How can UC management support the virtual workforce?
How can UC management support the virtual workforce?
Hanco Janse Van Rensburg, CTO, VOSS
What benefit does UC management offer the virtual workforce? To answer this, we first need to look at the factors that are driving organizations to offer flexible working conditions, as well as the people that make up the modern-day enterprise workforce.
A competitive enterprise may be attracted to the concept of a virtual workforce because communication tools have improved so dramatically in recent times that collaboration across any number of worldwide locations is now so easy. It really doesn't matter whether we are home or office based; communication is more instant and seamless than it has ever been. Couple this with an increasing number of productivity tools and UC applications that are readily available to the workforce at a cost that has no bearing on location, and the benefits start stacking up. Add to this, the fact that a virtual workforce actually reduces infrastructure cost. Not to mention the research that proves that flexible working practices lead to a much happier and productive workforce.
As a result, there is a huge trend towards employee virtualization. And this trend has sparked a mini revolution. The issue is this: Employees themselves are increasingly tech-savvy. With the consumerization of IT pervading all areas of our personal lives (from ordering a plane ticket online to booking cinema tickets) we now have very high expectations from our technology. We want to book those tickets now; we want the process to be easy and the method to be resilient and secure. It's not too much to ask is it?
And so we bring these attitudes to work. We are an increasingly mobile, decentralized and virtual workforce. In return, we expect our IT departments to empower us to manage our 3 phone lines, our multiple voicemail accounts, our web conferencing and other UC apps quickly, easily, and flexibly….just like we manage the technology in our personal lives.
On the other side of the fence is the poor IT team - caught up in a very new problem. How to securely and effectively enable employee virtualization, while retaining the security and integrity of the UC environment? UC management may have the answers that they are looking for:
How does the IT team ensure it doesn't lose strategic control?
At VOSS we have a mantra: Centralize complexity - Distribute simplicity. This mantra is especially relevant to this particular issue. UC is complex, and increasingly so. VOSS UC management gives the IT team a centralized view of the entire UC architecture, allowing the team to retain overall strategic control and manage the complexity of the entire environment from a single pane of glass. Then, through unlimited levels of devolved administration and end user self-service, the IT team can offer virtualized team members access to self-service portals, essentially "distributing the simplicity" that we have all come to expect.
How can the productivity levels of virtualized staff be boosted with better UC management?
With UC, true productivity gains come from high adoption rates and adoption rates are shown to be higher when services are able to be customized to the individual user or groups of users. VOSS has the industry's leading service management capability and business portals for end-users that have far richer capabilities in terms of customization than any other management platform.
What services can be made available to the virtualized workforce, and how can administrators see what's in use in remote locations or home offices?
An important point to consider is that every single employee will not need access to every UC application and service, all the time.
Rather than giving every employee the same services, with a common set of "dumbed-down" features and settings, organizations should aim to adopt the rich service management capability of VOSS … and end user adoption rates will rise and enterprise productivity from UC will follow.
For example, an employee's access to UC apps will vary depending on the project they are working on at that time, or the location that they are based in. Therefore, a huge amount of operational expenditure can be saved by proactively managing licenses to ensure that staff are only subscribing to services that they require and use regularly. Empowering employees to self-serve is a step towards this goal; giving regional managers (and their managers) varying levels of access and approval rights will take this further. With infinite levels of decentralized administration, the entire workforce can self-serve, in real-time, immediately improving productivity, and employee satisfaction, while making unprecedented cost savings.
Undoubtedly, the employee's virtual office should function as an extension of the enterprise office environment. How can UC management help these to seamlessly interoperate?
Employees increasingly have a mix of the following:
- Desk phone (it's not going away any time soon)
- Extension mobility profile (to log into a hot desk when visiting a branch site)
- Soft phone on a laptop (to out of a hotel room or airport lounge)
- Smart client on a smart phone (to operate as you travel)
- Smart client on their note pad (to be “cool”)
- And in the future … a client on a pair of smart glasses (can't wait)
We want our UC features and services, anywhere, anytime, on any device; and with a similar ease of use. WE want the same experience across all our devices and we want business calls to be charged to the company, not to our personal cell phone bill. There are clear productivity gains from this (e.g. staff work longer hours for free).
But how do you deliver this when everyone has a different set of devices and applications? The answer is network technology. The concept of software defined networks (SDN) that is sweeping the networking industry can apply equally to UC. The intelligence to link devices to a user profile (that combines all your permissions and preferences), can then apply business logic and rules to automatically directs calls to and from your devices, over the most appropriate path.
A good example is advanced number translation. It doesn't matter what device you call from, the network can automatically detect and translate your presented number and convert it to your office number (or a URI, if the device you are calling can accept a URI). So those inflexible sales guys that Eric raised will never have their personal cell number presented to a business customer again, no matter what they do.
Another example is the bundling of cellular and wireline communications into a fixed price per month. One predictable, monthly, flat-rate price per user, no matter how many devices they have or which network they use will drive corporations down this cloud path, just as virtualization and SIP trunks have done.
Providers can implement advanced automatic dial plan management, spanning multiple networks (fixed, WiFi and cellular), that will drive call flows to optimize network utilization and hence the cost. Again, this can be achieved without impacting user behavior. Users still dial their number (or URI) but behind the scenes the network technology sends the call down the optimum path, lowering the costs.
The great news is that technology can support employee independence and choice, delivering true productivity gains from mobility, while still driving down corporate communication costs.
Talk to VOSS about employee virtualization!