There is no question that laptops, tablets and smartphones have moved from personal communication devices to necessary business tools. The flexibility to be as productive on the move as in the office is too enticing to ignore. Today’s business person not only wants, but needs immediate access to the necessary information and tools to make decisions whether at a customer location, in the boardroom or at home.
This push to effectively access and utilize data on the go has led to a myriad of cobbled-together technology solutions that vary widely depending on a user’s location. The inability to directly receive office calls when working from home, varying ability to utilize web cams and access large files and need to map and remap network drives are a few of the issues that make the transition from in-office to remote less than seamless. There is clearly a difference between an end user accessing information remotely, and having the ability to be truly productive no matter where they are located.
The question is, how do we help our staff to become as effective out of the office as they are in it? One way is through making the two experiences as similar as possible. If we can achieve that, the ritual of setting up a new process in each environment disappears and business can “just happen”.
What is the cost to change?
As part of our own efforts, we are implementing a unified communication solution to pull together all aspects of office voice communications. The tool we have chosen for this is Microsoft Lync. By replacing the current telephones with headsets attached to laptops and desktops, Lync will allow all of our staff to answer phone calls from the devices they have with them at all times. Isn’t this a waste of money? This is the question that many will ask, as the soon-to-be-replaced IP telephones were acquired shortly before we moved into our new head office only 3 years ago. I don’t believe it is. End user frustration, help desk phone calls and productivity downtime associated with technology challenges have all risen exponentially as more and more staff take advantage of the freedom to work from outside the office. Once rolled out, every end user will answer office calls in the same way at home as they do at the office.
However, when it comes to introducing new technology into our user community, we generally find that rolling out the technology itself is the easy part. It is changing people’s perceptions and habits that often presents the biggest challenges.
In this case, having staff switch to Lync means moving from a traditional telephone on their desk to a headset plugged into their desktop or laptop computers. The cultural shift for the many that swear by the telephones on their desks is one that I am quite concerned about bridging.
To understand the potential impact on our staff and how best to manage the deployment, we’re conducting a 25-user pilot test. The pilot will target staff members who aren’t typically big mobile users, such as those in administration and finance, plus some used to smartphones, such as those in sales. I believe that providing a consistent work experience for our staff will pay dividends for everyone involved and give us a much happier and productive work force. I don’t expect it to be painless, but I do look forward to the end result.