By Martin Lucas, Head of Strategy and Sales, RingCentral UK

The working environment has changed drastically in the last few years. Workforces have become dispersed across multiple locations, and RingCentral research found that we are now much more open to working in locations other than the office, with 93% of us working from home for part of the week and 76% working while travelling. Furthermore, people’s home and work lives have merged, and a standard ‘9 to 5’ working day has become a thing of the past as a result of flexible working styles and rising customer expectations.

Despite such technological advances over the last few years, many SMEs are still contending with age-old technology issues in 2014, according to new research by RingCentral. The study, which surveyed over 1,000 senior decision makers in British SMEs, found that nearly two-thirds are frustrated with unanswered phone calls which may result in missing potentially important calls (63%). Furthermore, over half are irritated by long voicemail messages (56%) or calls being lost through the receptionist or through internal transfers (55%). More than two-fifths (44%) get annoyed when having difficulty accessing their voicemail messages, due to password or system issues.

But we believe that 2015 is the year to make these business headaches history through embracing cloud solutions.

Managing the workforce through the cloud

Many forward-thinking businesses across a variety of different sectors are already using cloud communications technology to enable them to keep employees in multiple locations connected to customers and each other within the same phone system. With a traditional on premise phone system it’s not possible to tie together multiple locations and it takes weeks, not minutes, to scale when you add a new branch.

For example, medical and health services provider, Optimum Healthcare Solutions Group uses cloud based communications to help it better manage and connect its dispersed workforce. Information-sharing across all clinics is vital, especially in the healthcare industry, where communicating a customer’s medical history is necessary if they visit physicians in a number of different clinics.

Productivity at its best

Cloud technology can also integrate with mobile devices that employees bring into the workplace. This means that if a business owner is out of the office they won’t have to worry about missing out on potential business as they can still make and receive work calls using their main business number on their mobile device. This means that businesses with employees regularly out on the field, such as estate agents, contract workers etc., can remotely call customers on their way to a service call using the company’s business number on their personal mobile device without revealing their personal mobile identity.

Estate agent franchise, Martin & Co (Rotherham and Chesterfield), has adopted cloud technology to give employees the freedom to use their own device, while ensuring they are also able to route calls and send important documentation to clients or back to the office on the fly. This means they are always 100% productive, no matter where they choose to work from. The company also wants to ensure it’s not just a faceless name at the end of a telephone and is exploring new ways of communicating with its clients, such as cloud-based HD video conferencing. This technology will be perfect for clients who can’t come into the office often, or to communicate with tenants and assess which contractors to send out if they are experiencing any urgent issues in their rented properties.

Lower costs through the cloud

Unlike a traditional PBX, cloud technology is much more affordable than on premise technology and doesn’t require investment in hardware and installation. In fact, businesses using cloud-based communications technology generally save 50-60% in the first year compared to on premise technology. It’s hard to ignore the benefits of cloud technology – when businesses consider the vast benefits of technology in the cloud – flexibility, scalability, affordability – and the fact that they can eliminate the annoying age-old problems that come with on premise technology, SMEs in particular, must consider converting to cloud in the New Year. If there’s one resolution to make for 2015, it’s the adoption of cloud technology – all the rest – increased productivity, customer satisfaction, lower overheads etc. – will follow.