Cloud Collaboration Services and how they benefit small and Medium sized Businesses

Teamwork makes the business work, it is simple. Without teamwork and good, clear communication throughout the teams, the business will fail. No one will know what the other is doing, tasks will be missed or duplicated, and sales will not get completed. Without communication between departments, employees, or from management down to the employees, no one knows what they are doing or how to manage their workflow.  Communication is vital for business

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Pre-pandemic, communication was easier. Employees could walk into the manager’s office and ask questions directly. Employees could lean over to their colleagues and see what is going on.  Team meetings were face-to-face and everyone was happily working in the same office building.  Then massive change happened.

The pandemic struck and people who used to have “Working from Home” as a perk to their jobs suddenly found that it was necessary.  Teams got dispersed to their home offices, and the buildings that housed several offices, and large companies became empty, and communication became harder, and virtual.  Meetings, conferences, training sessions, schools, solicitor appointments, and day-to-day work went online, virtual and remote.

During the transition from Office based to remote-based, every single business of all sizes suddenly realized the importance of adaptable, flexible, cloud-based collaboration services for their communication.

Since the end of the pandemic in the early months of 2022, many employees have adapted well to working from home and have built a routine around it. Many businesses have adapted their communication strategies, training, support, and operations to accommodate this remote working. Now the pandemic has ended many people will not return to the office environment full time.  This new way of flexible working, a hybrid model of some days at home, and some days in the office, requires excellent communications from their cloud collaboration communication services.

What are Cloud Collaboration Communication Services?

This seems like a lot of long and complicated words, doesn’t it?  But you use these collaborative systems every day. They have supported businesses and their communications for years, even more so during the last 3 years. Tools like Zoom, Skype, or even WhatsApp are collaborative communication tools that help businesses talk to each department.  CRM Solutions and Google Docs have all been used to store important shared collaborative documents and projects. An internal business phone system is used to transfer calls between departments and get the right person talking to the right customer at the right time.

These essential collaborative communication tools have kept the wheels of commerce turning during the most difficult time in recent history and are now so ingrained in the operational structure of every business that people use them easily without thinking.

These tools have all been developed from the simple communication tools of phone calls, emails and text messages and have been adapted to resolve the complicated communications of businesses.  These are all cloud collaboration tools that are used regularly to support your teams, your business, and your customers. 

To take your business to the next level, you need the best cloud collaboration tools that match the various needs of your customers, clients, and business structure. If you choose the correct cloud collaboration solution, it will become more than just a communications platform, it will be the central hub of your business, allowing for all communications to be monitored and all tasks to be completed.

So, let’s review some of them and how they might be used for your business:

What are the most common cloud collaboration methods?

The purpose of cloud collaboration is not just to speak to people, it is to work in a collaborative manner so that tasks are complete, customers are supported, and the business keeps moving forwards. Teams working together and knowing what each other is doing is the best and most efficient way of working, and if every team member is not in the same office, sitting next to each other, a collaborative tool, on the cloud, is needed:

Often a lot of different tools are required, and used in harmony, for full holistic support for the staff and the customers. The most common of these are:

Team Messaging:

Anything from a “Good Morning” through to an “I have contacted this customer; you do not need to” is a team messaging. Having a simple platform like WhatsApp, Slack, or Skype, where teams can send a quick message to each other is a useful cloud collaboration tool.

It is nice for remote workers to feel like they are still part of the team, and informal messaging like “Good morning, how was your weekend?” helps to bond the team at the start of the week. When there are short, but important updates, sending a team message keeps everyone working towards the same goal.

Businesses regularly use tools like WhatsApp, Telegram, or Slack for this short brief messaging. These services show when a message has been sent, delivered, and read, so the author of the message can rest assured that the team is aware of the message and acting upon it, even if they do not reply to it. 

File-Sharing:

If your company or the individual departments are working collaboratively on projects, they all need to know what each other is doing and when they have completed their parts. File sharing means that people can view each other’s work, can read the documents and reports that other departments have produced, and have a good overall view of business operations. If there is a sales goal, file sharing can show you where each department is towards its goals.  If you have a marketing campaign, file-sharing shows the completion and impact of that campaign. If your business has important customers and clients, file sharing shows what is happening with each customer and client so that anyone involved in working with that client knows exactly what is happening.  File sharing is a vital part of the operations of many businesses and some tools for that are Google Docs, DropBox, Jira, Salesforce, or a custom-built CRM Solution.

Screen sharing:

During the onboarding process for new staff, detailed training is essential.  During website design, product building, or marketing campaigns, detailed discussions are required. During sales pitches walking the potential customers through the product description and how it might be helpful to their business helps to complete the sale. 

All these activities are best supported by screen-sharing tools.  Skype is the cheapest and most used screen-sharing tool that a lot of businesses have used for years.  During the last few years, tools like Zoom, Teams, and Google Hangouts or Google Duo have been adapted for business and supported the diverse needs for collaborative communications.

Note Sharing:

Where a customer, vendor, client, or stakeholder speaks to multiple people to win the team it is vital for each person to know what is going on. If messages are crossed or repeated, or questions are unanswered, or worse, different answers are given to the same question, complaints will occur, and sales will be lost.  Leaving detailed notes in the client’s file helps to make sure that everyone involved in the client’s care and support is aware of everything that is going on. 

