Unified communications still relevant in a mobile world

Unified communications expert Paul Clarke says the technology is still far from ubiquity especially as more CIOs implement mobile-first strategies.

From a unified communications perspective, the drive for greater mobility will be the guiding force shaping the office of tomorrow. In the not too distant future, workers won’t have assigned desks or even offices to work at. Instead, work will take place where and when it is needed, with employees doing their jobs as much online as they do in person.

Harvard researcher and workspace expert Jennifer Magnolfi explains that “we used to define ‘work’ by crossing the threshold of a physical building that we called ‘the office.’ Once we did that, we entered into this mindset that we were at work, and we were doing work. Today that same passage happens when we connect to our work-related data on our smartphones or other tools.”

The need for increased productivity with limited investment is driving this trend towards increased mobility. Global productivity is waning and has been since the financial crisis of 2008. Mobility boosts productivity by enabling employees to work all the time, wherever they are, and it doesn’t involve hiring more people or buying expensive hardware.

Today’s workforce, from the oldest to the youngest, values flexible working conditions: both in terms of working hours, and working location. According to a 2016 worldwide survey by Vodafone, 83% said adopting flexible working had resulted in improvements in productivity. Flexible workers are happier and fresher: instead of being worn out by commuting and a rigid work pattern, they are free to complete work when and where they are most suited.

To support this mobility, CIOs need reliable online communications solutions that enable employees to access the information they need, when the need it.  Traditionally, technology such as the desktop and desk phone tied workers to the office, making such flexibility impossible; after all, who could ensure they had a duplicate computer and landline at every location they might be in?

The growth of software-based unified communications (UC) has changed this: with workers able to access all of the information and capabilities they need from any device, anywhere, at any time, they can be just as productive at home or on the road as in the office.

This has made UC the crucial technology to underpin the office of tomorrow. Newer software-based approaches mean that organisations can offer their workers all the communication channels they need, from VoIP to video to email and messaging, over any device and at a low cost, without the need to invest in costly and complex hardware and infrastructure.

This is key as there’s no one form of communication that facilitates better collaboration than others. For instance, older workers may gravitate to calling and conferencing, while Millennials are known to prefer chat and messaging above all others.

Despite the benefits of a mobile workforce being apparent, many employees are reluctant to work from home. This is largely in part to workers feeling that what they do remotely won’t be held in the same regard as what they do in the office.

This needs to change and this change must come from the top. Indeed, it is already a priority at many companies.

If workers are to be comfortable working remotely or at home, they must feel that they can connect to the office without a hitch, whether by phone, email or video, whenever and wherever they are. The more cost-effective and easy to implement and manage remote working is, the more successful employees, and consequently their employers, will be.

Paul Clarke is UK manager at 3CX, a provider of managed unified communications services.