Three people having a discussion in an office.

This year’s Enterprise Connect featured presentations on cloud-based enterprise solutions.

What do you get when you bring together top experts on business software, unified communications, and cloud services? Besides a bunch of tech talk and enough acronyms to make your brain feel like alphabet soup, you also get a big-picture look at the future of enterprise solutions for business communications.

That’s exactly what happened last week in Orlando, Florida, at Enterprise Connect 2017. The annual event has been a leading conference and exhibition for enterprise IP telephony, converged networks, and unified communications in North America for more than 26 years.

The following are some of the major themes and takeaways from the event:

1. Get Your Head in the Cloud

The future of unified business communications is in the cloud. That’s not exactly a big shocker. We’ve heard for years that business cloud services make everything faster, cheaper, and more scalable, and most companies have already started to migrate at least some of their workloads. At the same time, telecom vendors are increasingly taking a cloud-first approach when designing enterprise solutions.

In the first general session, “What Role (If Any) Should Cloud Communications Play in Your Enterprise?” panelists discussed various cloud migration strategies, including hybrid cloud scenarios for businesses that aren’t ready to completely abandon legacy systems. However, Vonage CEO Alan Masarek predicted that in the long term, communications will become unequivocally cloud-based.

He explained to the audience, “It wasn’t very long ago that our workflow tools were on-prem or client-based, that our communications systems were proprietary, and even within voice, those proprietary systems — whether it was landline or cell — didn’t communicate with one another.”

He said for more than a dozen years, they’ve been talking about communications-enabled business processes and how to connect customer communications to employee communications back to other workflow tools that are unrelated to communications, such as productivity and CRM. Now, he said, the infrastructure has caught up with the vision.

2. There’s an API for That — Or There Will Be Soon

The cloud might be a big party where different technology solutions can mingle and merge, but they need a common language to do so. That’s where APIs come in and why communications APIs have become such a hot topic in the industry.

Enterprise Connect dedicated an entire general session to the topic: “APIs and Embedded Communications: The Wave of the Future?” Both speakers and vendors on the exhibit floor discussed how they’ve innovated their programming interfaces over the past year. As industry analyst Zeus Kerravala wrote for No Jitter, Enterprise Connect’s official blog and resource center, “This is significant, as UC is finally living up to the vision of becoming more platform than product, enabling people to use more UC functions in more applications more often.”

3. Collaboration Is King

The cloud was certainly a hot topic at Enterprise Connect, but three general sessions and several breakout panels were dedicated to Team Collaboration. Meanwhile, vendors in the exhibit hall showed off their latest and greatest applications for team communication and workflow management. The implication? Team collaboration solutions and apps are moving from shadow IT into the mainstream, where they’re becoming an essential part of any unified communications strategy.

For more insights on the future of enterprise solutions for unified communications, watch the keynote speeches, general sessions, and other highlights from Enterprise Connect 2017.

Wondering how cloud solutions can transform your business? Connect with Vonage Business.

Taylor Mallory Holland

Taylor Mallory Holland is a professional writer with more than 11 years of experience writing about business, technology and health care for both media outlets and companies. Taylor understands how enterprise mobility and cloud technology can reshape industries and provide new opportunities to streamline workflows, improve employee collaboration and reimagine the customer experience. She is passionate about helping business leaders understand the impact that emerging technologies can have on communication, operations and sales and marketing.

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A man sitting at a table, using his smartphone.

Becoming a virtual company will help your organization operate more efficiently.

The very concept of a virtual company is a sign of the impressive digital progress achieved by a few brilliant minds — and mountains of R&D investments. This transition from brick-and-mortar spaces has closely followed the related move from tangible goods to digital. Companies that dealt with digital products naturally saw benefits and cost savings by simply digitizing the traditional office environment. Makes sense, right?

While digital products like movie rentals have few, if any, downsides, virtual companies maintain certain legacy components that don’t necessarily thrive in those same digital environments — namely, us pesky humans. Simply put, there are some obvious disconnects that can occur when employees try to work together without physically being together. It’s kind of like trying to maintain a long-distance relationship. There’s a special connection that happens when people collaborate face-to-face that tends to get lost in translation in digital or remote environments.

That being said, you don’t have to break up with your virtual strategy just yet. Here are some helpful tips to get your users over the proverbial hump and into a thriving digital workplace.

Bridging the Gap

Let’s take a quick second to set the record straight on digital communication. Is in-person communication and collaboration a great way to get stuff done? Of course. If it wasn’t, digital communication wouldn’t be trying so hard to emulate it. But that doesn’t mean virtual companies can’t bridge the gap and work just as effectively.

