IT Support Blog for Small Business Owners

Laughter or the Unified Communications Multitasking Trap

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Thu, Apr 17, 2014

baby laughing resized 600I like to laugh, don’t we all? I find humor in all sorts of places and situations. I’m a bit odd (okay I will admit it) I often laugh in unlikely places. I’ve laughed in the most appropriate of situations and some of the most awkward for instance, I often find myself the only person laughing in a crowded movie theater. 

I think we all need to find places to laugh, especially at work. I can be a bit short and tense at work, I find there is so much to do and I never feel like my company is moving quickly enough, so I become outwardly frustrated and I think many people can sense that frustration in me. A few employees at ANP have the great ability to bring laughter to our meetings, they always make me laugh. Laughter is such a stress reliever!

I found a great blog post in Harvard Business Review about laughing at work. In Why You Should Treat Laughter as a Metric, author Bregman writes about the lack of laughter as a symptom of a problem within organizations. And he suggests that increasing the opportunity for laughter should be a leadership priority.

Laughter in Bregman’s eyes means focus:Bregman emphasizes the fact that laughter requires you to be present and focused. You can’t laugh if you’re distracted or multitasking. As an example, he asks that you consider recent phone conversations – and what you were doing at the same time. (I am so guilty as charged.)

Bregman forces us to think about our own ability to focus at work: I hadn’t thought about it much, but the most productive (and entertaining) conversations and conference calls are the ones when I’ve been focused. When I’m fully engaged, I get the most from the conversation, have the opportunity to provide the most value, and I catch the opportunities to see humor – sometimes expressed out loud, sometimes more quietly via Instant Message to a friend. (Yes, I admit it.)

In just a decade, as business owners we quickly came to believe that multitasking was a sign of dedication and productivity. And we often do it because we’re essentially encouraged to do it in order to meet expectations. Technology like Unified Communications certainly makes it possible.

Unified Communications allows me to meet with people over distance, but I can also have other windows open on my desktop that beg attention at the same time. It’s not impossible to do the same thing in an in-person meeting, but it’s not as easy - or as tempting. And if I let it, that Instant Messaging indicator blipping in the corner can easily drag me away from a conversation that demands focus – it’s just a harmless little click, right?

We’ve reached a point where we sit in meetings preparing for other meetings, going through e-mail, or responding to Instant Messages. It’s hard to focus on one thing at a time. We may be doing many things at once, but how productive is our frenzy? How good is it for morale? Are we more likely to be frustrated and stressed versus amused and laughing?

What should we do with the power of Unified Communications on our desktops? As business owners, we can be more aware and catch ourselves when we’re dividing our attention into bits and pieces. For some people that may mean making a list that clearly prioritizes projects so that we’re not trying to do bits of multiple things at the same time. I find, if I make a list on a tablet every day, I am far more likely to get those things accomplished.  For others it may be as simple as a post-it note or a sign in our work areas that remind us to focus.

As managers, we can listen. Listen for laughter. Watch for signs of humor and amusement. If the laughter isn’t loud enough, consider the expectations and environment you’ve created for your teams. And consider the example we set. Unified Communications is a very powerful tool for communications, but I need to be every vigilant to stop multitasking with Unified Communications. I need to constantly remind myself to be fully engaged in my meetings! 
Do you encourage humor and laughter at work
 Do you laugh out loud? Can you become mindful of the multitasking trap of Unified Communications?

Would you like to learn more about Unified Communications, sign up for the webinar by clicking on the link below!

Register For The VoIP Webinar Today!

Topics: unified communications, Laughter, Multitasking

What are the benefits of Unified Communications to a small business?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sat, Apr 12, 2014

VoIP Unified CommunicationSmall businesses are discovering the appeal of a communications solution that extends the power of their business phone system far beyond their office desktop and conventional dial tone. Unified Communications can be a competitive advantage for businesses that need a single system to manage multiple channels of communication, making their business more productive and helping smaller companies take advantage of features that make them appear larger and more competitive to their clients. Think of Unified Communications as the Swiss Army knife of small business communications.

