Organisations need to look to the future of the way people work

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Organisations should start looking at the future of the way their workforces operate in light of both cultural and technological changes. The differing needs of employees both now and in the future means that organisations should carefully weigh up their technological needs now to ensure they lead the process rather than be led by workers.

We currently have a workforce made up of many generations, but we also have a rapid pace of technological change. In just a few years, someone who used to be well versed on the latest email platforms and online collaboration tools is faced with a plethora of social media channels and smartphone apps.

Such a diverse workforce is divided by different personalities and personal preferences, and different ways of working. For example, research shows that women value flexible working hours and locations, whilst men value choice over tools and technology.

Today’s younger workforce, which has grown up using the web and advanced personal computing devices, appears to be more open to new ways of working, and find the prospect of a ‘portfolio career’ appealing.

Looking ahead, there will be no ‘traditional’ way of working, as organisations look to appeal to a diverse workforce that wants to pick and choose its projects, hours, devices and location. But organisations could be making a mistake if they simply roll out technology to appeal to this diversity.

Technology should not define a business, but become the enabler for a business to define its culture, its spaces and the kind of organisation it wants to be.

Many organisations make the mistake of giving employees all the tools they need to work flexibly, but how these are used needs to come from the leadership table. What culture do you want to create? What behaviour do you want to incite? It’s important that direction is given on how employees use this technology.

The emphasis for flexible working is often facilitating this outside of the office environment, but many workers still value the traditional office space for social interaction, sharing ideas and meeting with different parts of the organisation.

The value of flexible working is its inherent ‘flexible’ nature: an organisation cannot promote the idea of flexible working and merely cover the provision of a desk and a chair for their employees’ spare room, they need to look at connectivity, collaboration, and real-time communication.

Over the next twenty years, those workers who knew little beyond the nine to five culture will move into retirement and younger people entering the workplace will have grown up having seen their parents work flexibly.

The experience gained in the education system will be critical in shifting our culture and equipping young people with the skills they need to work in less structured ways. But there is little evidence of the education system adapting in order to prepare students for new ways of working.

The younger generation still struggles with independent work, even at university level, and this could lead to serious productivity issues in the future if our workers lack the discipline to work effectively of their own accord.

It is essential at this early stage in the virtual workplace evolution that we identify the best methods to engender a positive, binding working culture, through self-management skills, promoting ‘leaders’ over ‘managers’ and providing tools – through technology – to supplement this.

Ultimately, balance will be key.

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Crucial communications questions for at-risk companies

Small-Business-CommunicationsWhat would happen if your telephone system failed and you did not have a plan in place to deal with it? Would your business still be able to operate? Would you be able to contact your customers or suppliers? What alternatives could you arrange and how long would it take?

Incidents in recent years have illustrated all too clearly the affect that natural disasters can have on a business. For example, localised flooding has affected thousands of businesses, some of which never recover.

Without timely communication – when, where, and how your customer wants to communicate – there is no customer relationship. Despite all the innovations in self-service over the past decade, the most important connection is often the voice a company can put on the other end of a telephone.

Yet many companies underestimate how fragile that link to the customer is, how many different ways that connection to the customer can be jeopardised – and how broad their options are for ensuring that they never lose touch with a customer.

We help companies with the level of preparedness they need to achieve consistent customer communications through the role of remote technology to ensure continuity and an effective long-term strategy.

A communications continuity strategy is essential for maintaining customer relationships, but upgrading communications systems that increase flexibility have some side benefits as well:

  • IP telephony system upgrades, which are a key solution to the continuity issue, have produced overall communications systems savings of between 25 and 60 per cent.
  • Companies that have changed their communications systems to be more prepared for business disruptions have seen an average savings of up to 85 per cent a year when IP telephony is involved.
  • New systems enable access to voice messages and faxes even if – in the event of a power failure or severe weather, for example – phone systems are down and the office is closed.

To understand continuity, you need to think through your customer’s eyes. They are not tethered to a specific phone or location when they call you. They can reach out from a home or office desk, a cell phone, WiFi hotspot, or a IP Telephony link.