With this in mind, it’s often easy to neglect the fact that digital collaboration affords benefits that traditional methods simply can’t compete with. For example, virtual companies employing digital collaboration platforms may enjoy the fact that their hard work — whether meeting minutes, presentations, or discussions — can be automatically made available to every participant, and even archived for future reference. Subtle features like this streamline the act of collaboration and facilitate enhanced productivity.

Even something as elusive as company culture can be communicated through digital means. Culture, after all, is built by people simply being themselves. With the use of videoconferencing, social collaboration software, and, yes, even emojis, users can let their unique personalities shine through despite miles of physical separation. The key is to make it easy and seamless to communicate just as you would in person.

Is It Really Worth It?

When you really stop and think about it, much of the work that is accomplished in a brick-and-mortar organization is done with the use of digital tools. Be it a desktop, smartphone, or tablet, the modern engine of business relies heavily on the virtual realm. By eschewing the physical limitations of traditional office environments, virtual companies are able to better integrate these digital strategies into the very fiber of their organizations.

Oh, and you may have heard of the cost savings, too. For some organizations — typically those that produce digital goods — much of their office infrastructure is already in the cloud. For these folks, there’s some obvious cost savings by simply eliminating that rent check every month. Others may, however, have a less clear-cut path to the virtual office. Organizations more entrenched in physical infrastructure will need to weigh the potential cost savings of cloud services against their current systems.

Cost savings can be a misleading barometer, too. Moving to agile, cloud-based phone systems, for example, can let users integrate their digital tools of choice with other platforms like a CRM to stay connected to the heartbeat of the company regardless of location. Cheaper? Potentially. More efficient? Almost certainly.

Ultimately, life as a virtual company can be every bit as successful and productive as a company with a brick-and-mortar office. All you need is a bit of cloud ingenuity and a team willing to commit to the mobile lifestyle. Cat memes aside, working in a virtual environment may even be the most efficient way to actually get work done. And hey, if you still can’t shake the need for physical collaboration, just send a “telepresence” drone like the one featured in SiliconBeat.

Find out how Vonage Business can work with your organization to boost virtual collaboration.

About Joe Hewitson

With a degree in applied computing technology and over a decade of experience in the IT and software development industries, Joe Hewitson has his finger on the pulse of cloud technology. From developing communication applications for the cloud to deploying VoIP solutions in enterprise environments, he’s seen it all. The one thing Joe loves more than staying on the cutting edge of cloud and VoIP technology? Writing about it.

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A man standing in front of a blackboard, talking on a mobile phone.

Moving to the cloud saves IT valuable time.

It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of IT projects, especially when you’re handling everything on-site. From server maintenance to end user troubleshooting to VoIP or PBX systems oversight, technology experts are long on tasks and short on time to get everything done.

However, for many organizations, moving to the cloud changes the game. With more tedious tasks handled automatically or by trusted third parties, in-house IT leaders find themselves with an unexpected luxury: the ability to slow down for a minute and consider their next move. Given that it’s such an unfamiliar sensation, you’d be forgiven for coming up blank on ideas for new tasks or long-term goals. Thankfully, you can get started with these six tips to help you tap the time-saving benefit of cloud tech.

1. Get Strategic

As noted by the Wall Street Journal, transitioning to cloud technology often shifts IT workers into business analyst and architect roles. While this comes with growing pains — IT experts are the best at what they do by virtue of specificity — it also offers big advantages. For example, moving to the cloud provides the ideal framework for implementing big data solutions to help manage and evaluate the huge volume of information generated by your organization every day. Less time spent on tedious tasks yields the ability to consider best-fit big data solutions.

2. More Time? Teach!

How much do front-line staff and executives know about new cloud workflows? Are they struggling with large conceptual issues or specific app-based tasks? With a break from typical IT maintenance and break-fix issues, IT can consider initiating a cloud learning program that helps end users discover how to maximize performance by leveraging cloud services and how to avoid potential issues posed by anytime, anywhere access.

3. Change the Conversation

What services has your business already moved to the cloud? What else is worth switching? For example, it’s often worthwhile to consider upgrading your existing VoIP or PBX system to a cloud-based alternative after you’ve established a foothold in the cloud. Not only does this dovetail with many cloud-first mandates, but hosted VoIP solutions also let you easily connect mobile, desktop, and remote devices, in turn making more time for IT to focus on other line-of-business (LoB) objectives.

