A man standing outside, using a tablet and a mobile phone.

IoT collaboration benefits are even greater than many realize.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has officially been typecast. Though tech outlets and watercooler pundits alike heap praise on the concept for its high utility and boundless potential, the actual discussion comes in limited flavors. If people aren’t talking about its consumer applications, they’re covering ways it can bolster workplace productivity.

To some degree, this technological tunnel vision makes sense. Numerous cool, useful things are happening in these specific segments of the IoT. Yet as the burgeoning field of IoT collaboration shows, mass connectivity is also building a world where working together is easier, more efficient, and more effective than it’s ever been before. Here are just a few ways the IoT is changing teamwork for the better:

Data, Data Everywhere

In many ways, the IoT revolution you’ve been waiting for is already here — it just didn’t make a lot of noise when it arrived. When your home bathroom scale, office copier, and even the pen on your desk can all hop on a network (and provide real utility in the process), it’s hard to argue otherwise.

The common factor among these three products and countless other IoT devices is data — and lots of it. Whether it comes to building new tools from scratch or, as IoT.do noted, retrofitting standard office equipment into bona fide IoT collaboration tools, there’s no end to the information modern devices can capture, transmit, and analyze.

With the sheer variety of data collected and processed, it’s fair to assume the inclusion of IoT technology can enhance any collaborative practice. Even so, simple availability can be a game changer on its own. For one example, members of a distributed agricultural research team could use an array of sensors to monitor various soil compositions and temperature factors in real time, checking and working with the results in from home offices, laboratories, and field sites across the country. In turn, this would result in multiple improvements to the team’s collaborative efforts in the following ways:

  • Researchers requiring certain data to continue collaboration on a technical document would no longer need to wait on manual updates at set intervals.
  • Team members in the field could more quickly respond to, analyze, and discuss physical factors behind the anomalous readings and view those anomalies closer to when they occurred.
  • Researchers on conference calls could reference real-time readings, making both professional and administrative planning more efficient and responsive.
  • In settings where experiments are held, results could be continuously monitored and reported at any rate the team saw fit, resulting in more precise analysis and stronger findings — with eyes across the country searching historical and current reports for notable results.

Optimizing (and Negating) Physical Space for Teams

Another common benefit of IoT-based collaboration technology is its ability to make physical distance and other human logistics issues a non-factor. In cases like the above, IoT tools remove the barriers distance can present, while sensors and connected devices help other teams make better use of the space they must share.

Consider vendor management and other relationships between two or more organizations. In these arrangements, space can be as challenging as it is necessary. While one party may want to share a meeting room and certain aspects of their operations with a partner, providing either (and especially the latter) may be challenging without granting an uncomfortable level of access in the process. This may be of particular concern in privacy-regulated industries such as healthcare or finance, as well as those where corporate espionage is a concern, such as manufacturing.

In this instance, IoT collaboration helps by virtualizing and abstracting the access. The vendor wishing to allay concerns over a manufacturing process could display and document their good work with a host of connected devices, including IP video cameras and automated sensors that alert via text or email when certain variances are recorded. The same gadgets could be used for business collaboration under a continuous improvement process, giving both sides deep insight into designated areas of the other’s operations, and only those areas.

Individual businesses and the teams within them can also make better use of physical space with IoT collaboration. Turning back to the healthcare industry, care teams can better collaborate on inpatient room placement, care plans, and timing of various interventions. This results in better responsiveness and elasticity in a stressful, frequently understaffed environment. Similar tools are currently used in the hospitality industry by companies such as CytexOne. Devices allow housekeeping teams to assign work, mark completion, and call for assistance over the network.

Finally, trends such as collaborative innovation have become all the more effective with collaborative IoT tools easing spatial roadblocks. Even a common IoT-enabled task such as putting a paper draft directly from the scanner to a shared digital workspace removes several logistical inefficiencies. Gone are the days of taking the elevator up 10 floors to meet with Steve in legal, only to find he stepped out for lunch. There’s also no need to navigate multiple schedules to set up face-to-face meetings with colleagues in different departments. The future is truly a wonderful place.

