Not too long ago, I used to imagine the future of the modern office, wondering what it might be like to work away from my desk. Of course, at that time, cell phones were still cumbersome and rudimentary and the concept of a smartphone was just something out of science fiction.
When I think back to the earliest days of my career, I am amazed and excited to see just how quickly the modern office has evolved – the widespread adoption of mobile and cloud technology has increased the speed and efficiency of businesses at a seemingly exponential pace.
With cloud computing, many businesses have the opportunity to be the office of the future right now but, most aren’t yet leveraging the cloud and various complimentary technologies to their full potential. For those businesses trying to empower their employees to work together as an anywhere, anytime, any way business, I can think of no greater catalyst for unified communications (UC) than the cloud.
Today, businesses of all sizes are trying to maintain a competitive edge and increase workforce efficiency by any means necessary and many are turning to the cloud. The capabilities of these technologies, however, only reach their full potential when they are leveraged together to do much more than save your contacts when your laptop or smartphone meets its untimely end. To remedy this, one of the biggest opportunities the cloud brings to the modern office is UC.
By augmenting cloud deployments with UC platforms, workforces can now communicate and collaborate in real time across phone, email, instant message and full audio and video conferencing, regardless of location. The “office of the future” will bring these cloud-based technologies together for an all-in-one approach, allowing companies from startups to large corporations to transform their office spaces, increase efficiency and cut back on traditional operating costs.
But why exactly are UC and the cloud together so revolutionary for the modern office? Let’s look at the three main factors:
IT departments are shifting away from traditional hardware and software infrastructures due to cost considerations. Quite simply, it’s cheaper to do many things in the cloud. By moving communications to the cloud, enterprises can save money on expensive premises-based private branch exchanges (PBXs), eliminate long-distance charges, and save nearly 70 percent (data from Achieving Cost and Resource Savings with Unified Communications (News - Alert), UniComm Consulting, LLC) of their desktop costs. As a company moves more services into the cloud, such as email, phone and remote access, the more it stands to gain in total cost savings from short-term capital expenses and long-term maintenance or upgrade costs.
As I mentioned earlier, today’s workforce is increasingly mobile. In an effort to gain a competitive advantage, today’s businesses need to support and leverage this growing trend. In the modern office of tomorrow, employees can access their desktop and applications while gaining the ability to collaborate with colleagues and customers from any device, regardless of location. Whether that means retrieving emails or launching video conferences at the touch of a button, UC platforms hosted in the cloud allow enterprises to deploy and, more importantly, easily manage all of these solutions for their mobile workforces.
With the cloud, today’s businesses can control their solutions without the hassle, costs and resources needed to buy, manage and maintain their own hardware and software systems. Growing businesses and offices are where UC and the cloud truly shine. Managing multiple PBXs with moves, additions and changes in the workforce over time can be time consuming for an IT department, especially one supporting an increasingly mobile workforce. By shifting these systems to the cloud in a UC platform, however, IT departments can now focus on mission-critical initiatives rather than mundane maintenance tasks and upkeep. The cloud and UC allows businesses to scale up or down as needed with literally a flip of a switch.
Ironically, many of the same reasons above drove businesses to build and manage their own systems on-site. Today, though, as more and more IT departments move away from managing hardware and software, it’s the cloud that’s offering new value and benefits while shaping the modern office of the future.
Take a startup, for example. In our innovation-centric society, emerging companies with small budgets are expected to compete and thrive in the same environment as some of the most financially sound corporate giants in the world. To do this, operating costs must be minimized as much as possible — hence the reason startups are often characterized by bean bag chairs and unfinished walls.
Realizing the need for agility in this type of environment, savvy startup incubators are providing UC services to their users without the expensive burden of installing permanent infrastructure, such as traditional phone systems. In turn, these efficiencies from UC give startup teams the ability to focus more of their time and resources on recruiting and maximizing development costs.
As many of these startups will attest, speed to market is critical for their survival. When optimizing for speed, however, even the most mundane tasks are extremely critical. If you’re sitting in a lunch meeting and your colleague calls you with instructions to edit the presentation you’re due to make in five minutes, what would you do? In the modern office powered by UC, you would simply take out your tablet, open your shared document for the cloud and make your changes in less than a minute.
Now picture yourself as a startup product manager working with a team of developers based all around the world. Collaborating on a time-sensitive project with your team was once difficult because of your geographical locations. With a cloud-based UC platform, however, you can invite your team to join a real-time video conference, where you can share and edit a development schedule, all within a few clicks of a button. Even though nobody shares the same office, UC platforms can help teams like this overcome any geographic barrier now more than ever, thanks to the cloud.
While many might see the modern office as increasingly empty, rest assured that any thriving business and workforce is increasingly connected and propelling new growth through the power of UC.
Edited by Maurice Nagle