When the London Business School hosted its annual Global Leadership Summit in June 2014, the school surveyed attendees about a variety of modern business issues and challenges. While the results of that survey covered a variety of topics, one of the really interesting findings was that respondents believed that half of their employees would be working remotely by 2020.
Think about that for a second. In just six years, 50% of your organization may be working from somewhere other than your business’ corporate or regional office. That figure may sound like a stretch, but a recent New York Times article revealed that telecommuting grew by 79% between 2005 and 2012 — and that number is expected to rise even more over the next decade.
So, what does this mean for the future of business?
For starters, it means that organizations must find ways to empower their employees to work effectively and efficiently from any location. Thankfully, cloud-based technology is making that a reality — allowing employees to access virtually any file, application, network, or communication service from any place with a secure Internet connection.
The challenges of modern communication with traditional equipment
Modern phone systems are critical to making sure remote communication operates functionally and effectively – be it an employee working from home and feeling connected to headquarters, or communication across multiple office locations. Imagine for a moment that you operate a healthcare system with teams of physicians who operate out of multiple offices and hospitals. In order to effectively manage patient care and billing, those physicians and their staff must be able to easily communicate with each other (and their “main” office), regardless of where they are or what equipment (land-line, cell phone, etc.) they’re using.
With traditional on-site phone systems, creating that kind of network connectivity and flexibility would be incredibly challenging. And even if you managed to make it work, it’s very likely that you would still deal with a handful of other issues.
- Quality of service: While it might seem like on-premise phone systems would be more reliable, the issue is with the quality of the equipment and network across all remote offices. If the “pipe” from one remote office to the corporate headquarters isn’t big enough, it can lead to significant call and system quality issues.
- Cost of service: Over the life of your phone system, on-site solutions cost just as much (if not more, when you factor in long-term maintenance costs) as cloud-based managed phone solutions. As a result, you often end up paying the same amount to set up a less flexible, less feature-rich network. Meanwhile, your competitor will be paying less to flip a switch and tap into a VoIP solution with much greater functionality and system integration.
- Scalability and flexibility of service: Every time you open or expand an office, on-site phone systems require significant investments in additional hardware and installation services. And if staffing levels change, traditional phone systems often aren’t flexible enough to adapt on the fly.
Traditional communication systems deliver fewer features and less flexibility, but can cost you more when you factor in the equipment needed for each remote office, and the support costs of setting up and managing each of those private networks.
Regardless of the vertical your business operates in, that math doesn’t make much sense.
Cleaning up the way modern businesses communicate
From a data and communications infrastructure perspective, there’s little doubt that cloud-based phone systems can improve the speed and capability of your company’s remote offices. There is much less effort required, and, ultimately, much greater functionality available to your staff.
And while all of that will no doubt lead to greater organizational efficiency and effectiveness (not to mention fewer technical headaches), it’s important not to forget that 50% of your workforce could be remote in six years. To prepare for that possibility, your company’s systems, processes, and applications must be incredibly scalable, flexible, and reliable.
If those aren’t words you’d use to describe your existing phone and communications systems, then it might be time to consider making a change.