Collaboration’s New Face

To be sure, the IoT has a lot of exciting applications in the consumer space. Just as surely, there are countless excellent process-optimization tools among the billions of connected devices out there today.

Even then, however, elevated collaboration may be the best enhancement these devices bring to the average workplace. From reporting data that was once updated by humans to the complex considerations a team must undertake when a new patient takes a hospital bed, there are as many use cases out there as there are teams that would benefit from an IoT upgrade. If the connected future isn’t fully here yet, it’s unquestionably underway — a fact businesses would be smart to explore now, before IoT-powered collaboration becomes a competitive necessity.

To learn more about IoT collaboration, contact a Vonage Business consultant.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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Colleagues working together by reviewing different documents placed on the floor of their office.

Digital transformation challenges includes boring training sessions, so mix things up.

Digital transformation challenges aren’t fun. You’ve undoubtedly read plenty of blogs on the subject and may even consider yourself an expert. That being said, have you considered how your team might be struggling with the influx of new technology and business processes around it?

Well, fear not! Here’s a helpful guide to add to your arsenal to fight off the top digital transformation obstacles faced by your team:

1. Creatures of Habit

It’s hard to fault anyone for struggling to adapt. We are, after all, creatures of habit. Despite all the planning and resources thrown at digital transformation, users still fall back on their old ways of doing things. Cloud solutions for business gather dust, and automated business processes go largely unused as team members cling to their legacy systems with icy grips.

What’s a manager to do? If you want to inspire change, you need to make it easy and make it worth it. Illustrate to your team exactly how they can benefit from new systems. Also, try to avoid boring training sessions — first impressions matter to your users. Think outside the box and come up with some fun ways to demonstrate how to use the new technology and how to integrate it into their daily habits.

Along those same lines, make sure they’re equipped with everything they need to leverage new systems. It should be far more difficult for them — if not altogether impossible — to fall back on their old systems than to use newer enterprise cloud solutions.

2. Technology Overload

The office climate today is perhaps a bit more distraction-prone than in years past. It’s hard to imagine losing focus as easily when the most advanced piece of technology in the room was a Swingline stapler. Add a heaping helping of mobile technology, cloud-based communication solutions, and high-speed internet access, and what do you get? A limitless supply of constant distractions.

It’s no wonder, then, why this poses one of the greatest digital transformation challenges. In fact, Business.com recently described the tempation of technology as the No. 1 productivity killer. As such, you need a strong plan to protect your users from technology overload. A great way to accomplish this is to limit user exposure to new technologies by centralizing digital transformations. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t give users access to more technology than they need.
  • Avoid feature overlap when deploying new technologies.
  • Combine communication tools such as chat, video conference, and phone into a single platform.

3. Getting Up to Speed

According to Gartner, almost 80 percent of people don’t think their current skills will be nearly as useful to their organizations in 10 years. Digital transformation is a key contributor to this sentiment. This can be a disconcerting outlook for people who put so much heart and soul into their work.

When you think about it, concepts like digital transformation are only made possible by technology’s impossibly fast rate of change. It’s this constant change that brings about the aforementioned obsolescence. The remedy, then, has to be constant education.

As painful as that sounds, there’s simply no magical substitute. Even so, education doesn’t have to be tedious or expensive. Initiating furthering education programs can help keep users from the discouragement of watching their skills and knowledge slide into uselessness. These programs allow users to leverage small amounts of company time each week to educate themselves on new areas of interest — related to their own jobs or current projects, of course. The result is a team with constantly growing skill sets to match the ever-evolving technology around them.

So, now that you’ve learned more about potential challenges and how to solve them, it’s time to begin your digital transformation.

Contact Vonage Business to learn more about how cloud-based communications can aid your company.

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 group of people collaborate on a project in an office.

Business productivity tools can foster collaboration among colleagues.

