Five Requirements for Supporting a Connected Workforce
It used to be that enterprises dictated how workers spent their day: stuck in a cubicle, tied to an enterprise-mandated computer, an enterprise-mandated desk phone with mysterious buttons, and perhaps an enterprise-mandated mobile phone if they traveled. All that is history. Today, a modern workforce is dictating how they want to work, and even where they want to work — a onetime executive luxury that is increasingly available across the ranks. Today’s workers are constantly on the move, accessing information, creating work product, and trying to connect with coworkers, customers, prospects and partners they may never meet, using the personal device they prefer at the time.
This work-from-anywhere movement is making organizations more connected and productive, and business conversations are now happening across apps, email, multiple phone numbers, texts, messages and back again… Speed and agility are essential, which is why employees are revolting against the antiquated communication tools the enterprise provides for them, and are instead adopting cloud-solutions that fit their individual roles and needs — anything to get the job done faster and with better collaboration. Unfortunately, this is completely inconsistent with IT’s desire for governance, creating the Great Enterprise Disconnect.
To overcome this disconnect and provide the speed and agility workers want, the governance IT requires, and the insight the C-Suite needs to improve worker engagement and collaboration, here are the five things you should start doing today.
1. Make “Work from Anywhere” the starting point
Taking a work-from-anywhere approach creates the strategic pillars for supporting what most companies already have, whether they’ve given it a name or not: a virtual workforce. Last year’s PGI survey of knowledge workers revealed that 79 percent of all respondents were able to telecommute at least one day a week, 60 percent of the teleworking respondents would resign their current positions for a similar job with similar pay if they could work from home fulltime, and 55 percent of non-teleworking respondents wished they had the ability to telecommute. Remote workers have even been found to be happier workers.
Besides supporting current mobile workers, a work-from-anywhere strategy allows you to grow your teams using the best possible talent, no matter where in the world they live. Today’s habitual remote workers are also often self-starters with an entrepreneurial bent, so you can effectively expand your “gene pool” with these workers.
2. Make every strategy a cloud strategy
All employees, including remote workers and teams at remote offices, need the tools to collaborate effectively. Server-based productivity suites don’t scale well globally or satisfy the needs of mobile and remote workers, which is why employees who find their companies unwilling to move to the cloud are taking matters into their own hands.
Once companies decide to embrace the cloud, they must work through three phases of adoption. During the first phase, Dipping a Toe in the Water, companies have implemented a couple of operational applications, such as Salesforce and Workday, and begin allowing employees to collaborate using sites such as Box or Dropbox. During the next phase, Wading in the Shallow End, companies (including some of the largest companies in the world, like HP Enterprise) adopt a handful of cloud-based productivity tools, such as Google Apps for Work or Microsoft Office 365, as standard tools for all workers, enabling increased collaboration. While this is a huge step forward, business conversations around these productivity tools actually take place across messaging and voice, so during the third phase, Diving into the Deep End, companies look to standardize on cloud applications across the entire enterprise and create end-to-end business processes across them, from operational applications to productivity apps, to voice, conferencing, video and messaging. In this phase, workers start loving IT again because they feel more connected with each other and the company. This is the approach today’s most innovative companies are taking, and to compete effectively, you need to reach this third phase as quickly as possible.
3. Deploy a modern cloud-based communications system
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The business desk phone is dead, or at least nearly so, even at many of the world’s biggest companies. Like the payphone and home phone, the desk phone is beginning to fill recycling bins. Modern workers are also resisting enterprise-mandated smartphones, and for a good reason: why would they want yet another device to split their lives across? But just implementing a bring-your-own device strategy is insufficient. Today’s workers want and need their favorite devices to be a true extension of the workplace. Business conversations — personal ones too — now move back and forth from voice to chat, to conferencing, to video, to text, to apps. This is how your communications platform should work, too, from wrist to smartphone, to tablet, to laptop, to conference room — maybe eventually to your autonomous car and even virtual reality. This would allow all workers to communicate using the devices that they and those they communicate with prefer at the time, dramatically increasing engagement and productivity. This is how we will maintain our relationships, how we will innovate, and how we will grow.
The only way to achieve this is by putting the actual business conversation into the cloud so it exists independent of any device. For example, if an employee starts a conversation at a desk using a laptop and suddenly needs to move to a conference room or leave the building, the call can be easily transferred to a smartphone or tablet.
The established telecom vendors have finally gotten the message, and they have all recently pivoted to saying they will be offering a flexible, agile cloud-based platform that lets employees work with tools that are familiar to them. This sounds great, but companies that want to compete need these solutions now. Fortunately, fully functional, pure-cloud platforms already exist, so companies don’t need to wait for the underachievers that focus on margins, not workers, to play catch-up.
4. Manage the change within your organization
As noted above, the move to the cloud can be haphazard, piecemeal, or all-in. The more aggressive the move, the more coordinated the organization needs to be. The key is bringing together all the stakeholders — business users, IT, marketing and sales, compliance, security, etc. — to get everyone on the same page to understand what is desired, what is actually available, and what the pace of change should be.
When Greg Meyers joined Motorola Solutions as CIO, he found the 90-year-old company saddled with every generation of phone system, yet 50 percent of all employees in the company’s Chicago headquarters used their desk phones only 10 times or fewer each month. Including fixed costs per line, long distance charges, Centrex charges, telephone closet space, and technical costs, the company was wasting a fortune. Meyers opted to deploy a cloud-based solution for all 22,000 employees and contractors. During an interview at this year’s Enterprise Connect conference, Meyers said you need to have a set of principles about what kind of culture and environment you really want to build. You have to think about how your employees need to work — where they will be and what they will do most. He also said that it’s not necessarily just about a particular vendor or technology, but about having a very clear philosophy about what you want to change relative to the enterprise technologies you currently have.
5. Link voice to productivity
The separation between productivity tools and voice is as old as computing, and for all the evolution in IT, the telephone closet continues to force employees to work with two distinct toolsets. But with business conversations today always occurring across voice, conferencing, messaging, even video, you need to make sure that voice is now a seamless part of every employee’s workflow, whether it’s to close a sale, build the next big product, or take service to the next level. Fully Integrating voice into your end-to-end, cloud-driven business workflows is really the Holy Grail of the connected workforce. By doing so, we can connect with anyone, anywhere — business or personal — using their single “phone” number. It is this number that will connect us all.
The Great Enterprise Disconnect is not a state your organization can tolerate. Competitors all around the world are moving to leverage the cloud and a modern communications system to ensure their workers are highly productive and fully engaged with their colleagues, customers and partners. Are you ready to compete with them?
By Craig Walker