an extra shove for job hunters to commit to small businesses, so luring wide pools of applicants is a must. And by embracing mobile employees working from devices of their own choice, top talent face few boundaries. “For smaller companies specifically, one of the greatest benefits of remote working is the ability of a tight-knit team to access the very best talent from trusted networks, not just from within a commutable distance,” says Brendon Craigie, co-founder and managing partner of Tyto PR, the public relations agency. Moreover, 87% of full-timers either already work flexibly or hope to, according to Timewise, meaning most job seekers far and wide won’t hesitate pinging over their CVs. “Adopting a location-agnostic staffing
87% of full-timers either already work flexibly or hope to model means the ability to access that talent from across Europe and overseas to give a truly global perspective but using local expertise,” Craigie details. It certainly means only the best get hired, not the closest. Once your business is filled with fresh recruits, potentially from across the globe, the health benefits telecommuting brings will also keep them put. “In an era where an increasing amount of scrutiny is put on the way businesses deal with mental health and wellbeing issues, remote working provides employees more freedom, flexibility and transparency, consequently reducing their stress levels whilst increasing their work-life balance,” notes Christian Brøndum, CEO of Planday, the employee scheduling provider. As a case in point, an experiment by the University of Minnesota revealed staff at a Fortune 500 business enjoyed greater satisfaction and less stress after practising flexible working, which included clocking in from home, compared to those that didn’t. It goes without saying the chipper telecommuters also proved to be more productive. “As cloud technology becomes more sophisticated, businesses and employees alike are reaping the rewards, with increased productivity and communication at all levels,” Brøndum continues. From booming productivity to reduced absenteeism – like Jonathan Birch, creative director at Glass Digital, the marketing agency, witnessed in his company – the benefits of telecommuting seem endless and a no-brainer to adopt. However, getting it right requires care. “Established firms often dabble with remote working but they do it in a way that remote workers often feel like second-class citizens,” Craigie warns. There’s no hiding mobile working spells a dramatic departure from traditional office life, so copying and pasting the same standards, such as frequent face-to-face meetings, won’t do. Instead,
picking up messaging platforms, for example, enables seamless collaboration for remote staff and makes in-person meetings no longer vital. “Smaller firms can ensure that when the whole team meets, it’s done with a specific purpose in mind.” Putting the unique needs of telecommuters under a magnifying glass is a simple yet effective consideration. “The important thing with a purely remote model is to not simply try and replicate office-based life,” Craigie adds. “Instead, ways of working need to be created that suit or are more advantageous to employees and clients.” And if your digital communications aren’t up to scratch for mobile workforces, such as with top-notch video conferencing, curb your enthusiasm. “The use of digital channels and internal communications to support a constantly connected community is also critical to ensuring that working flexibly and remotely enables a continuously engaged company population – whether working from home, an office or any other location across the globe,” explains Steve Byrne, CEO at Travel Counsellors, the travel franchise. Thanks to Byrne’s constantly connected global staff, the door’s open for customers whatever the hour, which he says develops a deep sense of trust from customers and franchisees. “It’s essential that state-of-the-art technology keeps our franchisees digitally connected to a global community of fellow travel experts – all whilst running their business around family or other commitments,” he summarises.