What do millennial employees, high-utility technology, and a shifting business productivity landscape have in common? For many organizations, these three factors have turned early 2017 into the “Year of Collaboration.” From policy to practice to the technology driving it, organizations across the board are clearly bullish on the young workforce’s collective desire to better work together.

Here’s a look at the year (so far) in collaboration and the way these trends could shape the months and years to come:

1. BYOD’s Continued Importance

No, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is nothing new on its face. Organizations have grown more and more friendly toward personal devices as of late, and the call only gets easier to make as technology improves and penetration rates skyrocket. Instead, according to MeriTalk, the story is just how important these devices are to a millennial workforce. In an era where your tech choices serve as an extension and reflection of yourself, the ability to integrate your work habits with the hardware platforms of your choice is considered more of a right than a privilege.

Thus, the collaboration-minded company doesn’t just approve of BYOD — it capitalizes on it. Integrated mobility tools allow employees to connect with co-workers, engage with clients, and project the organization’s presence for their personal hardware. For instance, an employee could use the same phone- or laptop-based business app to check a co-worker’s availability, leave revisions on a shared document, and send a business text with some final thoughts. He or she could then use the same device and app to place a call to a valued client, complete with the company’s name and phone number showing up on caller ID.

And those are just two examples. Ultimately, there are countless ways BYOD can help businesses and their employees stay productive and collaborative. It’s worth giving the practice its due space in your business productivity plans, because it’s not going away anytime soon.

2. Don’t Forget BYOS

Of course, hardware and associated operating systems are just one side of the “BYO” coin. Employees can also have personal — and sometimes deeply personal — preferences when it comes to the software they use, a trait companies can leverage to effect collaboration among their workers.

The increased availability and functionality of cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) suites is one helpful advancement for companies looking to accommodate personal workflows. Instead of buying individual full licenses, the company can purchase affordable subscriptions for precisely the number of people wanting to use this tool or that service. This means your office’s diehard Dropbox™ fan can easily link her personal cloud storage account to a business-run one, with administrative oversight tools allowing a measure of privacy and policy adherence. Compared to the employee going “shadow IT” — that is to say, carting private work files around in his personal account without permission — this represents an inexpensive way to stay compliant and bolster productivity and collaboration.

Better, storage is far from the only tool to receive a SaaS makeover. Tools running the gamut of business needs — word processing, project management, graphic design, video editing, and more — can be purchased on a monthly, a-la-carte basis, making BYOS a viable policy in all sorts of workplaces. Throw in a focus on interoperability between many competing products, and voila — business collaboration, productivity, and personal choice no longer need to be mutually exclusive goals.

3. The Internet of Things: More Than a Customer Tool

When you hear about the Internet of Things (IoT) in your industry, there’s a good chance the chatter comes with a customer-focused spin. This makes sense, at least to a point. It’s how the discussion is framed in the larger tech media, and many consumer-focused IoT tools are downright nifty, too.

However, customer-facing tools are just one facet of the IoT’s era. Great things are being done on the business collaboration front today. According to The Next Web, organizations can boost productivity and collaboration with internet-connected location- and status-reporting tools, unified communication-enabled desk phones, “print anywhere” printers, and metric-reporting sensors. For example, the last item on that list can provide valuable performance insights to HR and management teams.

And that’s just the beginning of the IoT’s value in the collaborative workspace. In fields as far ranging as manufacturing and marketing, logistics, and legal, the connect-everything mantra will increasingly drive business productivity, process, and collaboration throughout the year and beyond. In other words, the IoT’s combination of low cost and high utility will become too much to pass up.

The Year in Collaboration

Like the companies that foster it, collaboration takes a lot of shapes. For some organizations, making a more collaboration-friendly space is as simple as buying or subscribing to cloud-backed communication or productivity tools. For others, a collaborative office means a connected office, with cutting-edge tools reporting metrics, providing statuses, and simplifying work processes.

