As we just reviewed when covering Broadsoft’s recent survey of their customers, small and medium businesses are looking at Unified Communications, VoIP, and Hosted PBX very differently than they did five years ago. Over the past several years there has been rapid growth in SMBs adopting UC and especially UCaaS technology with the primary driver being economic. Ultimately SMBs are looking at the bottom line, total cost of doing business, and investing in advanced communications solutions that results in savings.
Those savings aren’t only visible through monetary gains either. Gains in productivity and efficiency for SMBs are numerous and just as important, if not more valuable, than the bottom line. Employees can connect more easily and collaborate more effectively through UC than the businesses’ old systems of communication. The ease of conducting a meeting via the web or using screen share can result in savings of time, money, and employee efficiency. These gains effectively revolutionize an SMBs way of conducting business.
Telephony, Mobility, Presence Management Top Priorities for SMBs When it Comes to UC
So what are the priorities from a business and collaboration perspective? According to Mike Cromwell, Chief Sales Officer at ANPI, it is more than simply cost savings. Mobility is a core driver of the move to UCaaS. The ability to never miss a call while traveling, and presenting professionally while doing so, is an important capability for SMBs. Mobility means that customers can always get through and have their concerns or needs addressed. It ensures that the SMB is present and connected no matter the physical location of the employee.
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Presence Management is another critical application for SMBs. According to Cromwell, being able to know what your co-workers and employees are doing is a game changer when it comes to efficiency and productivity. Indicators of green, yellow, and red on the UC system allow employees to know if their colleagues are available. And instant message can get that same employee a quick answer that allows them to continue with their day without having to stop and track down a person physically, send a long email explaining the situation or wait for a call to get through.
SMBs typically desire speed, flexibility, and ease when deploying a UC system. This translates into a need for a system that is easy to install. Delivering phones that are already programmed and ready for use with a simple activation code is a great example of that. Offering training, both on-site as well as online, is crucial for ease of implementation and for increasing adoption rates. SMBs want to be able to install the system quickly, easily, and to get their employees up and running with the new technology in an efficient manner.
Challenges SMBs Face When Deploying UCaaS
There are natural challenges that SMBs face when converting from traditional phone systems to UC. Networking is one of these, and the convergence of voice and data over a single line can bring some surprises. Often a company will optimize their environment for data but don’t consider doing the same for voice. The key to smoothing over those bumps in networking is preparing for both data and voice conversion up front when initially accessing the SMB for UC installation. Related: Network Considerations for SMBs looking to move to Hosted UC
A second challenge that SMBs look at is tech support. Many SMBs outsource that work and have few technical resources in-house, so there may be concerns about the adoption rate of the new UC system. Having a high adoption rate and embracing the new technology are keys assimilating the new technology that becomes part of the company culture. So addressing the technical training for the SMBs’ owners and employees is crucial.
Businesses should also assess their employee demographic before training begins. This is important in bridging the gap between generations. For example, their millennial employees are natives to the type of technology that UC brings. They’ll probably only need a few moments to familiarize themselves with the system, and then they’re off and running with it. Using screen share and web meetings is second nature to them.
An older generation of worker, however, will likely need more training and more time to begin using this new system. What can help most is if the employer or administrator gives them exercises to complete with UC in the early weeks after installation. They’ll probably be surprised at its simplicity and ease of use, but they need to be introduced to it and challenged to use it via daily exercises that illustrate those uses. For all workers it is critical that management lay out clear expectations for employees to ensure adoption rates are high.
Although the benefits of implementing UC, VoIP, and Hosted PBX are numerous, sometimes SMBs balk at converting. If the SMB has a newer traditional phone system or if they have significant time left on their current contracts, they may hesitate to convert citing monetary concerns. Once the savings are outlined to the SMB; all the time saved, as well as efficiency gained with employees and their increases in productivity, most companies are able to build a powerful business case for the migration to UC.