Procurement 26 August 2015

Why collaboration tools can open up a wealth of new opportunities for UK micro businesses

Developments with video conferencing and other ways of remote working are helping collaboration to flourish
Developments with video conferencing and other ways of remote working are helping collaboration to flourish
Powwownow’s Paul Turton looks at how businesses can takeadvantage and benefit from the ever-increasing availability of collaboration tools.

Collaboration when it comes to businesses used to be viewed with a certain degree of cynicism, as a buzzword which had no tangible meaning. A term coined across the Atlantic describing “all-encompassing meeting technology”; people who dared utter the word in this context were not generally the sort you wanted to collaborate with. It is now becoming commonplace within firmsthough, as the benefits of collaboration and the ability to work with other companies andagencies is being recognised. It is a trend that is only going to become more popular as technology continues to advance and needs among the business community increase.

The USA is currently ahead of the UK in this area, as collaboration between businesses is firmly engrained within their culture. Part of this is through sheer necessity as the USA is so vast and naturally far harder to travel around and meet people face-to-face, with the need for people to connect across multiple time zones. The other side is that attitudes are arguably more progressive in America regardingcollaboration. The technology is certainly there for business in the UK and they are catching up with the USA but it is the culture and attitudes which require the main adjustments.

If you look back to ten to 12 years ago, conference calling was a new concept but caught on quickly with the technology around it developing rapidly. As always it was large corporates that led the way and they continue to do so in terms of upgrading their conferencing and collaboration tools. Small businessesare a key segment but they tend to wait and follow the large corporates when making such decisions which is understandable but, it is the upgrade to full collaboration services which will allow micro firmsto compete and punch above their weight.

Businesses are becoming increasingly demanding regarding the conferencing functionality they need, more regularly enquiring about video, screen share, instant chat, etc. There is a demand for video as we often hear from customers and businesses alike that this makes the meeting experience more personal in that participants can better gauge reaction in-group discussion. The other big movement has been towards screen share applications as it is allowing meetings to take place as effectively remotely as in person. Documents can be easily and reliably presented to a group and worked upon together irrespective of where they are in the world and on any device. All in all, the growing trend is that businesses and individuals are keen to upgrade their relationship to full collaboration as it reflects the new way of working for a lot of companies.

Remote working is certainly becoming far more than a concept for many and is helping drive those that embrace it to the next level. Conference calling is a huge part of this but the reality is that there is now far more available. Businesses need to improve their remote working experience and some take quality audio as an absolute given these days when it comes to conferencing.

It is encouraging to hear that improved broadband and Wi-FI have been raised as topics which need to be addressed by the government. While technological advances have allowed changes to be made, improvements in both broadband and Wi-FI are essential for flexible working and in turn helping small businesses grow. Allied with this, the ever-changing legislation around flexible working is also allowing staff to work from home and when managed well with the appropriate technology permits people to be more productive.