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Flexibility in the workplace relies on UC technology

The future of work requires supporting flexibility in the workplace with UC technology, according to a Fuze executive. But this requires addressing corporate culture.

As technology evolves, so do how and where employees perform their job responsibilities. For organizations looking to modernize their workforce, the key is to use unified communications and collaboration technology to support flexibility in the workplace and hire employees beyond the geographic limits of offices.

In this Q&A from Fuze's Flex Summit in Boston, Eric Hanson, vice president of market intelligence at Fuze Inc., discussed workplace flexibility. The conference featured business leaders from organizations ranging from nonprofits to technology companies that discussed their views on flexible work and how to support the technological and cultural changes surrounding flexible and dispersed workforces.

Editor's note: This Q&A was edited for length and clarity.

Why is the idea of the future of work so focused on geographically dispersed employees and flexibility in the workplace?

Eric Hanson: The goal is to identify talent, hire the best talent and get the most out of talent. There are two types of leaders. There's the leader that says 'Here's my playbook, and I'm going to hire people who know how to do my playbook.' Versus the other type of coach that comes in and says, 'I love talent, and I'm going to make a system that maximizes the potential of that talent.' To me, that's the better and more realistic approach. Distributed work is that same idea of how do I find and how do I identify, hire and retain the best talent. I think that's a pretty big mind shift for most industries and companies.

Eric Hanson, vice president of market intelligence, FuzeEric Hanson

The cloud aligns well to that. It enables you to ramp something up or down based on the business dynamics very quickly. That's a really important point when you're thinking about the fluidity of talent, and you're thinking about how do I maximize the output and flex with the business dynamics in my given industry? I think that combination is really important.

What role does unified communications and collaboration technology play in supporting an increasingly dispersed workforce?

Hanson: When you think about what role communication plays -- it's the great unifier, it's the great equalizer. How do you create an environment where we've never worked together, but we can establish rapport and gel as an effective team? I think communications and collaboration technology is at the heart of that.  

If you agree with the concept that communications and collaboration is that foundation, then how do you define communication? It used be that legacy UC players would define communication largely as voice-specific -- telephony, PBX.

How do I think about calling and collaboration in a different way? We don't think about the fact that I might be sending you a chat, then we're going to jump on a call and now we need to look at something together. I shouldn't have to think about context-switching between different apps.

A tool like Fuze needs to be able to blur those lines between the different communication modalities in a similar vein. Not just communication modalities, but devices. Right now the most important device is the one that's in your pocket. Why? It's the one that's with you. But when you get back to your office, that's not necessarily going to be the most powerful or ideal device.

Thinking about blurring those lines becomes really important in terms of it shouldn't matter that I'm a mobile worker or I'm a desktop worker. I'm a worker. I need lots of different services that I can use in any given moment in time to do my job.

How can organizations address the cultural change that comes from deploying new technology to support flexibility in the workplace?

Hanson: When you think about it, communication touches everybody in an organization. Changing from what you had to what you want is going to be pretty jarring for the organization, so how do you address that? The way we think about it is it's not just about understanding and delivering functionality against use cases. It's also how you partner with those organizations around change and helping them adapt to their desired future state.

Five or 10% of businesses out there have moved to cloud communications, meaning the other 90% are likely moving in the next couple of years. It's not going to happen all at once, but it is going to accelerate in the next three-plus years.

There are a lot more laggard companies that are going to require that level of consulting and partnership than companies that are going to be completely self-service. Of course, technology can help ease that in terms of transitioning and onboarding those users, but it's definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach.

There are different ways to solve that, but the bigger point is actually being thoughtful and thinking what are the demographics of your workforce, understanding roles and being able to plan for that as part of your deployment strategy. At the end of the day, it's about culture, and it's about leadership, and how do you manage those guardrails? That becomes as important as the technology you're using.

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