3 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Cloud Communications ProviderJune 20, 2016 – Smart businesses everywhere have embraced the cloud as a cost-effective alternative to capex spending with on-premises hardware and software. For SMBs in particular, the cloud enables enterprise-level functionality without the associated price tag. As with all technology, however, not all cloud offerings are the same. There are literally hundreds of cloud providers, all with varying levels of abilities. Choosing the right cloud services provider for your business can be an arduous, time-consuming task—if you don’t know how to simplify the search. Reliability, security and usability all are important considerations in determining which cloud provider to use. With that in mind, here are three key questions to ask when choosing a cloud communications provider:
What features does your cloud communications service offer?At a minimum, a cloud communications service will include voice services—calling, voice mail and possibly auto attendant. But to get the most out of what the cloud has to offer, look for a communications system that offers additional robust functionality, such as voice mail to email capabilities, for example.
- VoIP call control
- Mobility apps
- Instant messaging
- Audio and web conferencing
- Video calling
- Online meeting collaboration with web share capabilities
- A feature-rich client interface
What security controls does your cloud communications service have in place?Cloud communications, like any other cloud service, is only as secure as the security measures that surround it. At a minimum, a cloud communications service should have protection against malware, data breaches and service hijacking—all of which are very real threats.
- Session border controllers, which enforce security, quality of service and admission control mechanisms over the VoIP service and include firewall protection
- End-to-end encryption protects IP voice against unauthorized recording, playback and other forms of electronic snooping.
- Full API catalog, so users don’t have to rely on third-party APIs that might contain malicious code
- Strong password policies to help prevent unauthorized access to the system
- Fraud monitoring to detect and shut down potential fraud early
- State-of-the-art data center to ensure the highest level of security
What type of infrastructure is supporting the cloud communications service?Most cloud service providers have carrier-grade infrastructure that ensures minimal downtime even in the face of disaster. Be sure to ask the cloud service provider about its service level agreements and policies for ensuring uptime, as well as its backup services to protect against data loss.
The CIO CFO RelationshipIn one recent survey from CIO Magazine, only 13% of CIOs reported being seen as a “business leader” while 38% were seen as a “service provider.” Both leadership and partnership and important elements of the CIO/CFO relationship. In order to establish themselves as someone deserving of a seat at the executive table, CIOs need to be business leaders and partners as much as they need to be technical contributors. Technical know-how is certainly essential to the CIO role, but business acumen is also a critical skill. Showing how investments in new technology can impact core company goals, growth objectives, and ultimately the bottom line is the best way for CIOs to earn and maintain attention from the CFO.
Solving Communication IssuesGreat communication skills are key for virtually every level of employee, but when it comes to top executives, they become even more important. Going forward, it will be key for CIOs to not only have great ideas as to how technology can lead towards business goals but to be able to communicate these ideas to other executives in a way that everyone can understand. This means overcoming those communications issues that can sometimes hinder relationships between technical and non-technical departments. Leadership training and perseverance is key here, in order to find common language with which to describe the technical needs of the company.
Emphasis on SecuritySecurity is one of the top issues facing IT departments in 2015, but it is chief among CFO challenges since security breaches can be hugely expensive. Therefore, moving forward one of the important CIO jobs will be to utilize his or her communication skills in order to explain security risks and present business savvy solutions to protecting the company from these kinds of breaches. As with any big financial investment, financial transparency will also be key here. CFOs want to be protected against security risks, but also want to know what they are paying for, making clear cost breakdowns and technical explanations of different expenditures essential. A mutually beneficial relationship between CIOs and CFOs can have a hugely positive influence on a business overall. The more CIOs can work with CFOs and other executives, the better the outcomes.
Tip #1: Embrace New TechnologyThe reason people are able to work so effectively from virtually anywhere today is due to solid internet connections and helpful applications that ensure we are still able to communicate effectively despite distance limitations. If you aren’t able to embrace technology and how it can help your business, you are creating more work for yourself as a manager, and that list of office manager duties will only get longer and harder to navigate. Although custom-built software and VPN systems have served as helpful tools before, there are many viable options available that are robust and require far less IT and financial commitment. Here are a few more commonly used applications that help multiple locations communicate more effectively:
- com: Collaborate about your sales and opportunities in real-time with this popular CRM tool.