As might be expected, given its flexibility, interest in Unified Communications strategies continues to rise.  ANP is holding a webinar this month on Unified Communications; you can register by clicking here.  Many small businesses perceive additional value in the deployment of Unified Communications. Large and medium sized companies and those with a higher proportion of telecommuting workers are the most bullish about the benefits of Unified Communications.  I have noticed, as a Managed IT Service Provider that Unified Communications, or communications and collaboration solutions, are getting equal, if not more, dollars from annual IT budgets compared to other technologies. There must be a business return for the investment; many businesses have a clear vision of what they expect to gain from implementing Unified Communications; they expect greater employee productivity, reduced dial tone cost and a means to improve customer engagement.

Having a nimble Unified Communication solution makes integration and ease of use possible for small and medium-sized businesses to manage communication styles that were once considered to only apply to larger organizations.  Why should your business consider upgrading an existing phone system to get Unified Communications? If you have a small and medium-sized business, there are critical advantages that you can, and should, expect when implementing the right Unified Communications solution. These five key business benefits are helping drive the strong adoption rate of Unified Communications by businesses today.

  1. Communicate more effectively with employees, customers and vendors: Particularly important to smaller businesses is the ability to implement any technology that provides enhanced functionality and is simple to take advantage of.  Unified Communications is increasingly recognized as a technology that allows small and medium businesses to take advantage of proven increases in productivity and functionality while realizing significant savings.  Once Unified Communications is implemented every employee will be able to use any computing device from anywhere in the world to connect to your phone system without dial tone and long distance charges. They will be able to Instant Message colleagues, make phone calls, listen to voice mail and perhaps most interesting, send and receive video calls.  They can also tell if another employee is on the phone, in a meeting or away from their computer.  Imagine the level of engagement between your employees and your customers and vendors when using video during your phone calls and not spending a penny extra for the enhanced level of communication!
  2. Connect your growing mobile and remote workforce by incorporating mobility: An office is just about anywhere you need it to be today, and your company’s business is taking place more often outside of your office walls so it is increasingly important for remote and mobile workers to access the same phone system features, whether working from their cubicle in the office or out on the road with their cell phone, or at home on their laptop. By implementing a Unified Communication solution, it makes it easy to stay connected to your employees, from any location, and from any device. It also provides flexibility in managing off-site employees, using features like presence (where you can see if an employee is on the phone or away from their computer or if they are in a meeting.)
  3. Saving money on overall operating costs: One of the greatest benefits of implementing the right Unified Communication solution is taking advantage of the cost savings it provides. This includes both savings on the initial cost of the system, as well as, savings on the long-term costs that leads to a good Return on Investment, such as the removal of a lot of the dial tone delivery costs.  When shopping for a cost-effective Unified Communications solution, make certain you understand the software licensing costs, insure that all of the Unified Communications features, such as, Instant Messaging, video conferencing, and presence updates are all included in the cost of the system and are not extras.
  4. Gaining uplift in customer service capabilities: The right Unified Communications solution should be more than a phone system; it should be a better communications system that helps you improve your customers' telecommunications experience with your business.  A quality Unified Communications solution allows small and medium businesses to serve customers more effectively, using features such as call queues and contact center features to handle every call with care.  Small and medium businesses should be able to use a Unified Communication solution to know more about every incoming call, in order to route each call appropriately, ensuring there are no more missed calls or lack of visibility. You should be able to route each call to the right employee every time no matter where the employee happens to be located when the call comes in.
  5. Moving beyond basic dial tone phone functionality: Too often, small businesses will evaluate new technologies based on whether or not the system can meet the organization’s current needs - in reference to both basic features included with the technology and in reference to the current size and structure of the business.  That type of decision can cost a small business thousands of dollars in future upgrade costs when choosing a business phone system.  When considering “future expansion,” that term may not mean something as extensive as expanding physical locations; it could be as simple as adding or moving an employee. The right Unified Communications solution will allow small and medium sized businesses to opt for a flexible system that provides extended functionality and that will also grow with the business.
Register For The VoIP Webinar Today!

