The Future of Work – How To Transform Communications in the Digital Age
Daniel Yin, Director of Product and Innovation EMEA at RingCentral, led a workshop at the Inspired CIO Conference in Dublin to discuss communication in the digital age and how it must adapt to keep up with modern ways of working.
RingCentral is the world’s biggest and fastest-growing UCaaS provider. “We build cloud communications solutions,” Daniel explains. “That’s everything from telephony and PBXs, through to video conferencing, audio conferencing, collaboration platforms, digital engagement and contact centres. We pull all of those functions into a single platform for businesses.”
Daniel begins his workshop with a photograph of workers from around 50 years ago: “These guys are analogue, they’re doing all the work on pen and paper, they’re all in one room, they’re wearing suits and brogues. That’s really different to how pretty much all modern businesses communicate and work today.”
He compares this image of the past with today’s modern workforce. “I wear jeans pretty much every day when I work,” Daniel says. “People work from lots of different locations; you don’t live in just one office. You probably work from home a reasonable amount as well. The types of media you work across are vastly more numerous than they used to be – it’s not just pen and paper, you’ve got computers, you’ve got video screen share – it’s an extremely different working environment.”
As digital transformation has changed the way we communicate, RingCentral has identified four pillars of communication where the most significant changes have been seen.
“One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen in the workforce is in home working and flexible working,” Daniel says of the first pillar, Mobile. “Especially in the public sector where there’s a drive on cutting down office space and number of seats. With hot-desking, a part of the workforce is going to be remote – it’s going to be working from home or just in separate offices. When you’re physically spread out like that, you need a communication solution that enables those modes of working.”
The second pillar is Global, with an increasing number of businesses making global outreach and multiple offices part of their core strategy. “Whether that means expanding into new markets or whether it means outsourcing things like development resource or contact centre agents, global has become a big part of many companies’ strategies and that in itself brings a lot of communication challenges,” Daniel adds.
The third pillar, Multimodal, focuses on how people now own a myriad of devices. “Maybe you’ve got a personal Mac or PC at home, you’ve got a work computer, you’ve almost certainly got a personal smartphone,” Daniel says. “Some of you might even be running a second smartphone – a work device. You might log on from a console. You’ve already got up to five or more separate devices that you want to access your tools and potentially your business communications from.”
The final pillar is Always-On and Social. “One of the big changes we’ve seen in people’s attitudes to communications is that they expect people to always be available,” Daniel explains. “You’ve always got a personal mobile, you’ve always got a routable number that you can be reached on, and what businesses need is a way of managing that constant stream of communication. We find this goes hand-in-hand with social platforms.”
Daniel discusses some of the most interesting ways that consumer and social technologies play a part in business communications. “A lot of these platforms are extremely rich and powerful communication platforms in their own right,” he says, discussing features within apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp that include group conversations, file sharing, persistent history and location sharing.
While this is “really useful, really powerful technology”, Daniel states that businesses have not caught up with the same adoption of these features. He highlights a time that he worked with an FTSE 100 company that was unable to receive a file over 10 megabytes. “That state of affairs for a massive public company is pretty unreasonable, in my view,” Daniel says.
Social platforms are also making a big impact on businesses through publicity. “The classic example is a bad review on Twitter,” Daniel explains. “Somebody with a lot of followers gets a lot of public engagement and that can be extremely damaging, or conversely, extremely positive for businesses.”
Daniel recalls the time that Kylie Jenner posted on Twitter that she didn’t like the new Snapchat interface. Her tweet, along with the accompanying press coverage, had an extremely negative impact on Snapchat, losing them a billion dollars in market cap in just 24 hours. “That’s more than most of us will earn in a hundred lifetimes,” Daniel says. “I wanted to put in your heads the impact that social presence, and our ability to handle social media, can have on our day-to-day in operational business.”
Daniel’s third observation on social apps relates to the number of different platforms: “There’s a lot of them, and there’s a lot of crossover in functionality. Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp have extremely similar use cases and more or less the same set of features.” This creates a problematic scenario in business communication, as workers often need to switch between multiple apps. “It’s a massive chore to manage different apps in multiple different conversation streams,” Daniel adds.
