Flexible work, always on access driving unified communications adoption


    Unified communications isn’t new as a concept, but participants in a recent webinar heard that its vision is finally being realized – driven by substantive benefits for both users and business.

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    The webinar, Understanding the Drivers of Unified Communications, was sponsored by Rogers and hosted by Jim Love, CIO and chief digital officer for ITWC. Love said breaking down the communication silos of voice, video, email and data is where unified communications can drive business value.

    “The real promise and power comes in bringing those siloes together, and that’s the promise of unified communications we’ve yet to realize,” said Love.

    Advances in technology though are bringing us closer than ever before. Steven Van Binsbergen, senior director of solutions marketing with Rogers, agreed that unified communications has been around for a long time. What’s changing is the original vision is finally being realized.

    It’s not about a list of technology, but rather a unification of technology. A unified communications solution needs to be independent of network technology, whether wireless or wireline, and independent of hardware, software, and device.

    “I think the intent was always seamless anytime, anywhere collaboration on any device,” said Van Binsbergen. “Now we’re actually at a point where we can demonstrate how that works.”

    For the business, unified communications offers a range of clear benefits that drive business value. It helps to drive security, regardless of device or location, ensuring corporate data and communication security is maximized. It also integrates seamlessly with your IT infrastructure and reduces the IT and telecommunications spend in your operating budget.

    The real drivers though said Van Binsbergen, are focused around the workers who are asking more and more of their workplace technology.

    “Customers asked us why is it I can get so much more out of the technology in my personal life than I do in my business life, and that got us thinking about what people really want to get out of technology,” said Van Binsbergen.

    One driver of unified communications is the “massive” move to flexible work, which sees users wanting the ability to be productive from anywhere, anytime on any device and measure outcomes, not time in the office.

    “They want to be able to use their business technology like they use their personal technology and wonder why they can find anything on Google but can’t find a sales sheet,” said Van Binsbergen.

    It’s not just how we want to work that’s changing, but where, and on what device.

    “We used to be tethered to our workplace,” said Van Binsbergen. “Now with wireless there’s the promise of anytime, anywhere collaboration and communication.”

    The change is pervasive. Applications are moving from on-device licenses to subscriptions in the cloud, and our interface is moving from mouse to touch. We’re leaving behind the desktop PC for tablets and smartphones and are cutting the wired cord to go wireless. We’re also heavily influenced by the consumer world – the top 25 mobile applications are all consumer-focused tools such as Facebook and YouTube.

    If businesses are looking for more reasons to move to unified communications, Van Binsbergen said a big one is that the flexible workplace it enables is a big driver of employee satisfaction. In fact, 33 per cent of Canadians – including half of millennials — said they would sacrifice something, including salary, to work remotely.

    “And if you care about attracting and retaining the right people, 60 per cent of people are making a job choice based on the work flexibility policies of a company,” said Van Binsbergen.

    And the reality is over 70 per cent of the workforce is mobile at some time. A mobile worker can also be described as a flexible worker; not always at their desk but not always mobile, they could be a salesperson, field worker or just someone who needs to work from home now and again.

    “There’s more and more information that shows flexible workers with the right tools can accomplish a lot more,” said Van Binsbergen.

    Changing workspaces are also helping to drive unified communications forward as businesses look to create workplaces focused more around collaboration. Today, workers spend about half their time doing isolated things in their cubes and half their time doing collaborative things, and the collaborative part of their day is growing dramatically. However, Van Binsbergen said most workspaces are still configured for the Mad Men-era with 90 per cent of space dedicated to fixed workspaces and just 10 per cent to collaboration.

    “As companies try to align how workers need and want to work with their workspace, there’s opportunities to save on real estate and space costs,” said Van Binsbergen. “The challenge is: how you do it in a productive way? You need quiet work areas like libraries with no phone calls – an isolation space – and then collaboration areas.”

    Having looked at the drivers of unified communications, part two of the webinar (Friday, May 22 at 1:00 PM EST) will look at unlocking the value. Join Love and Van Binsbergen for real-world examples of how unified communications implementations have unlocked employee productivity gains and reduced real estate and voice communications expenses for Canadian businesses.

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    Jeff Jedras
    Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.