Topics: unified communications, VoIP, small business phone systems

What is Unified Communications and why should a business owner care?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Fri, Apr 11, 2014

Unified CommunicationsHave you ever been frustrated by you inability to speak to an employee while in your car, or at home or at a client site? Do you find yourself wondering how you might be able to raise the engagement level between your colleagues and yourself?  I often found myself wondering if my employees were on the phone or in a meeting.  I thought that my ancient PBX was actually beginning to limit my company’s ability to meaningfully communicate. Small business phone systems have made huge strides in the last five years; in fact, small business phone systems don’t resemble their ancient ancestors at all.

A modern small business phone system can correct all of the problems I just described in a ten-year-old PBX.  Using a new technology called Unified Communications an organization just like your company is able to seamlessly integrate, or unify, its typical business communications with both real-time communications (such as instant messaging, presence information (who in on the phone or in a meeting), telephony/VoIP (phone calls), voice mail and video conferencing and non real-time communications (such as e-mail, SMS texting and fax).

Okay I recognize that was a lot to digest, so lets break down Unified Communications into to smaller bite sized pieces so you can follow along and hopefully begin to see how Unified Communications could significantly help your small business improve collaboration between your employees, vendors and your customers!

Unified communications solves many of the legacy PBX shortfalls; lets take a look at just a few:

  • Remember on your ancient PBX how you could only get your phone calls from your desk phone? Unified Communications can program a VoIP phone system to look for you on all of your preferred devices while your office phone is ringing.   If it finds you somewhere out of the office, it will automatically transfer the call from your desk phone to your cell phone or home phone without the calling party realizing how or where you are taking the call from.
  • By loading Unified Communications software on my iPhone, iPad, or Mac Book Air, all of these devices become extensions of my VoIP phone system, I can receive or make phone calls from any device any where in the world as if I am sitting oat my desk in my own office.
  • Sometimes, I don’t really need to talk to someone but I want to text them a short message, with Unified Communications I can Instant Message my employees and we chat back-n-forth. The chats are also recorded as a log file for security’s sake.
  • Remember how you could never tell if your employees are on the phone or in a meeting? By loading the unified communication software of your preferred device, you can see an employee’s status; are they at their desk, are they on the phone, or in a meeting or not signed on. You can even extend this feature out to your customers and vendors who are using VoIP systems and share this information between each phone system. I can instantly see if my vendor is able to speak to me before I call them.
  • Have you ever been on a video conference call? Were you impressed how video can bring an additional dimension to our communications? Well when you deploy Unified Communications software on a device with a camera, you can instantly start video conference calls just by dialing a phone number.  I can use my iPhone to videoconference right back and into my office. And it’s free because the data packets are going over the Internet.

These are just a small sub-set of what you can do with Unified Communications.  Unified Communications software lets you be more productive, anytime, from anywhere on any device. Wherever you are, you can quickly and easily find people, see if and how they are available, and collaborate using instant messaging (IM), voice, high- definition video, voice messaging, desktop sharing, and conferencing. Unified Communication gives you the power to work your way, from any device and within the familiar applications and business processes you use every day.

Communications and collaboration are changing to be inherently more mobile, social, visual and virtual. Unified Communications delivers a collaborative experience from your preferred device (your desk phone, your cell phone, your tablet, or your laptop) that lets you be as productive when mobile as you are at your desk. Unified Communications software takes advantage of intelligence in your VoIP phone system to deliver secure, reliable, and high quality communications. You get a consistent experience across on-premises and cloud-based deployments—and Unified communications software utilizes industry standards to ensure interoperability across Cisco and with third-party solutions.

By combining a broader range of communications and features into a more complete Unified Communication solution and integrating it with your business processes, your small business is able to substantially increase its effectiveness – and cost savings.  If you would like to learn more about Unified Communications ANP is hosting a webinar for small business owners to discuss VoIP phone systems and the business benefits of Unified Communications.

Register For The VoIP Webinar Today!

