unified communications in the cloud driving enterprise innovation

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Companies using collaboration tools in the cloud are being more innovative, have more efficient business processes and can reduce their time to market according to recent research.  

These findings were discussed a recent webinar where Cedric Parent, Marketing Director, Unified Communications and Collaboration Solutions, Orange Business Services joined Pat Romzek, Vice President of Global Market Development, Collaboration Solutions at Cisco and Joe McKendrick, Senior Analyst from Forbes Insights.

The webinar focused on the role of cloud in unified communications and collaboration (UCC) and outlined the research that Forbes recently carried out. Forbes interviewed 500 enterprises about cloud collaboration. The study specifically set out to find out the attitudes of business leaders to the cloud, and the researchers spoke to CxOs rather than focusing on the IT department.

benefits of UCaaS

Respondents identified three main reasons they chose unified communications as a service (UCaaS).

  • The first was flexibility to empower employees to drive business growth.
  • The second was agility, because it gave them the ability to scale to business needs.
  • The final benefit was efficiency, because they only paid for what they used.

In addition, they said that cloud collaboration was feeding innovation by giving them capabilities that they did not have before.

Forbes characterized around 14% of the respondents as “leaders” because they were using the latest collaboration tools in the most innovative way, such as unified communications, social media and mobility. The “laggards” in the survey were at the other end of the scale and relied on legacy communication tools such as the phone, face-to-face and business travel.

The research found that the leaders were successfully generating competitive advantage from their cloud collaboration tools, namely:

  • stimulating innovation: 93% of leaders but only 23% of laggards
  • enabling efficient business processes: 90% leaders, 25% laggards
  • accelerating business results: 82% of leaders, 31% laggards
  • gaining competitive advantage: 78% leaders, 20% laggards

While it is clear that leaders are getting the most from cloud collaboration, it’s interesting to note that even the laggards are deriving some benefits from it. So even within technology laggards, there are some users who are taking matters into their own hands and deploying cloud collaboration themselves.

These little islands of clouds could be pilot projects, or initiatives undertaken by individual line-of-business departments, such as sales, marketing, operations, manufacturing, finance or customer service. All of them are looking to cloud to become more productive and this is being recognized at a senior level. They don’t even need to put a project request into IT to do this and can pay for the technology from their own operating budget.

McKendrick also looked at how enterprises were transitioning to new cloud-based collaboration tools. He said that on the whole laggards typically try to do everything at once, whereas leaders use a process to achieve specific goals. He recommended the following steps:

  1. roll UCaaS out as part of an internal project looking to fulfill objectives such as increased employee productivity and work-life balance.
  2. once these processes are all sorted out, enterprises should then look to use the same collaboration technologies to improve customer service, or reach out them. This includes working with customers to improve your products, for example.
  3. The final step is to open up the collaboration environment to partners, vendors and associates to improve the process of interacting and working together. This can help make the supply chain more efficient, for example.

customer case studies

The speakers then looked at number of case studies where the enterprises had deployed cloud-based collaboration tools to meet their business objectives. All of the examples covered projects where Orange Business Services had deployed Cisco-based collaboration tools to global organizations who were looking for reduced complexity, reduced costs and rapid deployment.

  • 3M: improved collaboration and increased productivity among 20K employees at 75 sites in 25 countries
  • Devoteam: improved efficiency, increased internal collaboration
  • Ondeo: capitalized on strong growth by quickly rolling out a flexible and reliable cloud service. Improve productivity

Romzek mentioned a fourth unnamed financial service company that used cloud to allow it to move into its new office in Poland within 60 days. Cloud technology allowed it to offer all employees collaboration tools from day one.

lessons learned and best practices

The floor then went to Cedric Parent who shared his perspective on unified communications in the cloud based on the extensive experience that Orange has in deployment.

Agility is the key: although companies like the fact that cloud services are pay-as-you use, they like that you can scale up and down on demand even more. This means that they can match their expenditure on collaboration tools to real business demand.

Global companies need the cloud: larger companies need the flexibility that the cloud provides to help employees in different countries work effectively together. To remain productive, they need to support virtual cross-border teams effectively with on-demand collaboration services. In addition, a single cloud service helps enterprises avoid the administrative headache of managing multiple providers and technology platforms.

Remember mobile first: all UCaaS deployment must take mobile into account. The revolution spurred by bring-your-own-device (BYOD) and the consumerization of cloud means that your communications applications must be available on all mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Mobile can no longer be tacked on to the strategy as an after-thought.

What is your own experience with unified communications in the cloud? Are you a leader or a laggard and how much competitive advantage can cloud provide you?

Listen to the webinar here.

And download the Forbes Insight research here.

Find out more about unified communications from Orange here.

Anthony

image © kromkrathog - Fotolia.com

Anthony Plewes

After a Masters in Computer Science, I decided that I preferred writing about IT rather than programming. My 20-year writing career has taken me to Hong Kong and London where I've edited and written for IT, business and electronics publications. In 2002 I co-founded Futurity Media with Stewart Baines where I continue to write about a range of topics such as unified communications, cloud computing and enterprise applications.