Three steps to getting your SMB hooked on collaboration

Small and medium-sized (SMB) companies looking to punch above their belt class are turning to business collaboration tools.

The use of voice, video, Web conferencing, instant messaging and mobile communication apps has quickly become the standard among big global enterprises. In order to compete with larger competitors, SMBs need to implement the collaboration tools that meet their business requirements and allow them the flexibility to scale quickly.

Using Cisco collaboration tools – such as Cisco WebEx or Cisco’s Unified Communications Manager series – not only optimizes employee performance and enables mobile users, but it also enhances customer services and satisfaction.

For instance, a tiny organization equipped with a Cisco Unified Communications 540 Series phone system can appear as a larger firm to its customers simply by using advanced features such as the automated attendant system.

Here are three steps to get you there.

To start on the journey toward these business-changing benefits, SMB IT leaders need to develop a business plan. This is a step that cannot be avoided, no matter which solution provider or vendor technology you decide on.

Every successful SMB in existence today probably started with a business proposal, so before jumping into the world of collaboration technologies, businesses need to put pen to paper on a strategy.

This plan could be a two-page document that outlines how you want your business to be able to use collaboration tools 12 to 24 months from now. It doesn’t matter if you operate something as basic as a neighbourhood floral shop with a handful of employees. It is key to work out a clear vision before moving ahead with any collaboration technology.

After developing this strategy, a network assessment is in order.

Many new IT projects will somehow impact your organization’s networking infrastructure. Launching new collaboration tools — whether at your place of business or remotely in the cloud — require IT staff to think about how the new software and hardware will access the network.

To manage the network security, identify management and other connectivity issues that will no doubt arise, we offer a free of charge network assessment, both in-person or over the phone with a local Cisco provider. Our partners can talk about all of the Cisco Smart Business Communications applications we offer, which is right for your business, and how they will connect into your current IT environment.

Communications tools shouldn’t restrict an SMB’s ability to grow, so laying out all of the network expandability options during this step is something we’re excited to offer.

Finally, rely on the expertise any of our large fleet of partners can provide. All of Cisco’s partners have validated credentials to help you find the best products and services for your environment.

Wherever possible, an IT solution provider will be able to act on your customized business plan and prepare your corporate infrastructure to support the new collaboration tools. For example, this might include linking your existing in-house apps to your new UC phones, providing single-number reach for employees frequently on the road or adding video cameras to enable video calls for all employees.

My philosophy is: If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Large enterprises are already on-board with next-gen collaboration technology. Now it’s time for the little guys to catch up.

About Todd Madgett

As Director, Small and Medium Business and Distribution at Cisco Canada, Todd Madgett leads business development and sales operations for Cisco Canada's fastest-growing market segment. He directs a national sales team focused on defining strategies and tailored solutions to achieve success for channel partners as well as small and medium-sized enterprises. Madgett holds a business and marketing administration diploma from Sir Sanford Fleming College.
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