Anyone who has started a company and successfully grown it to a certain size will have learned that scalability is a crucially important aspect of business management and development.
The resources that most companies need and use, such as staff, finances and IT infrastructure, all support the business – but as things expand, so do the challenges.
With just handful of staff, a firm grip on the finances and a manageable IT set up in place, a small company can usually get by relatively comfortably. If the business then starts to become more successful, winning more contracts and taking on more customers, further resources are often required.
Although the various pressure points may differ, such as the need to hire more employees or developed a requirement to deploy a customer relationship management (CRM) system, generally speaking they are all part of one ongoing holistic challenge with some sizeable step changes along the way. A company of 50 or 100 people is a very different proposition to one with fewer than ten.
The inflexibility of traditional telephony
For a long time the business phone system has been something of a fly in the ointment of easy business scalability, and a costly one too. Before cloud telephony arrived, the traditional approach meant that a business with growth ambitions would need to plan well ahead to accommodate adding new extensions, allow time for “moves and changes” and rely on an external telecoms provider.
In fact, the provider would often run the show and the business customer would be at its beck and call. Telephone technology, such as a PBX, sockets and wiring, would need to be set up, configured and managed by the provider, with no direct hands on involvement by the business.
Changes would need to be pre-scheduled and even then there was no guarantee that an engineer would appear at the allotted time. Also, changes to the system would typically be charged for each time, so as well as waiting for things to happen, there would invariably be additional costs.
Also from a financial perspective, the overall capex cost needed to be factored in, so additional budget – and often quite a chunk of it – would need to be planned for and pre-allocated. Because of this dependency and associated cost, companies weren’t able to turn on a sixpence, make fast decisions about scaling and re-allocate resources effectively.
This in turn would affect decisions such as hiring staff – why have someone on board in sales, for example, if they couldn’t make or take a phone call easily?
The cloud offers choice over the control of your communications
Cloud telephony has fundamentally changed the way that companies set up and run their business communications. With most businesses now using the internet, fundamental aspects of the technology needed are already in place.
From a financial perspective, the main difference compared with traditional telephone systems is that instead of paying upfront for hardware and installation (because not all of the physical technology is required), all costs are covered by a low monthly fee and priced on a per-user basis.
And from a scalability point of view, not only has the approach freed them from the scheduling limits of their phone provider, it has also introduced new levels of autonomy and flexibility meaning they can scale up (or down) as quickly and as easily as they like. With a cloud phone system, a company can make its own additions, deletions and moves and changes, without relying on an external provider.
With the cloud, companies have the ability to rapidly scale capacity to suit the needs of the business, both up and down. These same benefits are identical with cloud telephony. No capital outlay is needed to buy, install and configure, unlike an on-site PBX. The pricing model is attractive with “pay-per-use” and companies also benefit from lower call tariffs. Cloud telephony also provides a high degree of flexibility as extensions can easily be moved and added – either by themselves or by their provider – through the web as required.
Of course, scalability isn’t always about scaling up the entire company – there may only be a need to focus on scaling parts of it for particular reasons. For example, if a company secures a major contract or takes on a particular project requiring the temporary hiring of a sizeable number of staff, new users can be added without having to rely on an external service provider to undertake absolutely everything needed and over an elongated period.
Likewise, a business may experience seasonal demand in which case the flexibility of a cloud phone system negates any need for long-term planning and unnecessary costs. Or there may be other changing factors, such as having employees working from alternative locations.
Clever communications through convergence
Unlike a traditional telephone system, which operated separately from a company’s IT network and applications, a cloud phone system can be integrated. This means that businesses can benefit from other functionality and features that also go towards supporting scalability.
Telephony has had to evolve and move from voice communication intelligent communications hub that operates seamlessly with CRM systems and is at the heart of customer interaction and company productivity. Being able to make tight integrations to a company’s existing data systems, such as its CRM, can make a big difference to the experiences of customers.
For example, a company’s CRM system can work in tandem with the cloud phone system. So, rather than having to train employees to perform certain functions, the technology makes life a lot simpler and faster. Examples include click-to-dial, where users simply press a hotkey to dial a number, and screen pop functionality where users can quickly view relevant information about the caller.
Analytics about inbound and outbound calls can also be used to good effect for scaling. If a business unit is known to be under performing or over performing, lessons can be quickly learned and applied. It may be the case, for instance, that part of a business needs fewer people handling calls or call routing needs to be reconfigured to take pressure off a particular team.
In the next of a series of articles, we will be offering advice and tips on what to look out for when searching for a suitable cloud phone system.
Rafael Cortes is head of marketing at Foehn.