Stories about “kitchen-table entrepreneurs” – people who built a business on a shoestring, often from their spare bedroom – used to be a novelty. Now it’s the way a lot of companies begin life.
Collaborative working spaces like WeWork may act as a corporate alternative to the garage or the spare room, but the fact remains that it’s easier than ever to begin a business with very little start-up capital.
This is in large part thanks to advances in AV technology and the cloud, access to pay-as-you-go professional services, easy-to-use accounting software and Unified Communications, all of which mean that budding business people no longer need a large bank loan to start chasing their dreams.
Anything that helps boost entrepreneurship is terrific news for the economy; however, just because this technology is fit for a business’ needs today doesn’t mean that it will constantly scale to meet their future ambitions.
New technologies, shifting working patterns
Blame it on the “consumerisation of IT”. When a start-up realises that it can get all the functionality it needs from a scalable, cost-effective unified communications (UC) services, then there is very little incentive for it to pay a large annual subscription, new hardware, installation and licensing costs of a traditional enterprise AV communications suite.
When it comes to communications tools such as UC and collaboration software, businesses have more options than ever. What’s most exciting about these technologies is that even the cheaper (or free) ones are usually capable of supporting most of the functions that start-up businesses need initially – including the ability to work remotely.
Just as communications technology has made it easier to set up a business from anywhere, so technology has driven an unprecedented shift in working patterns. Work is now something you do, rather than somewhere you go. Unrestricted by geography and unfettered by the need to commute, workers are free to sell their skills on the open market, becoming freelancers for businesses based anywhere around the world.
Conversely, employers can pick from the cream of the world’s talent, knowing that collaborative working and communications tools mean they can be “in the room” whenever they’re needed. As a result, we are seeing a boom in global collaboration; significantly increasing an organisations’ productivity, while simultaneously reducing OPEX and CAPEX; and further redefining and improving on the way in which we view ‘conventional working’.
Everybody wins: employees gain job flexibility and an improved work-life balance, enabling them to pick and choose when to work and whom to work for. When companies deploy the right AV technologies, they’re not just investing in communication, but building the basis for greater employee morale and productivity, while also reducing infrastructure and overhead costs.
These trends are fundamentally changing users’ expectations of both technology and the workplace. For some time now, we have seen a growing informality in business, such as the decline in rigid working hours or an expectation that employees must come into the office and much of this has been powered by advances in communications technology.
Every company has its preferred ways of working, of course and many large enterprises still see the value in high-quality but expensive conferencing suites. Smaller businesses may, however, find that many long physical or conference call meetings do not suit their culture and find them a time-consuming distraction. These meetings can often be better managed in more intimate, informal AV calls, with only the key people joining.
Yet they still require many of the functionalities of these big suites and SMEs can now create their own AV bundle to suit their requirements and the experience they want to give to their employees and partners.
What’s next for business communication?
Collaboration and UC technologies are enabling more people to undertake audio visual calls via their chosen telephony platform as they start to become integrated into conferencing and UC packages. To complement this and further improve flexibility, USB headsets and speakerphones can be used in conjunction with these soft clients to allow for a cross-platform, quick and easy ‘plug-and-play’ experience without the often-fraught process of dialling into a conference call bridge.
We’re seeing suppliers start to manufacturer conferencing devices that focus on providing a ‘plug-and-play’ experience to eliminate the downtime caused by menial processes, such as remembering and entering dial-in numbers for every conference call. These devices will also be extremely cost effective for SMEs that are unable to invest heavily in traditional conferencing hardware, yet still require a professional audio experience that is both agile and cost-effective.
The next stage in the evolution of business communications will see increasing emphasis placed on furthering conferencing ease-of-use, as well as developing additional ways of making the technology more flexible to each business’ unique needs.
Software will be an important part of this journey, especially when it enables a degree of customisability – for example, through software development kits (SDKs) or APIs that enable each organisation to develop the specific functions they need.
This includes customisable options that increase functionality and usability that enables each user or business to create programmable feature sets, which helps to future-proof the entire AV platform and enable businesses to respond to new needs swiftly and effectively.
As businesses evolve and working patterns change, communications technology providers are making great efforts to meet these new demands, with increasingly functionality and even better usability for both hardware and platforms. That’s great news for every business leader, whether they’re based in the boardroom – or the kitchen table.
Sourced by Nigel Dunn, managing director of EMEA North, Jabra