The true constant is that people want to work together, and they want tools that best allow them to do that. Considering all the business productivity benefits a little teamwork can bring, this makes an endless list of reasons to make your office more collaboration-friendly — and very few reasons not to. What better time than now to make it happen with a VoIP business phone system?

To learn more about collaboration tools, contact a Vonage Business consultant.

About Evan Wade

Evan Wade is an author and editor from Carmel, Indiana. As a veteran tech writer and lifelong tech enthusiast, he focuses his writing and research on communication, mobility and security. Alongside work with leading cloud technology providers and industry news sources, Evan has extensive sales and end-user marketing experience, giving him a unique view of the individual’s relationship with technology — and how organizations can realize huge benefits from it.

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A smartphone, tablet, and pair of glasses on a desk.

Statistics indicate that remote worker productivity is much higher than many realize.

When considering whether to allow employees to work from home, business owners often wonder whether remote worker productivity will be sufficient to advance the company’s goals. With no supervisor physically present to ensure the work gets done, how can the company really be sure that its remote workers will be focused on the task at hand? Will the temptation be too great for them to end up just playing Xbox all day?

With telecommuting on the rise — Gallup recently estimated that 37 percent of American workers have now worked from home — some business leaders may be concerned about how to best address this growing trend while ensuring productivity doesn’t take a hit. Fortunately, statistical data indicates that remote workers can often be incredibly productive and satisfied at work, sometimes even more so than their in-office counterparts. Companies may be able to reap the benefits that work-from-home arrangements deliver for the four following reasons:

1. Fewer Interruptions Mean Greater Focus

According to a recent survey from TINYpulse, 91 percent of teleworkers report they are more productive when working remotely. With fewer interruptions throughout the workday, they can settle into a state of sustained concentration and work more effectively on their projects. Compare this with the traditional office setting where, according to The Washington Post, each office worker is interrupted or switches tasks every three minutes and then requires an additional 23 minutes to regain their focus. This de facto interruption culture can negatively affect the morale of office workers, who might mutter into their cups of coffee about how they can’t get a moment’s peace. This is not so with teleworkers, however, who may enjoy a greater ability to concentrate on their work and tend to make the most of it.

Additionally, a flexible working environment and increased autonomy help workers optimize their productivity. Teleworkers may be able to arrange their tasks in a way they find most effective, cycling through their to-do lists with ease. Although it is true that telecommuting newbies working from home must contend with distractions in their environment and learn the ropes of working well in that setting, by and large, they are able to stay on top of their work and meet deadlines.

2. Remote Workers Understand the Importance of Collaboration

Perhaps partly because they are not located in an office where collaboration opportunities are automatically woven into the workday, many employees who work from home understand the importance of proactive collaboration and accountability as active team members. Remote workers say that they regularly stay in touch with their supervisors, if on a somewhat less-frequent basis. A generous 34 percent of respondents to the TINYpulse survey report that they are in touch with their supervisor once a week, while 31 percent say that they check in once per day and 21 percent note that they check in multiple times per day. This actually lines up pretty well with how frequently most remote workers say they would prefer to be in touch, so it appears they may be satisfied with this arrangement.

Remote worker productivity is typically highest in cases when both the supervisor and employee have a clear, shared understanding of what needs to get done and fewer check-ins are needed to keep the work moving. Interestingly, 92 percent of teleworkers say they are happy with the way they receive feedback from their supervisors, so it seems both remote workers and their bosses are communicating effectively in this setting and likely use a variety of tools to do so, from video conferencing to email.

3. Remote Workers Feel More Valued at Work

When employees have the ability to work from home, they may be able to more comfortably balance their professional and personal obligations. For example, parents might find it easier to get their children to doctor’s appointments and caregivers may be better able to tend to older relatives. When employees experience greater independence and improved work-life balance, they typically report higher levels of employee satisfaction.

