When COVID-19 struck, many organizations hastily settled on temporary technology solutions that don’t necessarily work synergistically or match with long-term IT goals. Who can blame them? Within only a few weeks, the pandemic turned from speculation to critical mass and normal operations came to a halt. Employers suddenly needed to conjure up business continuity plans on a whim—an event most organizations didn’t plan for going into 2020.
As the dust settles, though, and organizations grow accustomed to the new normal, leaders are exploring options to solidify their remote work strategies. A Gartner survey on 317 CFOs revealed that 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post-COVID-19, with nearly a quarter planning to move 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.
A long-term communications strategy is vital to the future of flexible work, and choosing a new cloud communications provider might be on the table. Businesses that pieced together several disparate technologies might look to consolidate their communications apps into a more cohesive solution, or simply looking to find better options for their changing business needs.
If you’re exploring new cloud communications providers, there are several key value propositions to focus on before committing. Here are five things to look for:
1. The right features for your business needs
Features warrant the most conscientious consideration. Every team in an organization can have vastly different workflows and needs, and a communications solution has to satisfy all of them. Without the right solution, you risk employees experimenting with tools that fly under the radar of the IT department—also known as “shadow IT.”
IT teams should assess the needs of every department and find providers that fit the bill. For example, if your customer service team regularly uses customer relationship management (CRM) tools, some cloud communications providers offer native integration with popular CRM software.
Many organizations want to provide a simpler communications experience for their employees instead of multiple, disjointed apps. Solutions like unified communications combine team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single app where employees can effortlessly switch between features, as well as communicate and collaborate from anywhere on any device.
2. A cost-effective solution
As budgets tighten in the second half of 2020, organizations are looking for the best bang for their buck. A PwC survey found that 86% of companies are looking to implement cost-containment measures as a result of COVID-19. Cost is clearly a major driving force that’ll impact provider choices.
Providers will have different pricing models, but don’t let prices fool you. Evaluate what benefits each provider offers and how it can impact your employees’ productivity and long-term success. Do the advanced features justify the cost for your teams? Is the provider committed to continued innovation? What if your organization needs to scale down at any point? It’s worth evaluating every facet of a provider to ensure an eventual return on investment.
3. Scalability and flexibility
Businesses grow, and new teams with new workflow needs are added every year. For example, if your organization expands and opens a new office in another state, your communications system will need to support the new environment. Revamping the entire company’s communications infrastructure, however, isn’t feasible.
It’s important for cloud communications providers to have the ability to scale along with your organization. Look for providers who can build a foundation for your business’ changing needs—whether you’re expanding or reducing costs—and support new users, devices, and services at any time.
4. A commitment to security
One of the hottest topics surrounding workplace communications in the COVID-19 era is security. Against a backdrop of ever-increasing digital risks, protecting customer and organization intellectual data from cyberattacks has never been more important. However, infrastructure security depends entirely on the diligence of the service provider. It’s up to organizations to find providers they trust.
Businesses should consider how reputable a cloud communications provider is before implementing it into a business model. Explore providers who give detailed insights into their privacy and security. When it comes to data, you don’t want to risk it.
5. Deployment without disruption
Switching cloud providers can be a challenge. New technology deployments have several requirements, from system assessments to implementation and user training. At the same time, migrations can pull workers away from their critical workflows and further disrupt normal operations. As a result, many organizations hesitate to enact change and suffer in the long run.
Consider cloud communications providers who take a vested interest in your organization’s unique needs and can provide personalized migration strategies. Even better if they offer implementation advisors and professional services to handle the migration for you. These providers often have the knowledge to make the transition seamless and ensure normal operations are minimally impacted, if at all.
Consolidating communications for the future of work
As businesses get a clearer understanding of their 2020 outlooks, now’s the time to re-evaluate workplace communications strategies. Employees stuck on old or inadequate technologies run the risk of low productivity and morale, which ultimately affects your business outcomes. Additionally, as flexible work arrangements continue to grow, having the right communications and collaboration tools will ensure remote workers are set up for success.
Many businesses use multiple applications for their communications strategy—one for team messaging, one for video conferencing, and one for cloud phone. Too many apps, however, can be a problem. Employees today are overwhelmed by the deluge of technology demanding their attention, and it’s significantly impacting your organization’s productivity.
A unified communications solution like the RingCentral app makes communication and collaboration easy for everyone. Employees only need to manage one app for team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone, with the ability to switch modes with a single click. IT teams also only need to deploy and maintain a single app while working with a single provider for support.
Originally published May 22, 2020, updated Aug 11, 2020