They have little sympathy for an accidentally severed fibre-optic cable, or a road accident
causing a power disruption. All you know is that you are out of touch during crucial moments – moments when a customer wants to initiate a contact.

The effects of those service interruptions can ripple through your organisation with greater long-term effects than a major catastrophe.

When customers can research and switch suppliers and partners in a matter of minutes, during even a modest interruption, your company simply vanishes from the customer’s radar.

The cornerstone of any customer communication strategy is accessibility. Know how your customers will access your company during a disruption of services or locations. On the other hand companies are not structured properly to provide to give employees accessibility to their jobs.

If you are having a conversation with a customer and you are told to evacuate the building for a fire or a drill, the technology exists today to switch that call to your wireless handset, allowing you to walk right out of the building and keep talking, and it will be seamless to the customer.

Relationship continuity is subject to pressures great and small, old and new. Much of the high-profile effort put into relationship continuity planning revolves around high-profile threats – threats of terrorist attacks, pandemics, and devastating, wide-ranging natural disasters of flood, earthquake, and fire.

Although substantial, by their very nature these are not the threats most companies face most of the time. Companies must seek modern strategies to deal with a varied range of continuity threats.

Outdated continuity plans fail to account for modern threats and vulnerabilities. They fail to take an updated view of the importance of ongoing customer relationships.

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Leading the way with ‘Hosted Telephony’

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Hosted telephony services are changing how small, medium and large businesses use voice communications. They can deliver an extraordinary range of business, financial and technical benefits – making business voice communications more resilient, saving money and making it easy to adapt to change.

Office phone systems are often called PBXs – Private Branch Exchanges – or PABXs – private automatic branch exchanges. In the simplest terms, they connect any two or more phone users in the same organisation together.

Of course they can do a vast amount more, providing facilities such as voice mail, conferencing, call forwarding and so on to make life easier. PBXs are sited at the business’ site, and connect to the outside world via analogue and digital circuits, with cabling around the business location to which handsets are connected. The intelligence to make the components work together is within the PABX itself.

Hosted phone systems, by contrast, take most of the switching and intelligence of the conventional on-site system and move it off-site to a remote location where it is managed by a service provider, such as Pinnacle. Equipment at the business’ site is limited to the phones themselves, a switch, and broadband routers.

As a result, hosted systems are usually quicker, cheaper and easier to install and set up than conventional phone systems. As they are hosted remotely, there is less need for on-site expertise or maintenance.

In contrast, premise-based PBXs require equipment to be located on site. The organisation will be responsible for installing, managing and, when required, upgrading the equipment, as needs change.

Hosted telephony services are good for:

  • Small and medium-size businesses.
  • Organisations with multiple offices or remote users, and those that anticipate rapid changes in size.
  • Any organisation wishing to avoid the significant capital cost of acquiring an on site phone system.
  • Organisations with limited on-site knowledge of managing a phone system.

On-site or premise-based systems are best for large, stable businesses with a predictable number of users that need custom features or to integrate their phone system into their business applications.

Hosted phone systems provide small- to medium-sized businesses with abilities and features that are available to larger organisations, while providing the potential to reduce long-term operating costs considerably.

As with any rapidly growing technology, there is a wide variety of providers and a range of features at widely varying prices. Key benefits include: basic operating cost reductions due to lower call charges, the need for only one communications network, and lower maintenance costs.

There is a minimal investment risk, because no significant upfront investment is needed, and straightforward installation costs are based on tested, reliable components connecting to a system which IT personnel already understand.

It is important to make sure that your system has the basic features that you require now for the operation of your business and for its future growth than to drive the cost to the absolute bare minimum. Be clear about your initial and ongoing costs, contract terms and additional costs you may be committing to.

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The benefits of cloud-based hosted IP telephony

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New technology is reshaping the workplace. The widespread availability of high-speed broadband and new mobile technologies is opening up exciting new possibilities.

The way we work, the way we communicate and the way we interact with technology to do our jobs is quite different from ten years ago. One of the key trends to emerge is the so-called move to the cloud.

