Modern technology allows for greater mobility and collaboration in businesses, but how do smaller operators take advantage of it?
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) all over the counties of Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire are seeking cost-effective mobile solutions that allow them the same sort of collaborative working practices that the big corporations have. Indeed, the challenges that employers face in providing a good work-life balance for their staff are very similar whether the organisation is small, medium-sized or international in its scope. High-quality employees can be harder to attract and retain for SMEs, so offering them a way of juggling both family and work life is important for future success.
Thankfully, the sort of unified telecommunications systems around today help business owners to achieve greater mobility, adaptability and flexibility so they can compete with the bigger corporates. How do modern communication technologies enable the sort of collaborative team working in SMEs that multinationals are able to utilise?
The Globalised Economy
Owners of SMEs may not consider themselves a part of the global economy, especially if they serve local customers only. Nevertheless, all sorts of products and services that an SME might buy in to deliver to its clients can come from overseas. Even if you buy a service from a supplier based in the UK, the chances are that part of that service is sub-contracted to a homeworker producing their work in another country.
If your business designs and fits kitchens for local clientele, for example, then the modular units might come from Scandinavia, the plumbing fittings from India and the light fittings from China. If you provide a 3-D visualisation for your customers, then the software could have been developed in the US and the service to render it might be outsourced to animators in New Zealand. The point is that even small, relatively traditional SMEs in the UK provide goods and services that rely on a global economy today.
Given the time differences between all these suppliers and sub-contractors, the oil that keeps the world's commercial operations turning is communications, both data and voice. Need one-off products or a bespoke design from a supplier? The chances are that you'll need to be able to communicate effectively across multiple time zones these days, no matter how big or small your enterprise happens to be.
The Mobile Economy
Many SMEs need to be mobile these days or they won't be able to meet the needs of their clients. Fewer businesses now operate with all employees stationed in a central headquarters. Many have homeworkers or members of staff who work on site with clients. It used to take millions to start an average enterprise in the past and just a few thousand today. Why? People work in small units, sometimes on their own, functioning from home with few overheads other than a computer terminal.
Computerisation of many job functions has gone hand-in-hand with increased globalisation. It is why Research and Development departments in many organisations now sit around the world so work can be continuous over a 24-hour period. So long as the communications systems are in place to hand work over from one team to the next, the speed at which new developments can come about is vastly increased.
For SMEs in the UK, offering greater mobility to workers allows them to manage their work and home life better. It reduces congestion on the roads and trains, thereby increasing efficiency with fewer lost hours spent travelling, but going nowhere. True business mobility relies on communication systems that go far beyond a mobile phone, however. To meet customers' needs voice calls, instant messaging, web access, email and even video conferencing services all need to be fully mobile. Crucially, they also need to be integrated so that users can find one another on a single system without trying multiple services until they find one that works. This sort of integrated telecommunications and data communications platform is called unified telephony.
The Collaborative Economy
Being able to work from home, in the field or even from a shared office space that other companies use as a base means being able to share information. As we have seen, unified telephony – which provides a plethora of services via a single system – is the key to connecting people with one another just as if they were in the same room.
These days, collaboration in business means more than sharing information, reports, records and designs with colleagues. The globalised economy will often demand that your employees share their ideas with sub-contractors or clients on the other side of the world. True team working means being able to pitch ideas, garner responses and settle upon agreed action plans in real time and only unified telephony can provide this at the speed necessary to keep up with forward-thinking competitors.
Services like Avaya's Equinox provide the unified communications tools that larger corporations have been using for the last few years. However, these fast-moving business tools are not simply for the big business operators in London, New York, Frankfurt and Singapore. They are suited to deployment in the UK's SMEs, too, so long as the correct advice is given by telecommunications experts.