Leaving notes related to clients or customers has always been a vital part of the business. From the local village shop where the owner might take notes on customers to remind them of how they are doing, right through to multi-national corporations taking notes on client activities, they are all used to break the ice and build rapport.

Rapport helps business. From Ethel walking into the corner shop and the owner asking about her dog or her grandchildren right through to Google talking to the Sales Director at an International Bank about Billion Dollar deals, without that rapport, the transaction could fail.  Note-taking about the business, the individuals involved and interactions within the process will help to build that rapport and will secure the deal.

Video Conferencing:

Remote working can be lonely. Employees can sit in the bedroom offices and the only human interaction that have might be with their partner, possibly their children or for some, it could be 100% online. Video conferencing brings that human interaction that can break the loneliness into the working lives of your remote teams.  Being able to see the faces of the teams makes your remote staff feel like they are part of the team and can subdue concerns and negative feelings.  Working in a collaborative manner requires teamwork.  Teamwork requires every member of the team to work together and support each other and if one or more member is working remotely, they can feel alone and not part of the team. Video conferencing brings the team together showing that there is still meaningful collaboration at the heart of the team.

What to look for when assessing cloud collaboration tools:

Every small business is different. Each business must look at their operations, staffing structure and what they hope to gain from a collaborative solution before signing the contract and implementing the tools.  How your business will use a collaborative tool, is different to how the next business will use it, so each of the following elements should be considered first:

How geographically dispersed is your team?

Some small businesses have international teams, some are local companies with team members occasionally working from home but living just down the road.   Having a team in different time zones, working 24/7 for your company requires a different collaborative tool, that all people working in the same location, language, and time zone.

How easy is the system to use?

It goes without saying that complicated systems cause complications for the customers. When you are confused, you lose.  Where you have limited IT support, people working remotely one day and then office-based the next and there is some uncertainty around operations, having a collaborative solution that is easy to use and implement is essential.

How many departments will use it?

A collaborative solution should be used by every department in the Company, but compliance, Finance, and Risk might use it less than sales and customer support. Knowing who will use it goes a long way to figuring out how it will be used and what functionality is required.

What reporting functionalities are required?

Some management teams like to log into the collaborative solution to see high level reports only. They are less interested in the day-to-day operations and functionalities.  Other companies have small teams that are all wearing many hats, and everyone needs to use the full functionality of the system. Can the collaboration solution provide quick reports that management can review and see login, log out, numbers of calls made, and how many sales have been completed that day?

What tools are required?

Some companies work more on spreadsheets and require more file sharing. Some companies speak to customers and need a great phone solution. Some companies hate video conferencing and do not have far remote staff to include in their meetings.  Your business requires different tools for the next business, so identifying exactly what tools you need, and what percentage of time each tool will take up, will guide your decision to choose the best collaborative solution.

Desktop, VoIP or Mobile?

Are your employees working from desks?  They might have desks at home, desks at work, and they simply want to replicate their working environment on a stable platform. 

Do all your staff have good access to quality and stable internet?  Some people might live in rural areas, or in countries where the access to the internet is limited.  Maybe a VoIP Collaboration tool is not the best fit for your business.

Some businesses have a lot of staff on the road, moving from place to place or working in areas where there is poor internet access and connectivity.  In these circumstances, a Mobile solution would be best.

How easy is it to grow with your team?

Scalability is always a key factor in choosing a cloud collaboration solution. Some solutions come with limited users, and to buy an extra user costs a lot of money.  Some solutions are much easier than others to scale up, down and change as your business requirements change.  Some cloud collaboration tools are tied in to long term contracts and offer no down-scaling options, so once a user has been added, you have to pay for them for the next 12 months as a minimum.

Your business is fluid, and the sector you are in might change, as such, you need a flexible, adaptive cloud collaboration solution to support the changing needs of your business.

What needs to be integrated?

Do you want a centralized communications hub where emails, calls, customer notations, and training material are all stored?  Will you be using multiple solutions and they all need to speak to each other?  Having a CRM solution integrated with your cloud collaboration solution might be an essential component of your communications.  If there are other solutions that need to be integrated into the process, the ease of technical integration is a vital consideration.

Some collaboration solutions are fresh “out of the box” and are limited in their capabilities, to only offer the standardized functionalities. Others provide API integration guides allowing users to integrate other options into the solution.  Others can be built and customized to meet the diverse needs of your business.  This might all sound very technical, but a good solution needs to accommodate some changes because not all businesses are the same.

Which Cloud Collaboration Solution to choose?

Communication starts with the voice. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that businesses must be able to adapt to survive. People, business, and communication are mobile.  Having the best mobile solution for your business is the only way to be adaptive to the quickly changing world we live in.  Without Mobile, calls can be lost, diverted to an answering machine, fixed to a desk where no one sits, and sales lost.  With Mobile, it no longer matters where people are, they are still working and available when they are needed.

Mobile-centric operations allows for easier scalability, more flexibility, and lower costs. There is no longer a need for computers, laptops, expensive headsets, and hardware for people to do their jobs, it can all be completed from the mobile device that fits into the palm of your hand.

An easy to install app that does it all through your mobile is the only way to ensure staff and your business remains contactable by anyone that has a phone, and these days, everyone has a phone!

Talk to ConXhub about going mobile and moving all your cloud collaboration solutions to your mobile phone.

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