Is VoIP viable for your business?
Voice over IP is undoubtedly a very affordable way to improve business communications. There are many practical uses, but there are also a number of things to consider when assessing whether it’s the right platform for you. Firstly, it’s important to understand what VoIP is and the potential benefits on offer.
Essentially, it’s a protocol that allows you to make calls over the internet, converting analogue voice signals into digital data, delivered via broadband or hosted in the Cloud.
What are the advantages?
There are a number of benefits to using VoIP for business, since it’s inherently more versatile and cost effective than traditional telephony. Call costs are much lower and it enables flexible working - a concept that companies of all sizes are increasingly buying into.
VoIP can give flexible staff - spread over multiple locations and working varying hours - the same functionality as those who are office-based, as they can take their contact number with them, wherever they are. This is also good for workers travelling overseas, as it avoids costly calls and poor quality connections.
For businesses with international locations, VoIP allows offices to use extensions across the entire company, making internal communications much more efficient. Using VoIP in this way again avoids the cost of international calls, as each phone call is treated as if it were local. Calls between sites are also often free of charge.
Most VoIP systems come with feature-rich handsets, but the network can also be accessed via applications on tablets and smartphones, meaning staff can work on-the-go using their preferred device. For laptop users or desktop computers, most VoIP systems have a Soft console which allows calls to be controlled through your computer with no need for a handset at all - great for hot-deskers and those on the move. This is also great for ensuring customer satisfaction, as you can remain contactable throughout the working day, wherever it may take you. Upgrades are also easy to manage, much in the same way as upgrading an app on on a smartphone.
What are the options?
Finding the right VoIP service for your company can be confusing, as there are multiple factors to consider. SIP Trunking (Session Initiation Protocol - take a look at this video to see it explained in detail) is a straightforward, cost-effective replacement for traditional phone lines, connecting your business to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) via broadband or Ethernet. You can choose your numbers and, aside from the cheaper rental and call costs, it works just like a traditional phone line.
SIP Trunks are compatible with many leading VoIP telephone systems that might already be on site, such as Avaya and Mitel, and are ideal for companies looking to scale up rapidly, as new trunks can be added instantly, meaning your teams can size up and down as and when required. SIP is often promoted as a viable alternative to ISDN services, which will be phased out in the UK in 2025.
The second option, Hosted Telephony, is where your phone system is, as the name would suggest, hosted in the Cloud. This is ideal for companies looking to move onto a new phone system who do not want to invest in costly, onsite hardware and who also wish to scale up and be as flexible as possible. You pay for a Hosted system on an individual subscription basis, as and when new licences are needed. The most talked about Hosted product in the UK marketplace at the moment is Horizon, which comes supported by a robust network and a world leading call controller platform.
It’s important to get a rounded view of the options available, with many companies offering a variety of solutions. Generally, VoIP will save your business money and make your communications much more flexible, which is good news for any growing business.
Patrick Lincoln is the Director of Bristol-based Solution IP, specialising in Unified Communications, Professional Services and all things Data, Network and Telephony. You can connect with Patrick on LinkedIn and follow @SolutionIP on Twitter.
Automation of repetitive tasks leads to higher value work
Two-thirds of global office workers feel they are constantly doing the same tasks over and over again. That’s according to a new study (2021 Office Worker Survey) from automation software company UiPath.
Whether emailing, inputting data, or scheduling calls and meetings, the majority of those surveyed said they waste on average four and a half hours a week on time-consuming tasks that they think could be automated.
Not only is the undertaking of such repetitious and mundane tasks a waste of time for employees, and therefore for businesses, but it can also have a negative impact on employees’ motivation and productivity. And the research backs this up with more than half (58%) of those surveyed saying that undertaking such repetitive tasks doesn’t allow them to be as creative as they’d like to be.
“When repetitive, unrewarding tasks are handled by people, it takes time and this can cause delays and reduce both employee and customer satisfaction,” Gavin Mee, Managing Director of UiPath Northern Europe tells Business Chief. “Repetitive tasks can also be tedious, which often leads to stress and an increased likelihood to leave a job.”
And these tasks exist at all levels within an organisation, right up to executive level, where there are “small daily tasks that can be automated, such as scheduling, logging onto systems and creating reports”, adds Mee.
Automation can free employees to focus on higher value work
By automating some or all of these repetitive tasks, employees at whatever level of the organisation are freed up to focus on meaningful work that is creative, collaborative and strategic, something that will not only help them feel more engaged, but also benefit the organisation.
“Automation can free people to do more engaging, rewarding and higher value work,” says Mee, highlighting that 68% of global workers believe automation will make them more productive and 60% of executives agree that automation will enable people to focus on more strategic work. “Importantly, 57% of executives also say that automation increases employee engagement, all important factors to achieving business objectives.”
These aren’t the only benefits, however. One of the problems with employees doing some of these repetitive tasks manually is that “people are fallible and make mistakes”, says Mee, whereas automation boosts accuracy and reduces manual errors by 57%, according to Forrester Research. Compliance is also improved, according to 92% of global organisations.
Repetitive tasks that can be automated
Any repetitive process can be automated, Mee explains, from paying invoices to dealing with enquiries, or authorising documents and managing insurance claims. “The process will vary from business to business, but office workers have identified and created software robots to assist with thousands of common tasks they want automated.”
These include inputting data or creating data sets, a time-consuming task that 59% of those surveyed globally said was the task they would most like to automate, with scheduling of calls and meetings (57%) and sending template or reminder emails (60%) also top of the automation list. Far fewer believed, however, that tasks such as liaising with their team or customers could be automated, illustrating the higher value of such tasks.
“By employing software robots to undertake such tasks, they can be handled much more quickly,” adds Mee pointing to OTP Bank Romania, which during the pandemic used an automation to process requests to postpone bank loan instalments. “This reduced the processing time of a single request from 10 minutes to 20 seconds, allowing the bank to cope with a 125% increase in the number of calls received by call centre agents.”
Mee says: “Automation accelerates digital transformation, according to 63% of global executives. It also drives major cost savings and improves business metrics, and because software robots can ramp-up quickly to meet spikes in demand, it improves resilience.
Five business areas that can be automated
Mee outlines five business areas where automation can really make a difference.
- Contact centres Whether a customer seeks help online, in-store or with an agent, the entire customer service journey can be automated – from initial interaction to reaching a satisfying outcome
- Finance and accounting Automation enables firms to manage tasks such as invoice processing, ensuring accuracy and preventing mistakes
- Human resources Automations can be used across the HR team to manage things like payroll, assessing job candidates, and on-boarding
- IT IT teams are often swamped in daily activity like on-boarding or off-boarding employees. Deploying virtual machines, provisioning, configuring, and maintaining infrastructure. These tasks are ideal for automation
- Legal There are many important administrative tasks undertaken by legal teams that can be automated. Often, legal professionals are creating their own robots to help them manage this work. In legal and compliance processes, that means attorneys and paralegals can respond more quickly to increasing demands from clients and internal stakeholders. Robots don’t store data, and the data they use is encrypted in transit and at rest, which improves risk profiling and compliance.
“To embark on an automation journey, organisations need to create a Centre of Excellence in which technical expertise is fostered,” explains Mee. “This group of experts can begin automating processes quickly to show return on investment and gain buy-in. This effort leads to greater interest from within the organisation, which often kick-starts a strategic focus on embedding automation.”