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Unified communications benefits can solve many problems that plague workplaces, both big and small.

Every workplace has challenges. Some involve technology, others have more to do with morale, while others involve communications. Yet for every problem, there’s a solution, and unified communications just may be your knight in shining armor. Okay, so maybe that line’s a little corny, but it does underscore the sheer number of unified communications benefits available to businesses — a list so impressive it evokes images of heroism. Unified communications can do wonderful things for your company — and your stress levels — if you’re grappling with any of the four following problems:

1. Organizational Silos

Silos are so prevalent that organizations can struggle with them without ever knowing a term for the issue exists. When the company’s individual moving parts find themselves working toward their own individual goals, it’s natural that information, skillsets, and employees become trapped in their own bubbles. This problem is only exacerbated in distributed environments, where geographical distance can “siloize” departments that should ostensibly work in lockstep.

However your organization is laid out, “unified” is the operative term in unified communications benefits when siloing problems rear their heads. As they allow organizations to communicate as one entity, these tools take the one-business mantra many companies cling to and turn it into an actionable, functional practice.

The benefits of a de-siloed office can manifest in a lot of ways. Information can be shared more freely, making it easier for departments to understand how their contributions play into the greater good. The always-on, always-connected features of unified communications tools, on the other hand, allow colleagues throughout the business to reach out to one another no matter where both parties work. If information is contained among departments, unified communications tools can help you unify your business as a whole.

2. Human Latency

Another so-big-it’s-everywhere problem, human latency becomes more apparent as technology grows more useful. In turn, people are often the unreliable factor in important business interactions. When was the last time you waited on a co-worker to respond to a critical email about a client’s technical issue or temporarily shelved a project as you waited on a colleague in another branch to sign and return paperwork you desperately needed?

Here, it’s larger organizations that can really feel the burn, and the reason so many midsize and enterprise companies strive for things such as agility and responsiveness. And although any number of unified communications benefits can help companies overcome their latency problems, it’s presence tools — built-in tools that display a colleague’s availability — that really help with latency issues.

For instance, the response-critical aspect of patient billing in the volume-thirsty healthcare industry can really show what presence can do. The right tools could allow front-line reps to look up which billing experts are available for a phone call with customers. They could then shoot the colleague a quick instant message to confirm availability and transfer the call over in seconds, with none of the confusion or delay multiple active calls can cause.

3. Shadow IT

In an effort to improve cross-store communication, a regional manager in the retail sales arm of a large enterprise instructs all managers to download and install a cloud file-sharing solution on company hardware. A group of employees install and use an instant messaging platform to communicate faster. An individual employee uses his personal email to store and transmit critical privacy-regulated files. These are all examples of shadow IT, and it’s up to companies to replicate the functionality employees seek out when they turn to the practice.

Here is another side of unified communications benefits. By offering employees a suite of interconnected tools to mirror the unauthorized solutions they’ve been working with, companies get greater control — not to mention a way to tailor the solutions they bring in to their individual needs. Best of all, the tools are built to work together, which is a far cry from the piecemeal collection of solutions departments using unauthorized tools must often work with.

This can be of particular use in the mobility era, where unapproved mobile apps and devices make for many shadow IT headaches on their own. Including tools that allow for easy communication across platforms that mobilizes a company’s workforce and paves the way to bigger and better things for both local and remote employees. An employee at a conference can use her work number to text with clients from her personal phone, for instance, maintaining a consistent business presence no matter the device she uses.

4. Scaling Concerns

Businesses grow. Businesses shrink. So do their needs. Companies with busy seasons and a high need for seasonal employees may need a way to coordinate and communicate with masses of employees for several months, then a smaller core of permanent workers throughout the rest of the year.

This need reflects an unsung item on the list of unified communications benefits: scalability. Compared to the old days, where businesses with consistently inconsistent communications needs had to take what was available (prepaid flip phones, anyone?), the ability to provision and remove users as needed is better suited to the fluctuating organization’s needs by orders of magnitude. Throw in a growing trend toward pay-as-you-need pricing — as opposed to per-line annual contracts and other growth-unfriendly plans — and you have the perfect tool for businesses that rarely operate at the same size for long.

Seasonal-growth companies aren’t the only ones that get to reap all the benefits. Businesses with predictable growth patterns also need tools that support communication and collaboration while accounting for attrition and other line-reducing risks, while IT departments get the ability to provision users faster and easier than ever before. The same goes for companies that wish to expand into new locations without paying exorbitant wiring and installation fees.

