05/08/2014

By Tim Stone, VP Marketing EMEA, Polycom


Digital evolution in the last ten years has had a huge impact on business functions and organisations’ operations. The role of technology is evolving rapidly, and it’s important that companies are utilising these technologies to ensure each department within the business is benefiting.

The IT department itself is undergoing a change of function. Its focus needs to be not only on the day-to-day “techie” issues employees report, but on the fundamental utilisation of technology across the entire enterprise. It is gradually becoming a department that enables and measures the productivity of the company and its staff. Technologies such as unified communications and Big Data analytics software, among others, ensure that the business has access to a huge amount of information about the performance of the organisation, its employees and its digital infrastructure. The board needs to recognise it is the job of the IT department, led by the CIO, to educate the different departments on the benefits this information could bring the business from HR to finance. It’s about getting the board on board.

HR

The rise of remote working has a massive impact on the enterprise, as governments tout the benefits of flexible working and millennial employees expect to work from anywhere. With events like the recent World Cup and the Common Wealth Games upon us, the pressures of technology for HR are increasing. Businesses have typically feared remote working due to a perceived loss of control over employees or devices. However this doesn’t have to be the case because if HR embraces the development of IT, it can increase the overall productivity of the organisation. Similarly IT needs to support HR and all the departments from finance to marketing, by evangelising the latest innovations. Organisations need to tailor these various technology innovations to their individual departments and business, which subsequently keeps everyone happy in every department, wherever they’re working from. There are plenty of resources to help you implement this.

From the basic level of recruitment, unified communications can be instrumental in helping HR attract and retain talent. Research shows that millennials entering the workforce want remote and flexible working. Technologies including unified communications infrastructures can help an organisation recruit from a global talent pool with online applications and interviews over video collaboration. And the same technology helps the board internally to connect and interact with their employees “face-to-face” through webcasts and group meetings, and facilitate collaboration over internal social networks.

Finance

For the finance department, digital infrastructures are a key way to ensure return on investment – and reduction in investment all together. Unified communications technologies can help reduce the need for investment in office essentials such as photocopiers, and even real estate and other physical infrastructure. In tandem, the productivity of remote workers improves as the need for commuting is removed, consequently helping the organisation achieve more at a lower cost.

Sales & Marketing

For sales and marketing, the development in unified communications allows businesses to manage relationships with customers and key stakeholders through multiple touch points. Do you prefer to interact over the phone? Email? Instant message? Or by video? With advances in technology, the marketing and sales teams can offer the customer these choices and accommodate them with the touch of a button. This has the power to transform customer relations.

It is imperative that any new technology that requires a change in the way people work needs to be prepared for. Although unified communications solutions are likely to mirror existing preferred working practices, such as remote working and multi-channel communication, the board needs to prepare employees for their new digital infrastructure, and be a unit of guidance through this transition and continuous evolution.

Teaching employees to use the new platform or infrastructure is one aspect, but make sure you also show employees how they can adapt to and use their new, more flexible collaboration environment in a way that suits them. Unless you show them that it can be as easy as sending a web link or using Facebook to log in to a conversation for example, employees may be reticent of embracing the changes.

Even the smallest companies can benefit from digital evolution. For smaller businesses there’s often the assumption that it’s too expensive to setup up unified communications, such as video conferencing, even though this can save thousands on rent, travel and all the overheads that come with an office. There are hosted services available, which work to an acceptable quality that are free – all you need is a strong local area network and broadband (which most of us have even in our homes now), and a device with a video camera of some sort. If you are working in a small office space and conferencing with colleagues in other regions or countries more frequently, you could start by investing in a table top solution and then move onto video once you’ve tested the waters, or as the company begins to grow. Ultimately it will only be as expensive as you would want it to be.

The world of business is becoming more mobile and its IT requirements more diverse and this is increasing the pressure on business leaders. As the consumer world begins to infringe on the business world and vice-versa, it’s key for the enterprise world to be adapting and implementing change to use this to the advantage of their businesses, whatever their size. Organisations need to realise the direct impact of the use of technology on the evolution of their business to be able to achieve their full potential.