The last two decades have really changed the landscape of the modern working environment. The emphasis on physical space has shifted to more mobile and remote working conditions. Companies and organizations have to make adjustments on their work conditions to stay competitive in a business environment that is increasingly going virtual. As a result, more and more workers are working remotely or from their own homes, according to a study by Frost and Sullivan in 2011. With the trend of outsourcing continuing, you have to consider the workers who are not even in the US.
While there are obvious advantages to having remote staff, such as savings in office space and even payroll saving for outsourcing certain business processes, companies still have to address the problem of coordination and collaboration.
Fortunately, the Internet is there to provide the solution. Here are some technology innovations that made it easier for a remote workforce to work together:
1. Cloud collaboration tools
They were dubbed the email killers. While that may be a bit of an exaggeration and you can bet that email will still be the most important communication tool for the next decade, these online collaboration tools offer an alternative communications platform that can make online collaboration much more efficient. You see, email might be good for a small team that only deals with short-term communications. One or two questions, and a few replies here and there. However, increase the number of participants and involve a bigger project and some email replies just get lost.
Most of these cloud-collaboration tools also act as project management tools that let you keep track of the progress and notify everybody about the milestones or goals achieved. Some of these tools let you assign tasks, create tickets, and create goals. But what is important is that it gives you and your team a platform where everyone is on the same page.
2. Cloud video conferencing
Just a few years ago, video conferencing was as much a pain in the rear as coordinating live meetings. That is because it required specialized equipment that was expensive. As a result, people had to converge on a single conference room on one video conferencing enabled device just to talk to one person who is in another continent.
Fortunately, the latest innovations in video conferencing have changed all that. Now with cloud-hosted video conferencing tools, each participant can now join the conference from anywhere using their own personal computer or even their smartphones and tablets. As long as their device has a camera and an Internet connection, they can take part in the meeting. Aside from being more accessible, modern video conferences also makes it easier to collaborate through simple tools like screen sharing.
The best part is that your ROI is quick with these tools. After all, it’s much cheaper to ask employees to login to a Blue Jeans Network Video Collaboration tool than to buy them Delta Air tickets just to meet them in person.
3. Cloud file storage and sharing apps
Instead of attaching those giant files to emails, just share it through cloud storage and sharing apps instead. Apps like Box and Dropbox let you and your employees share and access files over the Internet, which makes it easier for you to collaborate online.
Other cloud file sharing apps like Google Docs and Spreadsheets even let you edit the same document at the same time. Removing the need of passing along files for individual edits and changes; with this tool, everyone will literally be on the same page.
Many companies now have their own cloud storage systems as well. These systems work similarly to Drop Box, but have the potential to be run on a much larger scale. Information is stored remotely and can only be accessed by those with a password. Cloud systems provide everyone with access to the files that they require, making collaboration easy. The great thing about these cloud storage systems is that they are scalable, so the company only pays for the storage space that it uses. Organizations also use cloud storage for disaster recovery, should something happen to the files that are stored locally.
4. Cloud PBX systems
In the past, companies had to install a PBX box and servers to get the service. It is both expensive to install and to maintain, and it was very limited up to where their telephone cables can reach. Fortunately, there are now cloud-hosted PBX phone systems that do not require any hardware. Like the cloud video conferencing tools, all it needs is a stable Internet connection.
The system allows you to assign phone numbers and extensions to your department or certain individuals, which they can access from their own iPhone or Android devices. Because it is accessed through the Internet, they do not need to be at the office to be in touch with the rest of the team and there is no more need to buy new desk IP phones for each employee. Heck, you can even introduce a BYOD (Bring your own device) campaign, which is all the rage in modern companies right now.
So while the business community is moving towards a more mobile, virtual, and even global environment, technology has come through to provide solutions to the possible communications and collaboration problems that may arise.