On the path to workplace collaboration

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Todd Carothers, Executive VP of Sales & Marketing, Counterpath.

From legacy PBX phone services to the security risks of workers using their own devices, SMEs looking to embrace collaborative working are often held back by the technology around them, comments Todd Carothers, Executive VP of Sales & Marketing, Counterpath

Creating a collaborative culture can transform a business. It engages staff, attracts talent and adds extra fuel to productivity. But achieving it can seem like pushing water uphill. With often limited resources, SME owners face a range of challenges that can thwart attempts to adopt more collaborative working practises. Could a Unified Communications (UC) solution be the ‘get out of jail free card’?

Held hostage by your desk phone
Traditional fixed-line telephony systems – the kind that run on a PBX or hosted service – may not be the first thing you consider as a barrier to collaboration. This technology gives users the ability to answer and transfer calls, and manage contacts, but here the collaboration ends. Most IP desk phones can’t extend communication outside the office, and linking up mobile phones to a fixed line can be difficult.

A lack of internal IT support and limited budgets often mean SME owners are held captive by this dated telephony. But taking the leap to a cloud-based VoIP system that integrates with other apps and systems can, in fact, be more cost-effective.

Exposed in the middle ground
On the path to workplace collaboration, many SMEs find themselves in the middle ground between fixed-line desk phones and a full unified communications solution. Workers may be using a range of consumer applications to collaborate, chat, video call and share content. Often, they’ll access these apps using their own personal devices. The ‘bring your own device’ or BYOD policy can present a range of network and data security challenges.

Common BYOD dangers range from damaging data breaches to malware on the device finding its way onto the corporate network. A major headache for large IT teams. Potentially catastrophic for an SME owner without in-house IT. Another reason to embrace unified communications software. Many solutions offer built-in audio and media encryption for messaging, calling, screen and file sharing, so workers can use their own devices safely.

Failure to Interoperate
Having all your apps and communication tools operate smoothly across different devices and platforms is the essence of team collaboration. But SMEs are often faced with the exact opposite: IT communication that should be straight-forward but isn’t; problems accessing and sharing network files when working remotely; using apps that aren’t supported across all devices and platforms. The results are inefficient working and lost time.

By moving to a multi-vendor unified collaboration service, business owners can break down the barriers to deliver seamless, intuitive communications across their teams.

Unified Communications and Collaboration tools
Unified Communications and Collaboration tools have been around for some time, and many businesses are switching to softphones as a first pass. Softphones are the software version of a desk phone in the form of an app you install on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Powered with VoIP technology that uses the internet, a softphone can cut down on communication costs considerably and offer additional capabilities beyond a traditional IP phone.

Industry-leading softphones offer some neat productivity-enhancing features such as instant messaging, video conferencing and screen and document sharing. Some unified communications solutions can overlay existing call services, allowing business owners to streamline communications without the cost and complexity of scrapping their existing call server.

With security built-in and the ability to buy solutions packaged-up as a service that lays ‘over the top’ of your existing PBX infrastructure, achieving workplace collaboration is cheaper and simpler than you might think.