Typically, an organisation will outsource its IT requirements to an external specialist, instead of maintaining and updating its own hardware and software onsite. Applications and data are hosted centrally ‘in the cloud’ – the provider’s network.

Users then access the software and files simply and securely via their web browsers. This has two key advantages. First, it eliminates the need for extensive in-house IT resource and second, it means organisations can effectively rent the service they need – on a per-user, per-month basis.

Hosted telephony is becoming a significant part of this outsourcing picture. In simple terms, hosted telephony is a telephone system that sits in the cloud rather than in your office.

Users access the system using a traditional IP handset or a ‘softphone’ – a screen-based virtual phone. Calls are transmitted using a broadband connection to the service provider’s network, from where they are routed to fixed and mobile devices.

Hosted telephony means you no longer need to maintain and upgrade costly PBX hardware onsite. The provider, who hosts your system, is responsible for the hardware and software, including system upgrades.

As well as giving your organisation access to low-cost and free IP calls, a hosted system puts a huge range of smart call management features at your fingertips. Mobiles and other devices can also be integrated.

More importantly, hosted telephony gives organisations a high level of control, meaning their entire communications system can be managed easily, right down to the individual user level, using a simple interface.

Increasingly, hosted telephony is available to suit any budget, usually sold on a monthly rental basis, with no initial capital outlay and targeted at delivering a solution at a set price to the customer.

One person can manage an organisation’s entire phone system through an easy-to-use web interface. The system can be configured and settings changed at the click of a mouse – right down to the individual user level.

This means your phone system can be optimised to meet your business needs at any point in time. New users can be added easily by the administrator, without having to contact an external engineer.

Using an IP phone is as easy as using a traditional handset, so there’s little training required. Users can manage their own phone settings, for example, if a user wants to work from home or on the move, they can log into their account and divert calls to their home phone or mobile.

This kind of flexibility can contribute to boosting employee productivity and enhancing customer service levels by ensuring key people can always be reached.

Because a hosted system sits in the cloud, there’s a clear business continuity advantage. Say, for example, a heavy snowfall shuts down your workplace for a few days in winter. Call forwarding can provide an automated ‘failover’ to a user’s mobile, or as long as the company can log into the system via the web, they can easily divert calls to home phones, mobiles or to another site unaffected by the bad weather.

The flexibility of the technology also means you can use a standard geographic number even if calls are being answered in a completely different location. This is due to the fact that the number is hosted in the cloud rather than being tied to the local exchange.

Moving your organisation’s telephony to the cloud clearly has a number of potential advantages – enhancing management control, raising employee productivity, improving customer service and cutting call costs.

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Newport County reach a Pinnacle

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Newport County AFC has announced a new partnership with St Mellons-based Pinnacle Telecom.

Pinnacle, which will become the club’s official Telecoms Partner, is added to a long and impressive list of companies who partnered with the club in it’s first season back in the Football League last year and have continued the commitment this season.

The partnership, which will run at least until the end of the 2016/17 season, will see the club receiving iPhones and free call minutes usage for it’s staff.

This represents a huge saving for the club over the period of the agreement. The deal also sees the installation of a new telephone switchboard system when the club moves into its new office accommodation at Rodney Parade.

On top of this Pinnacle will be launching an affinity scheme with the club, whereby any customer introduced to Pinnacle by the club, the club will receive a revenue share of the profits made on the account. The relationship will not only be of benefit to the club, but to it’s other sponsors, advertisers, partners and supporters.

County chief executive Dave Boddy said: “I am delighted with the partnership. It’s a partnership area that I have been looking at for a long time. I am looking forward to working with Pinnacle Telecoms. They are a solid, well established business who share the same drive and ambitions as the Club to make the partnership and in particular the affinity scheme work.”

Pinnacle Telecoms managing director Dean Stewart said: “We are delighted at the opportunity of working with a successful and progressive football club in Newport County. The sponsorship agreement allows Pinnacle to offer progressive telecoms solutions to the club as well as it’s impressive portfolio of business associates and followers. We are very much looking forward to a proactive and long term partnership.”