4. Get Schooled

Do you know everything there is to know about the cloud? Are you familiar with up-and-coming industry trends like software-defined networking (SDN), containerization, and hyperconvergence? With less chance of your internal IT environment crashing and burning at a moment’s notice, this might be the ideal time to consider going back to tech school and picking up some new skills. That time provided by moving to the cloud offers the chance for IT pros to ramp up both organizational and total career value with training.

5. Go Big

According to Computerworld, the advent of reliable and ubiquitous cloud technologies has prompted a shake-up in many businesses. For example, The Weather Company — parent organization of The Weather Channel, Weather.com and Weather Underground — has tossed out the name “IT department” in favor of simply “technology.” IT experts are encouraged to think like a next-gen startup rather than a legacy division. Instead of simply “aligning” with business goals, the idea here is to think big and discover ways to empower new business objectives and devise long-term strategies. It’s part of the larger impact of moving to the cloud; the nature of IT is shifting away from a complete technology focus to include strategy and innovation.

6. Connect Everything

Of course, more time also means a chance to streamline existing processes and adopt new solutions that make your company more agile, robust, and adaptable. Here, it’s worth considering business cloud services such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), which provides the ability to use any application on any device at any time, or cloud backup services that ensure your critical data is never in danger, even in the event of a disaster. Another option? Take things all the way with infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and leave the hardware management to someone else.

Are you moving to the cloud? Consider streamlining your tech environment and implementing new upgrades. Your calendar just might thank you.

Need a little help? Connect with a Vonage Business consultant today and make the most of your time.

About Doug Bonderud

Doug Bonderud is an award-winning freelance writer with a passion for technology and innovation. His ability to create compelling, thought-provoking and timely content helps empower the voice of corporate vision. From UCaaS to VoIP to cloud computing, Doug has experience covering all aspects of evolving digital environments and their effects on both people and policies.

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Business cloud services make it possible for your employees to get more done, wherever they are.

Business cloud services make it possible for your employees to get more done wherever they are.

Think business cloud services are only for big companies? Not so fast. The cloud can offer flexibility and speed that helps small businesses provide a higher level of service and response for their customers, too.

Want to take an impromptu ski vacation this weekend? Has your top sales associate been looking for plane tickets to an exotic island? Maybe another employee has a child with the flu and has no backup child care. However, there are major client deals in the works or big projects on the table that need to be attended to. As much as you want to accommodate both your employees and yourself, you just can’t afford to have people out of touch right now.

Instead of everyone being chained to their desks, you and your employees can have the best of both worlds. The cloud provides your team access to all the tools needed to stay in touch with colleagues and customers no matter where you choose to work.

Here are three ways that business cloud services can help you and your employees work from anywhere:

  1. Talk or text with customers using a business identity.

    You’re sitting on the beach with your favorite book when your biggest customer calls. You want them to think you’re sitting at your desk instead of warming your toes in the sand. With business cloud services, you can forward your calls to whatever device is in hand while ensuring that your customer sees the same business profile that’s displayed when you’re in the office — and hopefully the customer will believe that the sound of crashing waves is just your cubicle mate’s white-noise machine.

  2. Access a familiar desktop.

    You’re sitting in the ski lodge when a team member needs you to look at a document. Instead of having to fumble around to find what you need, you can log on to your virtual desktop on your tablet or whatever device you choose — even a computer in the hotel business center — and see exactly the same desktop as back in the office. You now have the tools needed to do your job in between ski runs.

  3. Use company tools or data.

    It used to be that your tools were installed on your hard drive, making it challenging to do your job from anywhere else. However, with cloud computing, your company can install all tools to the cloud, allowing any employee to access them with a simple login. Whether they are waiting for the cable company to come or sneaking in some work while their sick child naps, employees will no longer have to skip over any items on their to-do lists because they can’t access the necessary software.

It’s hard to balance work and personal life, but cloud communication makes it much easier to ensure that you get the relaxation you need, or the time to take care of your family, while still providing top-quality service to your customers.

Whether your team members are at home, on the road, or in the office, the cloud can provide the flexibility they need. Contact Vonage Business to learn how.

About Jennifer Goforth Gregory

Jennifer Goforth Gregory is a technology freelance writer specializing in B2B and telecommunications topics. She has written for national brands including IBM, Samsung, ADTRAN, Adobe, Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, Verizon, Costco and American Express. One of her superpowers is being able to translate technical speak from the experts that make products work into language everyone else can understand. Jennifer has a master’s degree in technical communication and lives in North Carolina with her husband and two kids.

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