Highlights from the 2015 UC Expo

UC Expo – the largest Unified Communications and collaboration event in Europe took place this week. If you missed the event, here at Your Ready Business, we’ve covered Vodafone’s two seminars.

Bruce Everest, Vodafone Better Ways of Working consultant asked “What do we want from flexible working in a mobile world?”

There are two main themes that relate to Better Ways of Working; one is the notion of workplace transformation, which is how an organisation can shape the building and space in which their staff work. The second is workforce transformation, which explores how organisations can enable and inspire the way their staff work and think.

Flexible working has hailed the death of the traditional office

Despite the massive changes in how we currently work and interact with colleagues, partners and customers, the ‘physical’ office as a place to work has remained relatively unchanged for the last 50 years. For an organisation to move forward, it must consider if the way things are currently running is the best course of action to follow.

A big driving force behind the evolution of the traditional office is changing consumer behaviour and therefore our expectations as employees. They now expect to be able to contact businesses through multiple channels; be it through Twitter, Facebook, online chat, on the high street, email or by phone. There is no one channel that is prevalent over another; consumers tend to gravitate towards whichever channel is most convenient for them.

Employees’ shifting attitudes towards work-life balance is another important factor. Offering an employee the flexibility to set his or her own hours or to work from home is now a more valuable bargaining chip than the corner office or company car. The needs of Millennials entering into the workforce are also misaligned with the structure of the traditional office. They not only aspire for different things than their predecessors, but think and behave differently. Growing up being native digital users, enforcing them to work from cubicles in an office, when they can be just as effective (if not more) working from a café or at home, is no longer justifiable.

The last nail in the ‘traditional office’ coffin is the economy. In austere times, businesses need to do more with less and must innovate in order to survive. Utilising technology, simplifying processes and communications and cutting costs are the ways to help businesses move forward.

Vodafone’s own big transformation

Vodafone’s journey of change began in 2003 with the consolidation of the 64 separate offices that where the result of year on year growth. With the UK business operating in silos there was no atmosphere of collaboration, and no corporate culture. By relocating operations to a new headquarters they established the base from which to transform. But Space was only one of the four key dimensions that drove transformation, by 2007 a Technology phase was needed to address the needs of different worker profiles and the business goal to untether staff from fixed desks. Then by 2009 managers’ offices and physical department walls were history, as the building was transformed into over 51,000 square metres of shared collaboration spaces.

Staff wellbeing, attraction and retention figures, plus absenteeism all improved, and by 2011 the Process phase was underway, removing reliance on paper, pushing utilisation and efficiency of spaces and the workforce even higher. Technology played a huge part in the project phases, such as sound dampening speakers to control unwanted noise from open spaces and coffee shops, meeting space booking solutions, and unified communications capability for every employee. In 2015 the savings continue with new projects around Data analytics, M2M (machine-to-machine) technology and intelligent building controls, put into place to increase facilities management efficiency, track assets and to understand the patterns of their people and visitors when onsite.

Evolving flexible to Better Ways of Working

But all of these physical changes to the office would be for nothing if the culture and mind-set of the organisation and its people remained the same. Vodafone introduced Better Ways of Working, a platform in which all staff based their day-to-day activities.  Technology was just an enabler to help drive change in the space, people and processes. In order to implement the change in full, Vodafone had to change the way its employees behaved by empowering and trusting them to work independently and flexibly. In learning from this, Vodafone believes organisations must give people the right secure technology and enable change by creating a happier, well-balanced workforce.

So why aren’t more businesses taking this on?

There are several reasons adoption of Better Ways of Working isn’t higher. For one, a lack of a business case and support from senior leadership can be a huge challenge for the transformation. Investment is key and leaders have to be able to drive this change. And of course, with new office set-ups and shift in rules concerning employees there comes the question of health and safety, which calls for leaders to challenge conventional ways of thinking in order to implement the changes needed to propel the organisation forward.

Better Ways of Working needs cultural buy-in right across the organisation, but ingrained attitudes within companies, especially well-established ones, can be tough to change. Immature technology is also another obstacle. The wireless access technologies that enable secure flexible working models are still considered by some to be risky to implement despite their enormous potential to support change.

For more information on how Vodafone’s Better Ways of Working team can help your organisation transform your workplace and workforce visit this page.

And in the second seminar Nick Stone, Enterprise Manager, discussed whether unified comms in the cloud is a better way of working?

Communications has become more and more complex in recent times. The average UK citizen uses about 7.4 channels of electronic communication, which shows that the way people communicate has been fragmented. Most employees these days communicate through multiple devices, from fixed landlines to mobile phones and have multiple phone numbers. Businesses need to simplify this practice and make the ‘person’ the centre of communications.

There will be 1.3 billion mobile workers globally in 2015, which means organisations need to start implementing flexible working policies. However, 46% of CIOs believe current corporate strategy does not deliver or support this way of working. As workforce becomes increasingly mobile, strategies such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and Choose Your Own Device (CYOD) will become even more commonplace, as Gartner predicts that half of employers will require employees to supply their own device for work purposes by 2017. Businesses that can provide a sustainable flexible working policy will foster a happy workforce, leading to a decrease in employee turnover and long-term profitability.

Not only is the way of working evolving but employees themselves are changing as well. By 2020, 50% of the workforce will comprise of a digitally native generation- the Millennials –  and this figure will rise to 75% by 2025 in the United States. Business leaders have to consider new generations’ needs, as well as the needs of workers of all ages, and determine the best policies, benefits, services, products and technologies moving forward.

The Cloud makes it simple again

Organisations are recognising that cloud-based systems empower their workforce to work flexibly and be more responsive. Cloud-based systems enable this truly unified approach with much more flex and scalability. Vodafone believes businesses need to make communications simple again.  Vodafone One Net Enterprise Cloud (VONE-C) combines fixed, mobile and desktop services into a single system, allowing staff to work together effortlessly across multiple devices, channels and locations. By using cloud technology to integrate different types of devices, from basic mobiles to high-end phablets, employees can focus on things that really matter. The benefits are happier, more productive employees, better customer experiences and more predictable costs.

To find out if VONE-C is right for your business, click here.

Watch the highlights from UC Expo 2015: