The workplace of the future? It’s in the cloud

The workplace of the future? It’s in the cloud

Author: Divya Wakankar, Head of Cloud Communications Product Management & Innovation at BICS

How many times have you picked up a landline phone to communicate with a customer, client or colleague today? My guess is that most people would be able to count the number of times on one hand. The workplace in changing, and that means the way that we communicate at work is changing too.

Yes, a wired desktop phone is still important, but quickly overtaking these are integrated, collaborative means of communication. How can businesses embrace this change, enhance their comms capabilities and grow their business? They must look to cloud. More specifically, they must look to cloud numbers, IP-PBX, and experienced providers who can manage this ecosystem.

Fifty percent of the workforces in both the UK (according to the Office for National Statistics) and the US (as reported by Upwork and Freelancers Union) are predicted to work remotely by next year. If they’ve not done so already, businesses should assess their communications capabilities now, to ensure infrastructure is capable of supporting both employees working remotely, and their customers – wherever they happen to be based.

The workplace then

Staying in touch with colleagues used to mean making a one-to-one phone call on a traditional landline. Opening a new office in a new region, or providing equipment for employees working from home, required installation and maintenance and (if the office or employee was based in another country), and establishing relationships with regional providers.

Being analogue, the number and quality of new call features that could be introduced was severely limited. If a business wanted a local presence in a new market, it would have to apply to the relevant authority to gain new regional phone numbers. It would also have to ensure that any and all communications services it introduced complied with the regulations stipulated by the country they were hoping to expand into.

The workplace now

To solve these challenges, many businesses have now moved away from the physical PBX and landline-only approach. This is being replaced by virtual cloud-based PBX systems or unified communications solutions as a managed cloud service. Employees are assigned virtual local (also known as geographical) phone numbers. These numbers provide the same functionalities as any local landline in the country; receiving calls, making domestic or international calls, with the ability to call emergency services, and listings in local directory services.

Cloud is the perfect home for next generation collaboration tools. A unified communications and collaboration tool provides cloud telephony capabilities via an IP-PBX with cloud-based local fixed numbers. It also provides inter-site, intra-enterprise multimedia communications. These feature-rich comms solutions include voice, web and video conferencing, instant messaging/chat, social media and even virtual reality.

As with the workplace ‘then’, an integral aspect of the workplace ‘now’ is guaranteeing that the introduction and management of any cloud-based communications services complies with regional regulations. Today, companies face the additional challenge of adhering to GDPR and guaranteeing data privacy for the end-user. This is particularly important with cloud-based communications services, which can encompass social media and multiple third-party applications.

Of course, in order to safely and securely manage end-user data, organisations must first ensure that their communications channels are highly secure. This must involve end-to-end dedicated IPX connectivity, or encryption via TLS (Transport Layer System).

The workplace of today has moved a long way from office workers being tied to their desktop landline. Workforces are remote and dispersed, customer bases are global, and employees prefer BYOD to stay in touch and collaborate. To meet with these changing requirements, many organisations are going ‘mobile-first’, providing employees with an additional business line on their mobile device. Cloud based mobile numbers are used to create the additional business line for employees. This can be done by binding a cloud based mobile number to an employee’s identity in the mobile network. This gives an employee immense flexibility to work from any location.

Cloud telephony is an integral part of unified comms, and Global SIP Trunking (which supports inbound and outbound VoIP calls, messaging and videos, and supporting services like emergency calling, lawful interception and directory listing) is now making it easier to enable such services at multiple sites. This is allowing organisations to grow their business and footprint, and scale their workforce to multiple locations, without having to worry about complicated communications enablement for employees.

The workplace tomorrow?

What will the workplace of the future look like? Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball and am not blessed with psychic abilities. However, I do know that physical assets, hardware and on-premise equipment will be replaced by cloud and the virtual – in multiple senses.

A business with hundreds of regional, physical offices will be a rarity. Workforces will comprise independent, geographically dispersed employees using cloud-based solutions to communicate and collaborate. Physical meetings (with the travel costs and environmental impacts these cause) will be further reduced in number, and instead employees will connect virtually. Collaboration via screen sharing and desktop- or mobile-based applications will gradually be replaced by virtual whiteboards which can be viewed by ‘meeting’ participants globally, with additions, edits and ideas exchanged in real time.

These solutions won’t only be available to the leading players and major corporations. Being cloud-based allows SMEs, start-ups, and self-employed individuals to try before they buy, pay-as-they-go, and scale communications up and down. In fact, these same benefits are available to those businesses which have adopted the cloud-based communications solutions available on the market today.

One thing will remain constant, however: regulatory compliance and security. Many companies do not – and will not – have the expertise and relationships needed to effectively manage these things. As such, we’ll see an even greater number of enterprises relying on communications service providers to navigate complex regulatory environments and guarantee the most robust security for their cloud-based services.

Many aspects of the workplace of the future are evident in the trends we’re seeing today. Moving communications to the cloud and adopting cloud-based numbers will help businesses of all sizes through this digital transformation, and prepare them for whatever futuristic working habits we might see in the coming years. It’s not all about change, though: the need for rich, reliable communication will long prevail!


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