The use of technology platforms to support remote and hybrid work has accelerated. But as businesses put their long-term plans into action, what’s going to happen to phone systems? Corey Harrison, managing director at Protiviti in the US, and Jez Haisman, director for Microsoft technology at Protiviti UK, reveal more.
The trend of cloud communication has been developing for more than a decade across the world. Companies have embraced software-as-a-service at all levels in their operations; and the adoption of Microsoft 365 confirmed the long-term direction of travel. Hosted technology has enabled companies to connect more people, more quickly, and scale operations up and down to meet demand.
This trend was acutely highlighted last year, when the pandemic spread around the world, and many companies switched to remote working almost overnight. With thousands of laptops and some operational tweaks, entire workforces logged out at the office one day, and logged on at home, the next. Businesses were transformed and have been supported by online collaboration platforms in the cloud ever since.
In the past 18 months, work has evolved faster than anyone imagined: it has become something people do, not somewhere they go; and for many companies and employees, their professional world has changed forever. While some will adopt remote working in the long term, others will almost certainly split their time between home and the office. The move towards hybrid working is well documented, of course, and flexible technology will be important to create a successful transition.
Now, as companies continue with major transformation projects, they are asking: what about the phone system?
At Protiviti in the US, our corporate telephone contracts were coming up for renewal and we were exploring options to reduce costs. We did some analysis and found that usage wasn’t very high for traditional land lines and even mobiles. People were often setting up conference calls on Teams and accessing their conversations through online video and audio channels.
We began to see the traditional model of telephony was becoming redundant.
In the past few years, Microsoft has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into its Teams platform, which can be integrated with company phone systems, and replace existing technology. It can link office numbers, mobile numbers and messages into one place, and offers the chance to consolidate communication in the cloud. This investment has been gradually building, but the opportunity for businesses has become clearer, as they’ve spent time using the platform.
As Protiviti explored the option of Teams Phone, we felt there was an opportunity to improve our people’s experience. If they were going to be logged in to Teams, and working with colleagues on one platform, then using the same technology for calls would make sense. They could choose when to receive calls and benefit from keeping their messages and contacts in one place. With a growing focus on wellbeing, and work-life balance, this seemed an important consideration.
Alongside the benefits to people, we found that moving a phone system to Teams would also save money, because:
- Many employees just aren’t making calls anymore, which allows us to reduce the number of user licenses.
- Using Teams can reduce the cost of international calling and allow us to pool call minutes across the company.
- For both remote and office work, the need for desktop phones and other hardware are all but eliminated.
- Moving forward, we see opportunities to improve technical support and costly contracts.
The platform also offers the chance to improve the efficiency of operational processes. ‘Auto attendants’ can be used to transfer calls, freeing up people to spend time on other, more valuable things. Voice activation, like mobile calling, can help to speed up the process of calling; and screening services pick up spam calls, with numbers easily white- or black-listed. There are also ‘quality dashboards’ to report and fix poor connections.
So, will this be the year of Teams Phone?
Businesses are moving to a world where they want technology and communications to be streamlined; and importantly, they want people to be happy using these platforms. They are looking for ways to save money and to take advantage of the cloud technology they already have at their disposal. If one solution can provide all of these benefits, and also improve the way companies operate, then it’s likely to stick – and that’s what Microsoft is trying to do.
For many people in the industry, and in businesses, cloud telephony is racing up the agenda fast. Microsoft is focused on making the Teams platform the centre of where work happens in the future. Recent investment in employee engagement platform Viva, which can be accessed through Teams, has certainly strengthened the case and signalled the company’s long-term intentions.
For companies already using Microsoft 365 the integration of Teams Phone will make sense. It can support their quest for productivity in one place, make it easier to connect with employees and customers, and use data to measure what’s working and what’s not. Companies have the opportunity to take control of the technology that helps make them successful. And, importantly, phone calls can be made and connected from anywhere on any device.
Protiviti has developed three options for companies to implement ‘Teams Phone’, which will be discussed in more depth in our next article on this topic. We can also carry out assessments, define goals and support companies to follow their own roadmap to a successful launch. For more information, please contact: Corey Harrison, managing director for Microsoft Cloud Applications at Protiviti or Jez Haisman, director for Microsoft technology at Protiviti UK.