RingCentral identified a significant challenge in switching applications and the effect this has on the productivity of knowledge workers. “No doubt that switching between apps costs you time, but over the course of a year that adds up to something like 32 days of work time,” Daniel says. “That’s a staggering statistic to me.”
Similar statistics were also found with productivity-based workers in contact centres: “A huge number of agents find that switching back and forth between apps to get the right information to talk to customers resulted in an hour a day of productivity loss.” With contact centre workers generally being more time-bound, this can have a significant business impact.
RingCentral believes that organisations should focus on improving communication for both their employees and their customers. “The people working for you and within your business – making them happier, improving their experience, saving them time and increasing their productivity,” Daniel says. “There’s a very similar argument for your customers: the people you talk to, the people you communicate with. The more that their experience improves, the happier they are because of the way you communicate with them, the better the outcome for your business.”
Daniel adds that employees need a collaboration tool to help them work more effectively in flexible working practices: “You need communication systems that enable those flexible working hours – giving them the tools to work remotely, to be able to talk to anyone, video call anyone, share files remotely. That makes them happier and leads to lower churn of your base.” He also highlights the productivity boosts gained through a better experience with integrated tools.
“We see the world looking a lot better if businesses are just using one communication tool,” Daniel says. “I believe that RingCentral is probably the best tool out there, but as a general takeaway, fewer communication systems are better for your company.”
Daniel highlights the key collaborative communications identified by RingCentral. “Cloud PBX and telephony is still what we see as core to internal company communications,” he says. “It’s quite hard to escape telephony as a pure business need. But then we see team messaging and collaboration, asynchronous messaging between individuals as well as teams, as well as content associated with that – file share and link sharing, and also some very powerful real-time tools – video and screen share and real-time content share.” On the customer engagement side, RingCentral sees two use cases: contact centres (both inbound and outbound) and campaigning.
RingCentral aims to empower the workforce by putting the tools in their hands. “Not only cleaning up that experience but stopping the barrier to entry from using a communications product,” Daniel says. The solution should be simple to use, and able to fully integrate into the business environment.
“We aim to deliver just one interface for all your users, so you’ve got all your communications in a single stream,” Daniel explains. “Not just your chats and messages, but also telephony powered from that same interface. You can uplift that to a phone call and then to a video call.”
For communication with customers, RingCentral Engage facilitates digital engagement with all social media platforms using the same interface. “No matter whether you’re talking to someone and they’re reaching out via Twitter, via LinkedIn, via WhatsApp for business – you can consume that via a single pane of glass and respond by a single pane of glass,” Daniel adds. “We all need a single view of our customers across all different social media platforms.”
Daniel finishes the workshop with two examples of companies that have made significant transformations by taking RingCentral as their only communications platform
Box is a multinational business cloud storage company that grew very quickly, resulting in its employees using more than 20 different communications platforms. “That ended up being extremely expensive to manage as a business, having many different contracts, but also quite a poor experience for employees wanting to speak to each other,” Daniel says. RingCentral unified the experience for Box users and ensured significant cost savings to the business.
The second example is a major UK retailer with more than 40,000 retail workers in its stores. Before RingCentral, employees used physical phones that were tied to different retail desks. “This was a real problem for the ordinary retail workers communicating with each other,” Daniel says. “They’d have to go to these phones, which took them off the floor, and it was also very hard to get messages directly to them.”
The retail workers were already using Android devices for stock checking and other tools, which meant that all of the old phones could be replaced with RingCentral apps on Android devices. “That not only brought communications to every individual worker within their business, it also gave them a lot more than just voice,” Daniel explains. “One of the key things they found is that asynchronous communications via messaging and chat actually adds a lot of value. You can send someone a message and tell them that they’ve got a task for later, without having to interact with them in real time.” Using a single communications platform has enabled different modes of working for the employees.
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