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Work Life Post COVID-19 Will be Different

As reported by the Boston Business Journal, a recent survey conducted by the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership, with help form several regional business groups, found that businesses are projecting that 47% of employees will continue to work completely or partially from home post-Covid. If this is the case, the number of remote workers will jump 2 1/2 times from the pre-Covid rate of 18%.

While this survey’s focus was looking at the potential impact on the commercial real estate market in the metro Boston area, we can expect these results to be somewhat similar for metropolitan areas across the country.

A significant, permanent shift in the percentage of remote workers will impact how businesses operate.

To adapt, you will want to eliminate issues that are “inconveniences” when temporary, but should not be allowed to hurt productivity or efficiency in the long term. Some of the changes we have seen and helped businesses deploy include:

  • Changing your infrastructure (and using cloud services) to provide users with secure, direct access to applications and files, eliminating the need for remote desktop or VPN connections to on-premise networks and systems
  • Expanding your use of social communication tools, like Google Chat and Microsoft Teams, to enable the casual and incidental conversations that occur in office
  • Incrementally automating common tasks and work flows to simplify and monitor processes
  • Giving your staff the ability to manage inbound and outbound calls through the company’s voice service, ensuring
    • Call flows, through ACD and IVR menus, work properly
    • Team members can transfer calls to others
    • Staff do not need to use personal phone numbers and voicemail
  • Ensuring your calling groups, like those for help desks, function well regardless of a person’s location
  • Updating threat protections for users, data, and applications outside your physical offices.
  • Selecting video conferencing services that are secure and that provide your team with useful features and controls, such as:
    • Controlled and secure access
    • Ability to share desktops, windows, and browser tabs
    • Privacy tools, such as alternate backgrounds
    • Captioning and transcription capture

As many of these improvements can be accomplished with the tools and systems you already have in place, the cost to ensure productivity is manageable.


Complete this form for a free, no-obligation assessment, or contact us to schedule an introductory call with one of our Cloud Advisors.

Solve Your COVID-19 Phone Issues

As we are reaching out to customers and others in our network, we are seeing about 15% of business with serious phone problems.  The most common issue is that the person answering the business’ phone is unable to forward a call to other employers, nor can they provide a direct number without sharing a private home or cell phone number. It is more difficult to keep your business moving when you cannot properly answer calls.  Call backs and emails only go so far.

The good news is that you can use cloud-based, voice over IP (VoIP) phone services to solve this problem without replacing your current phone service.  And, several vendors are offering free services to small businesses.

How it Works

We effectively overlay a cloud VoIP service over your existing phone system/services.

  • We setup a VoIP phone service for your business, but do NOT port over your existing numbers.
  • We auto-forward your current business lines to the VoIP service
  • Within the VoIP services:
    • Employees can, answer and make calls using “Soft Phone” software on the computers or via a app on their smart phone. The cell number remains private.
    • We can setup groups or departments that simultaneously ring multiple people, or round-robin in a team, to ensure inbound sales and service calls are answered.
    • Use the embedded voice mail, or forward calls back to an individuals normal extension/voicemail (depending on system capabilities)
    • Enable texting/chat services (in most VoIP services), if needed.
    • Integrate audio and video conferencing services, if needed.

Several VoIP providers we work with are offering multiple months of free service. While they are hoping you like the service enough to switch permanently, this is an affordable temporary solution.

Call us or email us for more information.


 

Partner for Productivity

Partnering for G Suite Productivity

Partner for ProductivityG Suite is more than an email, calendar, and simple file sharing service.  G Suite is a productivity suite that serves as a platform for a range of tools that helps your team, and your business, work more effectively.