According to the TINYpulse survey, teleworkers say they are happier at work compared to their in-office colleagues. They frequently also feel more valued at work. Increased job satisfaction contributes to greater employee retention in the long run. Employers, who know well that it costs more to hire and train a new employee than it does to retain an existing one, should find this metric attractive when considering their ability to keep top talent and preserve their budget.

4. Inclement Weather Isn’t an Obstacle

Companies offering teleworking programs may be able to stay productive in the event of inclement weather, since nothing prevents employees from taking care of their work safely from home, even if a storm is raging outside or the public transit system is experiencing issues. This reduces liability for the company while simultaneously creating opportunities for productivity that simply did not exist before. Yes, teleworkers are going to have to stay home and actually work on those TPS reports instead of running outside to pelt their friends with snowballs during a major snowstorm. However, those same employees will likely appreciate not having to experience the frustration (not to mention wasted time) involved with a difficult or treacherous commute. Instead of bundling up and trudging out into the elements, they can simply make a cup of hot cocoa, sit down, and get to work.

Teleworking may be a new frontier for some companies, but it’s one that may offer significant promise in the form of greater productivity, increased job satisfaction, and more proactive communication among staff. Company decision-makers who have not yet explored the benefits of allowing their employees to work from home might find that it is not only worth their while, but also takes their business to a whole new level.

Find out how Vonage Business can work with your organization to boost company-wide productivity.

About Rose de Fremery

Rose de Fremery is a New York-based writer and technologist. She is the former Managing Editor of The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first and only print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. Rose currently blogs about business IT topics including VoIP, UC, CRM, business innovation, and telework for Ziff-Davis as well as HP’s Tektonika program, HP Innovation Journal, HP Channel, Intel, and Vonage’s content marketing program.

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We’ve all seen the “BBC Dad” video by now. A distinguished professor is discussing the finer points of South Korea’s political upheaval over video teleconferencing. His adorable kids charge in, while their mom desperately attempts to minimize the interruption and their dad quietly tries to compose himself. The viral interview serves as an unexpectedly hilarious clip and a wonderful reminder of the potential downfalls of remote work.

With that in mind, it’s a good opportunity to remind ourselves of what working remotely should ideally look like. Here are some best practices to follow in an effort to avoid those embarrassing moments — as cute as they may be.

Dress the Part

Imagine this scenario: You wake up from an incredibly restful night of sleep after hitting the snooze button a few times, and you’re immediately faced with the day’s first dilemma as a telecommuter. What to wear? As comfy as your PJs may be, traipsing around in clothes you wouldn’t even wear to the grocery store may have some unforeseen consequences.

An obvious shortcoming rears its ugly head when video teleconferencing enters the picture. Nothing breaks your concentration quite like the mad rush to find suitable clothes as your phone rings and you remember that 2 p.m. design session you had scheduled. Entering the call sweaty and out of breath doesn’t help the situation, either.

Yet there are more subtle reasons why making yourself presentable during remote hours is a good idea. First, dressing to impress instills an innate sense of professionalism, which helps persuade our minds that it’s time to work, not play.

Second, making a habit of actually getting ready for work rather than simply rolling out of bed and into your home office establishes beneficial routines. If you’re already waking up early to dress the part, chances are you’ll also take the time to hop in the shower or maybe read the morning news. Doing so gets your productivity humming before you even clock in.

Find Your Fortress of Solitude

Traditional offices do an admirable job of helping you separate the distractions of your personal life from your work obligations. Really, outside of social media and the occasional phone call from your significant other, there’s not much standing between you and a productive day at the office. Not so much so with a remote office.

Much like we saw in the “BBC Dad” video, distractions can come all too easily when working remotely. It stands to reason, then, that establishing an area of your home for interruption-free work is a solid idea. Fortunately, the execution is simple and straightforward. Just like the dad in the video, find a quiet room that’s separated from any shenanigans happening elsewhere in your home. Unlike the dad in the video, it might not be a bad idea to lock the door during televised meetings.

Pro tip: Keep things like coffee and snacks handy in your fortress to avoid leaving the distraction-free zone.