Topics: unified communications, VoIP, small business phone systems

Considering Replacing Your Ancient PBX with a New VoIP Phone System?

Posted by David S. Mulvey on Sun, Apr 06, 2014

VoIP Phone SystemDo you have a phone system that is sitting in your back office that has been bolted to the wall for the last 10 to 15 years? Or are you using a key system that isn’t providing you the functionality your employees need? Most old small business PBX’s are extremely reliable, they are built like tanks, and frankly just keep working. If you are like me (and I am a small business owner), you don’t look around in your office trying to replace business equipment that is still working.  If your PBX is operating just like it did on the first day you turned it on, why replace it? Why invest your valuable cash on a new phone system?

If you are like most small businesses owners, you may not realize the potential benefits of a new business phone system.  Today’s modern phone systems provide features nothing like your old and outdated PBX. Let’s take a look at some of the major differences between your old PBX and a modern small business phone system.

Perhaps the biggest differences lie in how the phone systems work.  The original PBX was a purpose built appliance that as we mentioned gets bolted onto a closet wall.  Dedicated wiring connected the PBX to the manufacturers’ specialized phone appliances.  A new PBX connects all of the phones to your company’s Local Area Network.  The benefit here is that you no longer need two sets of wiring in a building: the phone and the computer network.  There are many advantages beyond the simplification in wiring.  Because the phones are now on the LAN, so too are the voice signals, they have all been converted to a protocol called Voice-Over-IP often abbreviated as VoIP.  Because the voice signals now run on your network as VoIP packets on the LAN, they can also travel over the Internet like any other data packet.

There are enormous benefits to using VoIP instead of dedicated wiring.  To name a few, you no longer need dial tone delivered on dedicated data circuits that are expensive: T1’s, PRI’s or analog dial tone jacks.  Dial tone is now delivered over the Internet as VoIP data packets; you can turn off the T1’s and PRI circuits the VoIP phone system doesn’t need then anymore. This reduction in the traditional dial tone circuits can save a small business owner, hundreds to thousands of dollars in reduced dial tone cost every month.  It’s not unusual for the savings in traditional dial tone costs to pay for the new VoIP phone system in less than three years. After that its just money saved and in the bank.

Your old PBX had a fixed number of dial tone inputs and a fixed number of extension ports.  It cost additional money to connect more phones than the system had in ports. You needed to buy and install more port cards as your company grew.  Using a new VoIP system, there are no physical port connections, just a single LAN connection.  So you can add phones as your company grows, in fact, you often don’t even need to buy new VoIP phones to connect additional users, because your phone system can also load a software application on your desktop that emulates a physical phone. And we can tae that through further, you can load software on your Apple iPhone or Android phone that also emulates a VoIP phone.

There are so amazing implications to that ability to turn your cell phone into an office phone by using software.  So imagine if every employee had a Direct-Inward-Dial (DID) phone number, in my office my number is 267-628-1033, and instead of that number always ringing on a dedicated PBX phone wired into my office, now the DID will ring wherever you I am located when I have my cell phone with me.  So essentially I can answer my DID from home, in the car, on vacation or at work.  Imagine your employees ability to better serve your employees from within the company and also your vendors and clients? No more voice mails, no more waiting for answers, every employee is essentially always available to speak to a business contact.

I can program my VoIP cell phone application to ring me during the day and send calls to voice mail at night.  I can also have the VoIP system announce who the caller is and let me decide if I want to accept the call after hours.  The level of flexibility the VoIP system will bring and your employee’s ability to answer their DID line from outside the office will bring additional productivity improvements to your clients and your business.

I am just scratching the surface of what you can expect from your VoIP phone system.  My next blog will discuss what Unified Communications is and how your VoIP phone system can change the way you communicate within your business today!  Are you interested in learning more about VoIP? I am holding a Free IT webinar; click the link below to register for the VoIP information session to learn how VoIP might be the perfect choice for your small business.


Register For The VoIP Webinar Today!

Topics: VoIP Phone, unified communications, VoIP solutions

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