9 ways your team can be more productive with G Suite:

  1. Share Files, Not Copies:
    Stop sending attachments. Stop wasting time figuring out of the copy of the file in you inbox, on your local drive, or on a shared folder is the most current. Whether you use Google Docs for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations or you continuing using Microsoft Office, Google Drive and Team Drives serves your files rather than just sharing them.  People share via link, so all comments, suggestions, and edits are made within a single copy of the file. Versioning keeps this orderly and gives you the ability to look back and compare.
  2. Serve Files, Not File Servers:
    Use Team Drives and Drive File Stream to provide users with “explorer” access to files from Macs, PCs, and local software. Store files under central ownership and managed permissions; avoid performance and capacity problems with unlimited storage. Allow team members to work remotely and securely on computers, tablets, and mobile devices without VPNs and remote desktop services slowing things down.
  3. Communicate, Don’t Just Text:
    Most laptops now have microphones, speakers, and Bluetooth features similar to your smartphones and tablets. Have face to face conversations using Hangouts Meet instead of long email threads, phone tag, or text messaging. Communication is 55% non-verbal. Let you employees see and hear each other, your vendors, and your customers. You can share screens to live document reviews and discussions. Why pay extra for a conferencing service?
  4. Collaboration, Don’t Just Comment:
    True, Google Docs allow contributors to comment and suggest edits. You can also collaborate in real-time or as each participant is able. Version history lets you look back at who contributed, when, and where. You can name versions to track official revisions or specific working copies of documents.
  5. Schedule Productivity, Not Just Appointments:
    Your personal and shared calendars track your time as well as project or team activities. Resource calendars let you book rooms or any scheduled resource. Integrated with Hangout Meets, automatically include voice and video conferencing for the human touch. Integrated with Chrome for Meetings and you have 1-click video conferencing with screen sharing in your conference rooms.
  6. Manage Customer Relationships, Not Data:
    Integrated CRM applications, automatically pull person and company data into your CRM records and automatically track inbound and outbound emails with your prospects. Side panel gives you “pane of glass” access and context from within your Gmail inbox.
  7. Manage Communications, Not Data:
    Integrated sales and marketing tools, empower you team to better manage marketing, sales, and service communications without leaving your Gmail inbox.  Templates, mail merge, and tracking save time and energy as you drive your sales pipeline forward.
  8. Automate Tasks, Not People:
    Automate workflows and repetitive tasks, and build simple apps to boost productivity with AppMaker. The Low-code/no-code tool means you don’t need a cadre of programmers. Free up task time for more valuable activities.
  9. Protect Your Business; Not Just Data:
    Compliant archiving and e-discovery covers your email communications and your documents. Integrated solutions provide third party backup/recovery protection from accidental or intentional damage and loss. Cloud-to-cloud backup is less costly and requires less admin effort than traditional file server protection services.

Get the most value from your G Suite platform:

  • Verify you are on the right version of G Suite, with the capabilities that best meet your needs
  • Help your team learn how to use the G Suite apps to their fullest
  • Integrate 3rd party solutions for line of business needs, such as marketing, sales, and service

Please contact us for a free Cloud Advisor session to discuss getting the most value from G Suite.


 

Myth Busting

Myth Busting Monday: Skype and Skype for Business are the Same

Office365-Logo-and-textSkype and Skype for Business carry similar names and are sometimes confused as one and the same thing.  Both let you communicate for free between computers and hold online meetings. But that is where the similarities end.

Skype and Skype for Business are Very Different Services

Skype is a free consumer service designed for communicating with a small number of people. You can buy credits to make calls to traditional phone lines and mobile devices.

Skype for Business is a secure communication and collaboration service designed to boost productivity by letting people connect in the way that is best for them — chat, voice, video, etc.  Skype for business is more than a chat and calling app, your team can give presentations and attend meetings from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Skype for Business lets you run online meetings with up to 250 attendees, gives your enterprise security, lets you manage your employee accounts, and integrates with your Office apps and Office 365. The integration with Office 365 also includes:

  • Presence – See if somebody is available or busy at anytime
  • Instant IM – Start an IM session by double-clicking a contact name
  • Share – During meetings, share your desktop or a specific application
  • Include – Invite people outside your company to meetings with a full-feature web conferencing experience
  • See – Integrate video through webcams on any call or conference

With Skype for Business, you can skip the expensive web conferencing services, along with the hardware, software, and administration required for on-premise communication servers. You simply manage access, settings, and security.


