Rafael Cortes, head of marketing at Foehn, explains how a cloud phone system management portal can be an asset to business productivity.
Finding time to manage
Some 50 years ago the management guru Peter Drucker said, “Time is the scarcest resource, and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed.” Since then, business managers have been subjected to a relentless sequence of consultants, training and software tools, all designed to improve time management and restore work-life balance.
For most of us though, particularly those managing smaller business, it seems little progress has been made. According to consultants McKinsey, business managers would like to work a maximum of 50 hours a week but are actually working more than 60 hours on average. The ensuing stress is not good for business productivity.
The survey goes on to identify four “types” of management style that adopt different ways of dealing with time. The “Cheerleader”, the “Online Junkie”, the “Schmoozer” and the “Firefighter” are labels we can identify within all company teams.
At Foehn, we come across “Firefighters” quite often. As providers of cloud communications technology, our customer contact is usually an IT Manager or, amongst smaller companies, an administrator charged with responsibility for IT. Either way, there is no doubt that managers of IT are the supreme champions in the league of firefighters and trouble-shooters. Business IT and communications systems touch every employee, customer and supplier, usually through processes that are critical to the running of the business. Consequently, requests for remediation of failures and changes to system configuration inundate the IT manager. Incessant calls, alerts and emails demand instant attention and leave little time to actually manage the IT.
Cutting out delays
So, what’s the solution? Outsourcing is one option. Helpdesks and Managed Services provided by system vendors or by independent specialists can help if the issues can be resolved remotely. So often, though, important issues will be delayed while the service provider escalates a problem, waiting until a qualified expert in their support team becomes available to address the issue. Delays are the scourge of modern businesses where customer experience and competitive advantage are paramount. Delays also defeat the objective of employing the software intended to automate and streamline the business process in the first place.
Agility is crucial to small and medium-sized enterprises. It’s the one asset that gives advantage over most big companies. Like Foehn, forward-thinking providers of business communications have taken two approaches to enhancing agility and responsiveness to IT management. Firstly, the cloud. By hosting a system in the cloud, maintenance and faults (and related costs) are managed invisibly, taking the management task away from the IT manager. Secondly, the management portal has become a mandatory part of all comms systems. By giving access to tools and analytics that allow the IT manager to take control of the system, the portal is intended to remove reliance on third-party service providers and prevent the associated delays.
The problem with portals
Problem solved? Sadly, it’s not that simple. Without doubt, it’s true that the cloud has made a huge, positive impact on IT management. However, far from alleviating work overload, the typical self-service portal has not proved to be a panacea for the manager’s plight. So, faced with this mystery, we spent some time collaborating closely with our customers to research and observe exactly what’s going on.
It appears that, in the rush to get a portal out into the market, many vendors have not taken into account the true capabilities of IT managers, particularly those in small businesses. Hence, the user interface and its functionality have been designed by software developers who may not have listened to customers before they started planning. The result is a portal that is challenging to use, time consuming and, therefore, totally counter-productive to the original objectives. When it comes to ensuring user engagement and agile management, simplicity of design and ease of use cannot be over-stated.
We identified that, by taking the simplicity of the interface even further, the management of many features could fall within the capabilities of the business manager and even the phone user. In this way, management of the system could be spread across a broader team of in-house individuals, sharing the management task, excluding third parties and putting direct, more responsive control in the hands of employees.
Keep it beautiful, simple and intuitive
The result is our new phone system, Voxivo. Some of our clients have described the user interface as “beautiful”, an unusual description normally reserved for the likes of an Apple device rather than a communications management platform. More importantly, feedback confirms that by releasing management from the constraints of other systems it allows employees and the businesses to respond faster to ever-changing market conditions.