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Get control of your telephone calls via the web

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This week we have introduced a complete communications service for businesses that is packed full of features and controlled via an easy-to-use web portal. Our new ‘Horizon’ service lets managers easily control the business environment while enabling employees to maximise their productivity.

The suite has lots of clever features and an emphasis on control through the web that takes away the need for an often-expensive IT expert. Managers can quickly configure the system according to their organisation’s changing requirements, while their employees can manage calls easily and effectively.

With only a minimal capital outlay required, a reliable and proven service, and a jargon-free approach to telephony and communications, Horizon is suitable for any sized business looking to improve their productivity and image. It conveniently integrates your fixed and mobile capabilities so that you never miss a call. Callers dial one number to reach your desk phone and mobile phone simultaneously; you can move ongoing calls seamlessly from one phone to another without hanging up and both phones share a single voice mail box.

As Horizon is hosted on your behalf, you only pay for what you need on a simple ‘per seat’ basis. As you are not buying a physical phone system, there is no major hardware investment and there are no financing costs to consider.

You will also get all the cost benefits of IP telephony including free site-to-site calls even – across international boundaries – and cheaper call rates. If you use Horizon together with mobile services you’ll benefit from incredibly competitive rates for calls between your fixed and mobile devices.

Horizon helps businesses become more efficient by enabling flexible work environments through hot-desking, home working, and extending the service to mobile devices. You have total flexibility with the numbers you want to use. You can keep your existing numbers or get new numbers. You can extend your business reach and use any local area number no matter where you are located. Have a London number in Llanrumney!

And unexpected events such as snow, floods or strikes won’t disrupt your business. Because Horizon sits in the “cloud”, the service provides business continuity features that allow your organisation to carry on making and taking calls.

Horizon provides a broad range of call handling features that are accessed via the web through a dashboard giving access to information such as your call history, voicemail and recorded calls. Personalised settings are quick and easy to set, ensuring calls are handled effectively.

You can record inbound or outbound calls for compliance, customer service or audit purposes. This optional feature allows secure online access to file storage and retrieval of call details. You can set Horizon to record some calls, all calls or record calls on demand.

Horizon provides IT managers with a powerful administrative management capability while giving employees freedom to control calls quickly and effectively. Set-up is quick and easy and you can choose to pass down control to the user or you can retain control of the individual user features.

You can use Auto Attendant to provide callers with call routing options for different areas of the business or create announcements to inform callers of details such as opening hours and website address when the office is closed. Horizon can be used with a range of handsets from a choice of manufacturers, and is not tied to one type of manufacturer or hardware for an installation, therefore allowing us to customise the offering that’s for you.

Horizon is ideal for any sized business and is highly effective in organisations that have more than one site that work together. The system is capable of serving hundreds of employees. Businesses with employees who are regularly on the move or out of the office will never lose calls as each user can simply tell the system, at the click of a mouse, where their calls should be sent: their desk, their mobile – or both – or their colleague. And if they miss a call they can pick up their voicemail no matter where they are.

The service is provided centrally so you don’t need an expensive system on each site. Horizon connects branch offices together, calls are free between locations and everyone shares the same dial plans and directories. As it’s hosted on your behalf, there are no expensive maintenance or running costs and you pay for what you use on a simple per-user basis. In the event of a disaster the services can be instantly moved across to a backup plan that can include, for example, diverting calls to different locations without loss of functionality and without expensive call forwarding costs.

You can put calls on hold, play marketing messages, move calls seamlessly between users and offices, and your customers will get the best experience when calling your business. In addition, Horizon provides a cost-effective way to record calls. This centralised feature means calls can be recorded from any location, in any direction and configured instantly at the click of the mouse.

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Unifying The Worlds Of Voice And Data Key To Business Success

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Companies embracing the merging of voice and data technologies will be the ones which prove most successful.

The worlds of data and voice have evolved separately in recent years, but those organisations which marry them together using current technologies will see substantial benefits in the form of capital and operational cost savings, lower cost of ownership for hardware, reduced risk associated with continuity and disaster recovery, and new opportunities for innovation.