This is the seventh of a multi-part series designed to help companies better asses the opportunity and value of cloud-based solutions. Contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation Cloud Advisor session to discuss your priorities and plans.


Moving to the Cloud: Cost Savings

 

Green_GaugeThis post is the second in a series addressing concerns organizations may have that prevent them from moving the cloud-based solutions.

Will moving to the cloud save money?

The answer is a definite, absolute … maybe!

Whether or not a move to the cloud saves money depends on the in-house services being replaced and the cloud-based services taking their place, as well as the impact the change will have on related IT services and your business.

In our experience, most companies see savings over 3-year and 5-year periods of 30% or more.  Some companies see total cost of ownership (TCO) savings of up to 70%

When looking at 5-year TCO, organizations must make honest projections on IT spending to maintain the status quo and/or upgrading systems.  Beyond projected hardware and software replacements and upgrades, the analysis should include the cost of services and supporting systems (backup, anti-virus, security, etc.).  The analysis should also assess soft costs for administration, support, and estimated down time.

The challenge remains making the comparison equivalent.  For example, moving from a single in-house Exchange server to Google Apps for Business is a move from a system with several single points of failure to a highly redundant and highly available service.  If improving availability is an objective of the move to the cloud, the comparison should include the cost of upgrading the Exchange environment for redundancy.

A final consideration should include any business enablement that comes from the move into the cloud.  Will the cloud service enable the business to operate more efficiently and/or in new, more productive ways?  Improved collaboration, real-time communications, and access to information are all examples of how Google Apps for Business enables businesses over traditional email services.

In straight dollars and cents, not every company will see savings when moving to cloud-based solutions.  With better availability and expanded capabilities, cloud computing solutions can deliver better value, even when the price tag is higher.

Next Post in the Series:  Provider Reliability

Previous Post in the Series:  Moving to the Cloud: Security

 

Do Your IT Choices Help or Hurt Your Ability to Hire the Best Talent?

When you think of your IT decisions, you probably think of features, functions, cost, operations, and, hopefully, how well your IT decisions support your business goals and objectives.

Have you, however, ever considered if your IT decisions impact your ability to hire the best talent? Just like your reputation as an employer, office space, and benefits package make an impression on prospective employees, so does your IT.

Case in Point: Blackberry.  As recently as two years ago, most companies picked a carrier, a few models of phones, and provided them to employees.  Blackberry was on top.  With the rapid expansion of smartphone capabilities, a growing number of employees chose to opt-out of the company option and use their personal device.  Businesses obliged and “Bring Your Own Device” is becoming the norm (as are Android and IOS devices).  After all, why limit your employees to a lesser solution that makes them less productive?

Why would a potential employee want to work at a company where the technology is a step backward?

With the adoption rate of cloud computing solutions, such as Google Apps, at universities, high schools, and even grade and middle schools exploding, your future employees are already used to working in an IT environment that enables communication and collaboration in ways traditional in-house systems cannot.

The people you want to hire already …

  • Use on-line and real-time collaboration.
  • Expect secure access to information from any device they choose, wherever they are working, without the headaches and challenges of VPNs and remote desktop solutions.
  • Take advantage of integrated communication services.
  • Expect constant improvements in the IT services they use.

So when the people you want to hire walk into your business, what do they see?  Do they see the dynamic, responsive, IT infrastructure that they know and love?  Or, do they see reliance on centralized information silos, collaboration via email attachments, limited access to information and their peers, and an environment that only sees improvements every three to five years?

As you plan your next round of IT upgrades and changes, avoid inertia and look beyond the next version of the status quo.  Look at IT solutions that can fundamentally change and improve the ability of your knowledge workers to communicate and collaborate — to use their knowledge.  Look at IT solutions that scale as your business evolves.  Look at IT solutions that give your business the power of continuous innovation.

Look at Cloud Computing.  Look at Google Apps.