Progressive SMEs pioneer best-practice collaboration

Here we take a look at how small businesses and their owners can embrace the opportunity to become truly technologically collaborative in the 21st century.

Screen sharing from the home office to review financial performance with accountants, instant messaging a colleague to review a document, and using video with suppliers to examine the quality of your products. While this may sound like a prediction of the office of tomorrow, this is how the leading innovators within small businesses are working and communicating today.

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Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) – technology and infrastructure which appeared on the IT horizon a decade ago, has hit the mainstream. While the business case for UC&C is well accepted, many small business owners still find it a challenge to change their communication habits and evolve existing company culture, to take advantage of its transformative potential.

Recent market data confirms that UC&C will see an intensification of adoption in the coming three years as, with the advent of high speed broadband, SMEs implement and/or upgrade their infrastructure. While this has been predicted for some time, the move to the cloud is happening a lot faster than previously thought: almost 70 per cent of organisations will have moved their UC&C platforms fully to the cloud or to a hybrid model in the next two years.

Demographics also play a significant role in this trend. By 2020, millennials will form 50 per cent of the global workforce, and omnipresent connectivity is distributing today’s business across multiple sites, making remote working the norm instead of the exception. We only need to look at the stats to prove this; 60 per cent of meetings are now virtual.

According to a recent Wainhouse report, ‘the way users get their work done is undergoing a dramatic, historic change. We find this new work environment embraced by work-life harmony-seeking millennials and driven by highly collaborative interaction. Technology has transcended the ability to simply enable virtual collaboration, making it effective and desirable – with few barriers, anyone and everyone can instantly become engaged and help with the task at hand’.

Email and phone still remain the top forms of communication within business, but forward-thinking business owners are exploring new ways of collaborating. Through ‘on-demand’ collaboration, business owners are able to foster the rapport of virtual workers and teams with rich, high-definition video, and improve the bottom-line with savings made both on travel costs and office rent through hot desking.

Video conferencing in particular has undergone a revolution, with affordable cloud-based software and ‘enterprise-grade’ hardware solutions now a realistic option for any small business, replacing older and more expensive dedicated meeting room systems previously reserved only for the largest companies with extensive budgets.

New to market video conferencing devices, such as Logitech’s ConferenceCam range, are designed to be universally compatible, meaning they work seamlessly with any video conferencing platform, on-premise or cloud, and from any location. The user just needs to plug the device into their PC or Mac and select their familiar video-calling application to be immediately connected.

Nevertheless, new technology can seem a little daunting to those unfamiliar with video conferencing and this is where your IT consultant can play a major role; first, in selecting the right solutions based on your business and your user’s needs and secondly, in helping non-IT users get up to speed and overcoming any inhibitions in using the technologies.

Training must be an essential part of any deployment and simple steps can make a significant difference in the roll-out: planning for a guided launch period offering taster sessions to new users, always ensuring that remote employees are included in the briefings.

The goal is to make users so proficient that video conferencing becomes a totally natural experience, and collaborating with remote team members becomes an enjoyable part of the working day.

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