How hosted voice services can provide a stepping stone towards digital transformation
Hosted voice is not one of the technologies that you will hear being mentioned in relation to digital transformation. But it does have a role to play in enabling businesses to take at least one small step towards the evolution of systems that will lead, ultimately, to the organisation becoming fully digital.
Digital transformation implies wholesale change rather than the small improvements that most organisations try to make continuously. It has become a major theme due to the convergence of three key trends: the wider availability and affordability of faster connectivity services; the explosion in use of mobile devices; and the growing acceptance of cloud-based or hosted services.
The aim of digital transformation is to make processes and organisations much slicker, more efficient and cost-effective and to deliver better experiences, results and outcomes for everyone. In practice, implementing a true and effective digital transformation is not so easy.
In most organisations, the everyday practices and procedures can’t just be abandoned and replaced by entirely digital processes overnight. Consider a GPs surgery, for example. While younger people may be entirely comfortable booking consultations online, most elderly patients will still want to call up and make their appointment personally.
In most GP surgeries now there will be a touch-screen in reception that enables patients to sign themselves in when they arrive for their appointment. Even then, using these systems will be optional – there will still be a receptionist behind a desk who will acknowledge their arrival personally. We are not yet at the stage where human beings – even those performing simple ‘meet and greet’ roles – are being replaced by artificially-intelligent avatars.
An established haulage business may provide a system that enables customers to schedule pick-ups and monitor progress of their deliveries online; but there will still be more traditionally-minded customers who prefer to call and speak to someone about their requirements– and pick up the phone again when they need to know when a consignment will get to its destination.
The reality in most public sector and commercial organisations is that the old procedures need to be run in parallel with the new. This meets the needs of both those who want to embrace new technologies and ideas right away, and those who want to stick to the old way of doing things – at least until they feel more comfortable with the new concepts and realise that they are in fact, better.
In practice, for most organisations, transformation will be a process of continuous and gradual change, improvement and adoption. Yet there are some systems that can be safely and immediately adopted. Voice is one of them. Indeed, it is one of the first new digital services that many organisations embrace. Patients and customers who – for now at least – still prefer to make a call and speak to someone, will not mind what technology is being used behind the scenes, as long as it works.
To the user, hosted VoIP is no different to a fixed line voice service. But what it will actually be delivering is a much more efficient, manageable and flexible service and, in the end, that will benefit everyone. As it is also a digital service, VoIP can be integrated with other IT systems and services, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software and billing platforms. It can thus enable more integration between systems and become part of the foundation for adoption of more digitized systems right across the organisation.
A hosted voice service can be implemented very easily and cost-effectively – overnight if required. More commonly, lines and users can be moved across in phases and taking this approach effectively enables businesses to try VoIP before they make a full commitment to its adoption for all voice communications.
Full adoption is always the end result though, because once an organisation has experienced using a hosted voice service, they quickly realise the limitations that the old fixed line, analogue services imposed upon them.
This helps to build confidence in and enthusiasm for digital systems and hosted or cloud-based solutions, laying the foundation for the adoption of hosted applications and cloud storage, backup and other services. This is important, because winning the hearts and minds of employees, customers, patients and other stakeholders, is just as vital to the success of digital transformation, as the choice of services, solutions and suppliers that organisations make.
While VoIP will never be presented as being central to digitalisation. it can provide a solid stepping stone that will build both customer and user confidence and thus help organisations move towards their digital transformation goals.