First, there is the world of the data centre. Its servers and other hardware components, and the business applications that run on them, are the backbone of the organisation. They turn the reams of data that companies generate and collect into the information they need to understand and operate the business.

Then, there is the world of telephony. Here, voice applications ensure that the people whose performance determines how well the organisation does, how effectively it competes, and whether it succeeds or fails, communicate with one another in myriad ways to ensure that information is understood and acted on. Even in today’s high-tech world, voice communication is the beating heart of the business.

Managing those worlds is not easy. It means having two of everything. Two budgets. Two groups of personnel with different sets of specialised skills. And two technology infrastructures to buy, deploy, and support, because data applications and voice applications have very different needs when it comes to the hardware they run on and the ways in which they can be managed.

At least, they did until now, and we can help those organisations which want to take this next big leap forward.

Reducing the overall number of physical servers in a data centre has the obvious benefits of capital cost savings. And server consolidation also leads to immediate operational savings, because office space is needed to house hardware, and less energy is needed to power and cool the fewer servers that do the job.

And organisations used to labouring over two plans for business continuity and disaster recovery – one for data, the other for voice – can now encompass their entire IT infrastructure with a single plan. And they can have a common set of service level agreements (SLAs), processes, and tools for their single infrastructure.

In short, companies can now fundamentally change the way they think about their IT infrastructures and their resources. Instead of managing individual boxes, they can manage overall IT services. Instead of devoting most of their budgets to maintenance, they can focus on innovation.

And, for the business people who depend on data and voice applications, it means a better quality of service at considerably less cost.

Uniting the worlds of data and voice on a single infrastructure means:

  • Reduced capital expenditures. Running telephony and data applications on the same servers means fewer servers are needed, so the total cost of ownership for the information infrastructure drops dramatically.
  • Reduced operations and maintenance costs. Managing communication solutions along with other business applications does away with the costs of duplicate maintenance tasks.
  • Reduced power consumption. The power savings inherent in data environments can also be applied to voice applications.
  • Improved application availability. Applications are no longer subject to prolonged downtime for physical server maintenance.
  • Integrated business continuity. Consolidated disaster recovery management means that management methodologies and best practices can be applied consistently across all applications in the data centre, including business communication applications.
  • Increased business innovation. Freed from having to maintain two separate infrastructures, IT can devote resources to developing new applications and services that build competitive advantage.

The world of the data centre have been around since the days of mainframe computers. These were huge and expensive, and organisations had to use every ounce of power they offered and squeeze every bit of potential out of them.

One problem to realising their potential was that different software applications can require different operating systems. Unless a way could be found to run more than one operating system on a mainframe, different computers would be needed to run different software – something too expensive to be practical.

The solution to the problem was called ‘virtualisation’ – dividing a mainframe into partitions capable of running different operating systems and applications – in other words, turning one ‘real’ computer into two or more ‘virtual’ computers – and this made it possible to slice and dice resources and put the pieces to their best use.

Today, virtual computers can be created and modified at will. Applications and databases can be moved from one virtual machine to another without disrupting the work of the business people who depend on them. Deploying new software and maintaining hardware has become much easier, and the cost of running data centres has decreased significantly. Virtualised data centres deliver huge cost savings and operational advantages to today’s organisations.

But just as the data centre world has evolved since the era of the mainframe, communications technology has evolved through a series of exciting changes into the unified voice communications of today.

VoIP made it possible to run voice applications over the Internet, and to centralise many of the maintenance tasks associated with keeping a voice infrastructure running. It also enabled unified messaging capabilities, such as the integration of voice mail and email.

Control of voice technology has become software-based, and the advances in telephony have enabled the reliable, flexible, capability rich, internet-based telephony systems that today enable teleconferencing, web and audio conferencing, centralised global call centre operation, and other technologies that organisations depend on to keep communication flowing.

Pinnacle can help organisations unite their business data and voice applications on a single infrastructure. All of the benefits of the data centre and VoIP telephony can be realised with less capital spending, lower operational and maintenance costs, reduced power consumption, and easier and more dependable business continuity and disaster recovery. What used to exist in two different worlds can now, for the first time, be united in one.

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