By next year, 50% of Britain’s workforce will arrive at their job remotely Whether you’re up for change or not, widespread telecommuting may become the gold standard for SMEs due to the sheer relief it brings workers in an increasingly digitised world. And considering companies benefit massively from the open-minded approach, remote working is nothing short of a win-win situation for everyone involved. 5
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Making the switch With remote workers in America, JBH’s communications capability was pushed to the limit by relying on consumer-based solutions like WhatsApp
o other image encapsulates running a small business quite like plate-spinning. But to grow, that skill must eventually end and it all starts with communication. Having spread his business from Northampton to the US through remote working, no one knows that better than Andy Blason, director and co-founder of JBH, the content agency. “Before the move to RingCentral we used multiple vendors and applications, which ultimately provided a disjointed experience,” he says. At one point JBH even resorted to consumer-based services like WhatsApp to professionally contact clients, grinding progression down to a snail’s pace. “It was costly, a lot to manage and, looking back, made collaborating both internally on projects and externally with customers very difficult,” Blason continues. That was just the beginning. While Blason was thrilled to beef up JBH’s client book as time went on, the strain it put on comms made expansion bittersweet. “As JBH grew and acquired more
clients we reached the point where our communication system was limiting us,” he recalls. Having introduced a second office in Manchester as well as stateside remote workers to meet demand, Blason needed to bring JBH’s telecoms into the 21st century and let the company breathe. “We needed a solution that allowed us to seamlessly communicate and
As JBH grew and acquired more clients we reached the point where our communication system was limiting us. collaborate with anyone in the business regardless of where they were located,” he summarises. Blason wanted to get far away from the inefficiency of multiple companies providing a
slice of digital communication each – especially now JBH started to operate from both sides of the Atlantic. And upon spotting RingCentral after a bit of window shopping, his prayers were answered. “Their product solved our problem of combining multiple disjointed tools into one cohesive [solution] that makes communicating with anyone, anywhere, on any device seamless,” Blason says. You’d think having access to just about every kind of modern digital communication would take some time to set up. However, for Blason it was as simple as screwing in a new lightbulb. “In addition, RingCentral made having multiple locations simple – we were able to add new users and get them up and running in no time,” he says. “The migration process was simple as we know RingCentral pride themselves on this.” Of course, just like how Victorian audiences are rumoured to have ran away during Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat, one of the first ever movies, from fear 7
of being hit by the on-screen locomotive, steaming towards new technology will inevitably make some staff feel uncomfortable. “Any technology change is bound to cause friction, [as] people get attached to what they’re used to,” Blason admits. Fortunately, however, thanks to nifty filesharing and task management gizmos in RingCentral’s Glip app, JBH’s employees quickly rejoiced how easy it was to connect with colleagues from across the world. “In truth, after the team had received some training and discovered some of the hidden features – such as the GIFs in Glip – the concerns were gone,” Blason says. “With the added bonus of Glip app for mobile, it’s really efficient to be able to have a quick chat with a teammate – even during a meeting if required.” Since then, JBH’s all-in-one digital package has been the gift that keeps on giving, with seamless meetings available from anywhere on the planet. “For instance, the financial director loves the fact that it has reduced travel expenses to our clients as we’re able to have video meetings and present our work remotely,” Blason describes. And it’s not a feeling exclusive to execs – from the directors to the receptionists, every echelon of the business feels an impact. “The receptionist is just happy she has all our numbers in one system,” Blason says. “There’s no longer a need to phone work mobile, personal mobile, office one or office two – we take the number with us.” But Blason isn’t trying to convince you to dive into an upgrade head-first. Instead, measure up the opportunity against your own situation. “Consider how many applications it takes to run your 8
There’s no longer a need to phone work mobile, personal mobile, office one or office two – we take the number with us. business, both internally and externally,” he advises. “Add up the costs but also think about the amount of time it takes to manage these tools.” Moreover, although getting with the times can transform the workplace for staff, never forget what those on the other side think. “Also consider what this all looks like to your customer: do you come across as a seamless, put-together business, or do you run into technology issues?” Blason adds. Having gauged its own circumstances, it’s needless to say JBH isn’t looking back – and that’s not just down to its provider costing less than alternatives. “But more importantly, [it] made
our internal work processes easier and made us look more professional to our clients, so for us it was a no-brainer,” Blason says. In fact, without cohesive digital lines the company might not have been able to facilitate expansion for long. “Personally I had concerns when we launched JBH North that the team was going to feel disconnected even though we’re only a few hours apart,” Blason concludes. “But Glip brings everyone together, [whether it’s] sharing stories, news, GIFs or just chatting shop – or pub time – everyone is involved and connected.” With such connectivity, now virtually any horizon is in reach for JBH to set its sights on.
JBH on the hunt for another Gold award
of workers aged 18 to 34 desire flexible working, with 88% between 35 and 54 and 72% above 55 expressing the same wish
of women seek flexible working, followed closely by 84% of men
of financial services gigs are advertised as “agile”
of bosses have taken on flexible workers
is the proportion of CEOs implementing flexible working to attract and keep talent
of staff operating in office cubicles, 32% in open plan offices and 31% in private offices suffer workplace-related stress, compared to just 17% clocking in from home
of employees offered flexible work said it boosted their productivity
of remote workers wouldn’t ditch their job for a better wage, in contrast to 62.5% of on-site employees
of mobile staff said it’s “very true” they work beyond their job’s normal hours, compared to 24% of on-site workers
of businesses say flexible working improved their company
Sources: Canada Life Group, New Technology, PwC, Ten2Two, Timewise, University of Cardiff, Work and Employment
Myth-busting the cloud Although it’s sometimes been misunderstood, cloud technology’s far from a poisoned chalice. In fact, it’s a game-changer for businesses like these that can separate fact from fiction
t’s not exactly a new kid on the block anymore and, yet, cloud technology still has massive potential. Next year, cloud-based services will account for a sizeable 67% of enterprise infrastructure and software according to IDC, the market intelligence firm. However, with recent headlines touting it as responsible for celebrities’ private photos being leaked and companies like Timehop, the social app, losing details of 21 million users, you’d think otherwise. But like anything revolutionary, cloud software has sometimes been misrepresented, masking how great it really is and even dissuading some small businesses from upgrading for the better. But hands-on 10
accounts from these entrepreneurs ensure the wool’s not pulled over your eyes.
