A man sitting at a desk, talking on an office telephone.

Moving to the cloud can improve communications with colleagues and customers.

Even before the first executive walked into his or her office with a new iPhone nearly 10 years ago, mobile technology had been having a huge impact on how people worked. Armed with their Blackberry and Palm Treo mobile phones, enterprise employees could send and receive emails and check their calendars while binge-watching episodes of “Entourage” on DVDs mailed to their homes from Netflix. Those were heady days, friends.

In truth, of course, that was all child’s play compared to what’s happening now. As business technology matures, enterprises are moving to the cloud to even better leverage its productivity benefits. Here are just a few examples of how forward-thinking digital enterprises are using cloud, mobile, and other technologies to transform their businesses:

Communicate and Collaborate with Colleagues, Wherever They Are

Mobile technology liberates employees from the office, but unfortunately, it can be difficult for a dispersed workforce to, well, work together. Older or limited conferencing platforms can be ill-equipped to handle mobile participants, making effective collaboration and even basic communications between office and mobile employees difficult, if not impossible at times.

By moving to the cloud and adopting cloud-based communications, enterprises allow employees working anywhere — and using any device — to participate in audio and video conference calls, message colleagues (even within other apps), and have fully functional connectivity to project collaboration software.

These cloud-based unified communications platforms can also help businesses scale. For example, Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM), a maker of custom aquariums, was struggling with hypergrowth stemming from its higher profile as a star of Animal Planet’s “Tanked” reality TV show. The company switched from its old phone system to a cloud-based system that included unified communications features. The new platform routes calls more efficiently, allows voice messages to be read or listened to from multiple devices, and enables video conferencing with third-party vendors making special parts for ATM’s aquariums.

Access CRM Databases, Customer Histories, and More Business Information

It used to be that if you were on the road and needed customer information quickly (as in real-time), you were out of luck. Today, though, apps and services are easily available to authorized and authenticated users via the cloud.

For example, Handi-Ramp, a manufacturer of products for wheelchair accessibility and fall prevention that counts the White House and Statue of Liberty as clients, uses an enterprise Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) platform that powers the company’s office phones, business applications, and softphones while providing full integration with employees’ mobile devices.

In addition, the platform integrates Handi-Ramp’s Google apps, including email, calendar, and contact software. Further, the company’s sales force can use its mobile devices to connect automatically with a CRM system. The end result is more productive and effective sales and support teams, which results in higher revenue and greater customer satisfaction.

Gain Insights Into and Establish Personal Relationships with Customers

Mobile devices and apps are providing retailers and other businesses with unprecedented amounts of data about users’ search, shopping, and physical habits, such as where they go and when. This allows retailers to understand and anticipate customer needs and personalize the shopping experience in a way that increases sales and brand loyalty.

Cosmetics and beauty products retailer Sephora uses geolocation data and personalized mobile app alerts for users who are close to one of its stores, informing the customer of special deals. Adweek reported that Sephora is also driving mobile sales by integrating a Tinder-like swipe feature that allows mobile and desktop users to navigate rapidly through makeup and beauty products, as well as an app that allows its Snapchat followers to make purchases by downloading a screenshot of the desired product.

With the help of cloud, mobile, and communications technologies, companies can better manage their internal and customer-facing processes to become more efficient, more flexible and more productive.

Is your business ready for transformation? Contact a Vonage Business representative to take the first steps toward increased productivity and customer engagement.

About Chris Nerney

Chris Nerney is a technology writer who covers both enterprise and consumer technologies. He has written extensively on cloud computing, unified communications, enterprise collaboration, VoIP, mobile technology, big data and analytics, data centers, converged systems and space technology. His writing has appeared in Computerworld, CIO.com, Data-Informed, Revenue Cycle Insights, Network World, ITWorld and many other technology publications, including enterprise whitepapers. Chris lives in upstate New York with his wife and three children.

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A man and a woman using laptops while sitting at the bottom of the stairs.

In a virtual enterprise, co-working spaces let employees enjoy collaboration and flexible schedules.