Unified communications represent a brave new world of business communications — and for many companies, that’s exactly what’s needed.

If you’d like to learn more about how unified communications can solve many workplace problems, connect with a Vonage Business representative.

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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The right technology can make managing virtual teams easier and more effective.

Few things are less quantifiable, more important, and more difficult to directly influence than a company’s culture. In the modern era, where managing virtual teams and other distributed entities is the rule, a measure of cultural consistency is a written-in-stone necessity. This is something small fish and big players alike must manage for the sake of the name on the awning.

And, despite the challenges a long-distance working relationship can represent, today’s executives can’t just give up on imposing a singular culture because their virtual enterprise operates under more than one roof. Giving your locations the same feel, regardless of geography, can yield productivity benefits and make sure remote employees get a consistent workplace everywhere.

Here are a few takes on making your culture more portable in the mobility era:

Formalize and Centralize

The word “formalize” doesn’t always conjure images of a happy, productive workforce, but according to Recruiter, building a distributed culture gets a lot easier when you know what it is and what you’re trying to get from it. The first step in that process is asking yourself and your team questions about the company’s end goal, core values, and approach to productivity, and coming to thoughtful, collaborative answers.

You may discover that your company puts a lot of stock into communication and collaboration. You could also find that you’re in a laid-back workplace that doesn’t dictate process or strict behavior standards as long as the ethical end results are there. Maybe you’ll discover a more formal, buttoned-down environment. Or, maybe you’ll discover something else entirely.

Whatever that “something” is, write it down. Since this is an attempt to instill or influence culture, you may wish to only include positives to emulate. That said, this could also be an opportunity to identify and eliminate negative factors, which can obviously affect employee engagement and productivity. Either way — and even if you think you have a good grasp of your company’s culture — be sure to put it on paper first. You may be surprised at what you find.

Ears to the Ground

At the risk of sounding cheesy, it also goes without saying that workplace culture — both company-wide and on the individual-location level — is a living, breathing, organically cultivated thing. Keeping every location in cultural lock-step may not be fully possible because of this, especially considering how hard culture is to force.

However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be influenced or nudged in a certain direction. More, the high-level aspects you noted earlier can often be implemented through policy, management behavior, tone of internal communication, and other obvious and not-so-obvious avenues.

When managing virtual teams and other branches, one such not-so-obvious avenue — asking employees directly — can be huge in determining and dictating culture. This is especially pertinent since employees at all levels, from management to HR to ground-level reps, tend to believe their particular roles are the primary cultural influencers within their workplaces. Though you may not be present in every location long enough to get a real feel for their internal culture, and while employees are undoubtedly likely to understate any reservations, pinpointing trustworthy sources within branches and speaking to them regularly can yield real, workable results for individual roles and the company at large.

Translate with Technology

Once you’ve located positive cultural aspects and things worth changing, the next challenge is to replicate them. When you’re managing virtual teams, chances are you’re making heavy use of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) tools. Just like they enable basic work, these solutions will likely play a key role in replicating your culture across office walls.

The “laid-back” office referenced earlier provides one example to follow. While lax attendance policy may be acceptable when the job’s getting done, there will still be times when productive but MIA employees are desperately needed. This problem is easy enough to handle in single settings but increasingly difficult with a growing number of branches. Presence tools and cloud-based collaboration solutions can make it easier to track these troublesome-yet-productive employees and continue with the get-your-stuff-done atmosphere across locations. This will enable a greater level of collaboration than businesses working without cloud collaboration tools would be able to muster.

The other, more formal office can glean similar benefits from communication and collaboration tools. For example, weekly performance meetings could be held on a company-wide basis despite a growing number of locations, while particularly zealous regional management could use video tools to check on compliance concerns at multiple branches at once.

In both cases — and countless others — the goal is to nudge branch office culture in the same direction as the rest of the business. In some sense, the policy governing these locations should do most of the heavy lifting. Instead of trying to force its hand, company leaders concerned about replicating a successful culture should do what they can to identify the positive aspects, then cultivate them everywhere within the company.

To mangle the old saying, you’ll know you’re doing the right thing when it seems like you haven’t done anything at all. Happy growing!

To learn more about how technology can help you develop your company culture, reach out to a Vonage Business representative.

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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