‘I’m less secure with the cloud’ Perhaps aided by the ethereal imagery of the word cloud, a most common myth is it’s a less secure and reliable form of file storage than physical devices like computers and phones. “However, if your devices are stolen but you’ve stored your data on the cloud, you can still download them onto a new device, saving your data from being lost forever,” argues Christian Brøndum, CEO of Planday,
the employee schedule service. Having identified businesses rapidly shifting towards remote working, he’s always believed technology would bridge the gap between new-age telecommuters and on-site employees. The result was Planday and, given the whole service runs off cloud technology, Brøndum’s clearly not worried. “Cloud technology is also strongly encrypted so that hackers are unable to steal any of your data,” he reasons. Indeed, from online banking to collaborative messaging, accessfrom-anywhere services often boast tight encryptions, two-factor authentications and reliable infastructure. RingCentral, for
example, claims 99.999% of uptime. And judging by the cloud’s market value, the rest of the world certainly isn’t anxious either. “With the public cloud software market set to grow to $236bn by 2020, we can safely say cloud technology is here to stay and adoption will only increase alongside the demand for remote working,” Brøndum says. With a figure like that, the technology’s set to grow even bigger, better and safer in the years to come. “As cloud technology becomes more sophisticated, businesses and employees alike are reaping the rewards, with increased productivity and communication at all levels,” Brøndum concludes.
‘The cloud’s only for bigger businesses’ Something so cutting-edge must boast a price tag only corporations can get hold of, right? On the contrary, it benefits just about anyone’s coffers. Colin Yates, chief support officer at WorkMobile, the data capture solution, would know, as his company has encountered plenty of potential customers with cold feet over buying a cloud solution to produce data about their business. “Although migrating to the cloud may incur some upfront costs, the long-term savings in IT management expenses are widely recognised,” Yates says. “With cloud computing, businesses no longer have to pay for the energy, hardware, software licensing, refreshes, storage space and other things that come with managing your own software.” It’s more often than not that signing up with a cloud provider sees the heavy-lifting rest on their shoulders from the sticker price. “Many providers have their own data centres, meaning the cost is included in their subscription,”
Yates says. That’s not to mention pricing models often scaling with a business’ growth or being ‘pay for what you need’. Moreover, upgrades to the latest tech come part and parcel with cloud providers, giving the most bang for your buck. Although it’s a long-term return on investment, the cloud also saves by tangibly axing bureaucratic waste. “Research has shown that each worker in the UK uses on average a staggering 45 sheets of paper per day. Shockingly, two-thirds of this is thought to be waste,” Yates says. And it’s not just trees unnecessarily taking a hit in that regard. “Not only is all this paper itself an unnecessary expense but we also regularly see companies spending money on employing and training people to manually input the data from these documents into digital databases before they can then be stored appropriately,” Yates continues. Cutting out the middleman has never seemed so logical.
necessary to remove the reluctance of some employees who had not yet acquired this culture of sharing and collaboration.” With the few weaning issues ironed out, Potter’s witnessed unprecedented cohesion ever since. “For example, in the case of annual appraisals, everything is written in the programming language specific to our provider and then hosted in the cloud,” she says. “The main advantage is to share files and work collaboratively.” Considering Masternaut spans five countries, a network-wide cloud is a godsend, to say the least. “The cloud is a privileged ally for internationalised companies,” Potter concludes. “For teams that are scattered across multiple countries and at a time when employees have become nomadic, the cloud allows them to access their files wherever they are in the world.”
‘My workers won’t accept the change’ To see changes, as David Bowie put it, “turn and face the strange”. But his wise lyrics won’t necessarily convince an entire office to accept a renovation of how they work – unless they’re huge fans. However, when making the call to totally switch to the public cloud two years ago, Helen Potter, VP of HR at Masternaut, the vehicle tracking and fleet management solution, found most employees didn’t need tempting. “This way of doing things is perfectly integrated by digital natives, who already use the cloud in their private environment,” she says. Although, she admits not everyone was on the same technological wavelength. “On the other hand, it was sometimes 11
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