The workplace of the future looks awfully familiar. It looks exactly like your living room (and not because of the open floor plan), or your favorite coffee shop (and not because everyone is way too caffeinated). It looks like an airport, a hotel, or even a public park.

That’s because the workplace of the future isn’t a place. It’s a collection of places — a virtual enterprise where employees can work anytime, from anywhere. Sure, they get together sometimes to brainstorm or just to socialize, share ideas, or swap some gossip. But then they go their separate ways and work wherever they’re most productive. Still, they remain seamlessly connected via mobile technology, video conferencing, and cloud-based collaboration tools.

Of course, remote work isn’t new: 37 percent of U.S. workers have telecommuted, according to a 2015 Gallup poll. Yet the average employee only telecommutes two days per month, which will likely change soon for many employees as technology makes it easier and easier to support this type of work. Most organizations are already preparing to become a virtual enterprise, even if they don’t know it yet.

The following are four trends that point to the future of workplace evolution:

1. The War for Talent

With baby boomers now retiring en masse, the talent shortage you’ve been hearing about for years has finally arrived. It’s a seller’s market, where employers must compete to attract the smartest and most innovative thinkers. Of course, many of the best and brightest are millennials, who tend to view flexibility, mobility and the opportunity for remote work as job requirements, not perks. And they’re happy to live at home with Mom and Dad until they find employers that fulfill their desire for work/life balance.

Telecommuting also enables organizations to assemble the best possible workforces by removing geographical barriers. Rather than hiring the best person for the job within driving distance, they can hire the best person with a Wi-Fi connection.

2. Emergence of Co-Working Spaces

Companies have been toying with the idea of telecommuting for decades. However, many employers are hesitant to let their employees work remotely out of fear that they can only produce great ideas when they get the gang together in person.

To provide employees with the best of both worlds, many companies now provide communal workspaces so remote employees can come into the office and meet with colleagues in person, if and when they need to do so.

Companies that don’t want to pay for office space for remote employees can provide them with access to one of the new co-working spaces that are popping up in major cities across the country. These membership-based facilities offer camaraderie, workplace essentials such as coffee and snacks, and a variety of workspaces, from quiet offices to conference rooms to lounges.

The popularity of these new workspaces is just further proof that the conference room of the future isn’t really a conference room at all. It’s wherever employees choose to meet up and collaborate, whether online or in person.

3. Mass Migration to the Cloud

Not too long ago, if you wanted to work from home for one day, you had to save all the information you needed from the company server before you left the office and then sweet-talk a colleague into emailing you whatever you forgot. Or, you had to log in to a slow, clunky virtual private network (VPN) to access company files.

With cloud computing, authorized employees can quickly and easily access all the information they need at anytime, from any location, on any device. The cloud enables employees to integrate all mission-critical business applications, customer relationship management (CRM) tools, or workflows with their communications system so that they maintain a seamless connection — and business presence — no matter where, or how, they choose to work.

Most companies have now moved at least some workflows into cloud environments. Gartner projected that the worldwide public cloud services market will grow 17.2 percent in 2016 to a total of $208.6 billion (up from $178 billion in 2015). Cloud infrastructure services will see the fastest growth, expanding by 42.8 percent in 2016.

4. Growing Suites of Collaboration Tools

Cloud-based collaboration tools such as file-sharing software, enterprise mobile apps, internal social networks, and video conferencing provide employees with instant access to the information they need to get their jobs done. Rather than wasting time scouring through email in pursuit of the latest version of whatever document they need, workers can quickly find up-to-date information. Teams can also share information and collaborate in real time using these tools, whether they’re on different floors or in different states.

This doesn’t just make employees more productive — it makes them increasingly mobile and able to get work done wherever and whenever it’s most convenient.

Slow and steady doesn’t win the race anymore. In the digital age, it’s the nimble innovators who come out on top. Driven by the need to be faster, more flexible, more creative, and more cost-effective, organizations are investing in new technology that enables workers to be productive from anywhere. And that’s exactly where innovation will happen in the future — from virtually anywhere.

Speak to a Vonage Business consultant today to help your company become a virtual enterprise.

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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