Stay Connected

Finally, if you want to find success in a remote environment, connectivity is key. This means keeping a reliable connection to office resources no matter where you’re working. Ideally, you should be available to work and communicate with the same ease as you would in an office setting, even if you’re sitting at your local coffee shop.

Taking advantage of cloud-based solutions is one of the best ways to ensure this high level of mobile connectivity. For example, on-demand, virtual video conferencing solutions allow you to connect any mobile device to your organization’s existing teleconferencing resources. As such, you’ll be able to reliably connect to meetings whether you’re on the road, in the air, or in your fortress of solitude at home. Similar platforms exist for your workflow processes and give you the freedom to work productively anywhere in the world when used in combination with mobile communications platforms.

In the end, working remotely boils down to preparation and willpower. Simply exercise some self-control, equip your mobile office accordingly, and you’ll be able to weather any distraction — charming children or otherwise.

Contact Vonage Business to learn more about how cloud-based communications can aid your company.

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 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 woman talking on the telephone, standing in front of a window.

Business phone features can help you stay connected and work more efficiently, wherever you are.

A phone system used to be just that — a collection of telephones that made and received calls without a lot of extra phone features. Yet this definition is far from the reality you currently live in. It’s too bad that no one has come up with a catchy new term that makes more sense, but maybe you can finally come up with one today in your free time.

Voice calls are actually much less frequent now, and the phone has taken on many more new and innovative roles. Small businesses that think of their business phone systems primarily for voice are seriously missing out on many opportunities to increase productivity and provide a higher level of service to their customers.

By using a cloud-based communication system, the telephone system is not physically installed at a location, which allows employees to access telephone functionality and features regardless of where they are. Cloud-based phone systems help employees be more productive, since they are afforded the flexibility of not being tied down to their desk in order to conduct business.

Are you looking for ways to save? Here are four phone features to use today:

1. Transcribe Voicemails

People tend to ramble on voicemail (but not you, of course). When you get a voicemail, you just want to know the main point immediately.

A phone system with visual voicemail can transcribe messages into text and send them right to your email. No more standing in a hallway outside a restaurant straining to hear a soft-spoken caller amid noisy sports fans cheering in the background. You’ll have the facts when and where you need them.

2. Take Your Business Phone System with You

Say you’re leaving a client meeting and walking to the train. You’ve been tasked with coming up with a brilliant solution to your client’s problem before you get back to your office so you can demonstrate how awesome your company is. To do this, you need your best brains on the job.

With a modern, cloud-based business phone system, you can pull out your smartphone, open your mobile app, and have access to all the same calling features you have in your office, such as conference call services. Three touches of a button later, and you’re talking to your team and brainstorming solutions — all before you even leave your client’s ZIP code.

3. Use a Virtual Receptionist

Even if your company has living and breathing receptionists, they’re human. This means they have to go to the bathroom, take lunch breaks, and occasionally even go on vacation. Oh, and big surprise, they probably go home at night. However, your customers really don’t care.

By using a phone system with a virtual receptionist, customers are greeted with up-to-date information and can be seamlessly routed to the right employees to solve their problems — no matter if your receptionist has the stomach flu or is laying on the beach drinking fruity drinks with paper umbrellas.

4. Teleport People Around the World

Well, not really, but wouldn’t that be nice? A phone system can do the next best thing through video technology, which makes people feel like they’re in the same room even if they’re time zones apart. When it comes to teams collaborating on a project, in-person meetings are sometimes the best solution. Unfortunately, costs and schedules often make in-person face time impossible.

With video conferencing, you can see caller’s faces and read their body language– no expensive plane tickets or lousy airport food required. You can have an almost face-to-face meeting with people from multiple locations and get the job done.

Voicemail transcription, mobile apps, virtual receptionist, and video conferencing are just the beginning. A modern, cloud-based business phone system chock full of features can help improve communications and boost efficiency in your office.

Do you want to learn more about business communication systems? Visit Vonage Business.

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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