If your business is like most others, its employees must communicate quickly across time zones and offices, and perhaps while working on-site, on the road or at home.
Yet, many organisations own expensive, ageing and patched-together collaboration systems that make this difficult.
They are using a combination of different applications and devices, which can make it hard for employees to connect to colleagues effectively. This also creates unnecessary complexity for IT departments that must manage the mixed infrastructure.
Another danger is that some employees will stop using collaboration technology as a result, limiting their communication with customers and colleagues. Some may even disregard company policy and use alternative videoconferencing or audio-conferencing services, creating a security risk for their employers.
These communication hurdles restrict employees’ exposure to new ideas and constrain innovative thinking.
The key to rectifying this is to consolidate collaboration applications – not add more, which some solutions currently on offer require.
Microsoft is following this path with Office 365 Enterprise E5. This subscription plan brings together all the key collaboration channels, tightly integrated with our productivity tools. This is a unique combination.
This includes not only online meeting options, but also telephony. Australian organisations can buy Office 365 Enterprise E5 with Skype for Business PSTN Conferencing, which allows people to join a Skype for Business conference using a landline or mobile phone. Skype for Business Cloud PBX also allows employees to also use Skype for Business to make and receive direct calls to landlines or mobile phones. Some other collaboration vendors require their customers to buy these services separately.
Employees are more likely to use these communication channels when they are combined in a single solution. This is because they aren’t required to learn to use many different applications, and it gives them a consistent interface for all devices. For example, employees may be more inclined to use an audio-conference rather than book a meeting room if they know everyone can connect easily using a phone or laptop.
Employees may be more likely to initiate a video chat to discuss a document they are creating if they can start the chat and share their screen without exiting the document. This allows collaboration while ideas are fresh, rather than waiting for a scheduled meeting.
Colleagues in the same office might also be more inclined to take advantage of meeting spaces if they can easily access all of their files from any device and allow others to join the conversation via video calls. They’ll also be more likely to invite business partners to join conference calls when the partners can connect easily via a mobile phone.
Improving communication is not the only advantage of having a comprehensive, single collaboration solution. Businesses are more likely to attract highly skilled job candidates who want the flexibility of being able to work from home if there is an efficient, easy-to-use interface for collaboration.
As well as consolidating and making it easier to use multiple communication channels, Office 365 Enterprise E5 also makes IT managers’ jobs simpler. This is because they don’t have to deploy as many tools for conferencing, calls to public telephone networks, instant messaging and email.
Office 365 Enterprise E5 also includes Cloud PBX, which routes calls and provides voicemail integration with Microsoft Exchange, removing the need for a PBX located on your premises.
Taking this approach will help businesses encourage communication and the exchange of valuable ideas, allowing them to deliver value to customers faster.