- Basecamp: This project management tool gives you the ability to manage a variety of projects with a simplistic and easy-to-use web platform.
- Google Gmail/Documents/Calendar: Give your employees access to their work documents from anywhere using Google. Having instant access to appointment information, email, and important business-related documents will enable your employees to easily get what they need right when they need it.
Tip #2 Make Communication KingTools can help, but real communication tops them all. Every office should feel equally involved in how the business functions, and the only way to do that is through effective communication. A robust phone system like ShoreTel Connect Cloud should be accessible for every employee so they can connect quickly and easily. The CEO or owner of the business should make regular trips to each location to connect and hear employee concerns. A weekly team meeting where everyone participates should be a priority. And lastly, plan to have the entire team together at least once a year to participate in brainstorm sessions and team building events.
Tip #3 Get Systems in OrderSystems provide the ability to duplicate offices and reduce the amount of supervision needed to get work done. Establishing roles, responsibilities, and authority helps prevent possible issues caused by confused employees. Ensure each employee knows what the organizational structure of the business is, as well as what they are responsible for and measured upon. This encourages a clear sense of accountability no matter where someone is working. Implementing the proper systems and new technologies partnered with effective communication can help you navigate the growing list of office manager duties.
1. Missing CommunicationA lack of communication is always a problem. When employees or vendors are simply not communicating, small issues can quickly snowball into insurmountable stresses simply because no one knows what is going on. More communication seems like the simple answer here, but a better way to frame it is setting expectations. Whether that means scheduling check ins with remote employees or freelancers or asking for reports from vendors it is important that everyone is on the same page about how often they are expected to communicate progress to you.
2. MicromanagementOn the other end of the spectrum is micromanagement. When you hover over employees and try to manage every aspect of their job, you are not only fostering an adversarial and distrustful environment, you are wasting everyone’s time. There are a few ways to solve micromanagement – or overcommunication – issues. In the long run, it is essential to hire people that you trust and allow them to do the job you hired them for. Sometimes, communication can feel like micromanagement when it isn’t and this is an easier fix. For example, when you’re constantly calling an employee or scheduling meetings, they feel compelled to stop whatever they’re doing to address your needs and it can weigh them down and cost everyone efficiency. If what you have to say can be communicated in an email instead, the employee has the option to respond at their convenience. This simple assessment of the best technology for certain communications can have a big impact on relationships and overall communication efficacy.
3. No Down TimeOvercommunication isn’t limited to micromanagement. A chief complaint among many employees and managers/business owners is that they feel as if they are always connected. The advent of the smartphone has made it impossible for people to unplug. In fact, only 25% of people with paid vacation time take all of it during the year. As a communication solution for this particular issue, be sure to encourage employees to take down time. This can range from actual vacations to simply turning off email notifications or phone calls for the time when they are not on the job. This can lead to overall happier and more productive employees in the long run.
4. Maximizing Meeting EfficacyScheduling regular meetings is an essential part of managing any team, no matter what the size. But inefficient meetings can lead to to a lot of frustration for those that have to attend them – not to mention the damage they can cause to overall productivity. One study suggests that employees can waste an average of 31 hours a month in unproductive meetings. Setting expectations can be a great communication solution for this particular issue as well. Have a meeting agenda and stick to it. There are plenty of business advice books and programs that can give you a good framework for scheduling meetings. Find one that works for you and make sure no one is dreading your next staff meeting.
5. Scattered Employee BaseUtilizing freelancers and offsite employees can be a great option for small business owners who need to cut down on overhead. You don’t have to find office space or even computers for these employees. But a scattered base of employees can create some difficult communication problems for you as well as for your customers. A unified communications solution can be a way to make sure that remote employees feel part of the team and are able to contribute seamlessly. UC options like VoIP can make it possible for people to answer customer calls from home as if they were in the office with access to all the same features and reliability. No matter what the size of your business, when you are able to communicate effectively with your team and your customers, you will be able to more effectively accomplish your bigger business goals.
Name a “CFO of the Day”What better way to get employees to understand the financials of the company than to put them in the shoes of the person who manages it? The employee selected will have to present figures at a weekly or monthly staff meeting regarding the financial matters of the business. As each staff member hears from others’ who are serving in the temporary role, it will motivate them to improve the statistics they are presenting about when they are taking on the position. Because the employees now understand how the company operates from a financial perspective, they will be motivated to make small adjustments to improve the overall bottom line.
Consider the Removal of Standardized Performance ReviewsMake a commitment to your employees by showing that you care about the environment in which they work. Consider the possibility of doing away with the more formal performance reviews that stress highly corporate processes that establish a “pass or fail” mentality. Most of these reviews focus solely on performance and disregard many of the other accomplishments or outside struggles of that review time frame. It can often be perceived by employees as a demoralizing process where the boss serves as their judge. Instead, start an interactive coaching program that guides the person towards improvement, learning, as well as how they can bring their productivity to the next level.
Showcase Employee Success and ContributionPeople generally love playing a role in something that is bigger than themselves rather than just collecting a paycheck. If work is considered to be a waste of time and effort, they are demotivated almost instantly. CFO’s should align the work of the employee with the day-to-day operations to foster value and success for both the organization and employee.
Encourage PositivityARS Research shows that employees with a high level of enthusiasm, confidence, and inspiration are 5 times more engaged than employees with negative tone and emotions. To encourage more enthusiastic employees, CFO’s and other leaders should always lean toward an optimistic approach rather than a negative tone. Leaders should be a trusting source of the organization, they need to focus on consistency and transparency as well as avoid inter-office gossip and negativity. Doing so will encourage employees to do the same. We hope you found these employee motivation ideas helpful as you look to improve your CFO engagement and improve productivity at your business.
Saying What You NeedFirst and foremost, business communication should be concise. That means that whether you are composing an email, a presentation, or a phone call you should make the goal of the conversation to be saying what you need. Communications expert Karen Friedman recommends adhering to the tried and true journalistic method of establishing:
Non-Verbal Cues Are Still ImportantBecause we do a lot of our communication electronically these days, it can be easy to let in-person communication skills fall by the wayside. Whether that means staring at your incoming emails while an employee is trying to talk to you or simply letting your mind wander when you’re on a conference call, you can take physical steps to make your communication come across better. Making eye contact is one easy way to improve face-to-face conversations, as is taking you hands out of your pockets and adopting a comfortable, open stance. On the phone, try smiling or maintaining a neutral expression. And do your best not to read emails or attend to other tasks while on the phone. The other person will notice.
Cultivate Good Listening SkillsListening is not antithetical to communication. In fact, listening can be one of the best communication solutions. Office managers often have to act as a liaison between different departments and even different offices. This means that it is especially important that you are able to listen to the needs of different employees and managers so that you can effectively communicate them to others. While good listening is important in all scenarios, pay close attention to your own attention when it comes to employees offer suggestion or ideas, team collaboration environments, and emotional situations. Unfortunately, communication solutions are not one size fits all. Some offices communicate better via email while others prefer phone calls or meetings. Use these communication tips to better understand what your office needs and how you can be a more effective manager through communication.
Scared of Speaking?February 11, 2016 – Widely known as the #1 fear among Americans, public speaking can be a scary thing. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, about 74% of people report they have some form of speech anxiety. That’s the feeling you get right before a big presentation or speech that produces symptoms like sweaty palms, an upset stomach, and maybe even body trembling. It’s annoying, distracting, and most people would agree they’d like to have some tools to stop it from happening. The good news is that it is possible to control the problem, but it takes some practice and preparation. Here are our 5 public speaking tips to help decrease the anxiety for better public communication:
Preparation is Key
Focus on the Opportunity
Make Eye Contact
Make Friends with TED
Watch Your Watch