There is no going back: small businesses must adapt to the new landscape

“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
—John F. Kennedy

Remember that old Friday night staple of visiting Blockbuster with the family, renting the latest action flick, grabbing snacks, and bumping into your neighbors? It was such a routine that we never considered that it could vanish. But seemingly overnight, Netflix displaced Blockbuster. Why? Because Blockbuster refused to change.

Blockbuster had excellent customer service, a wide selection, and enjoyed “household name status.” The world changed with the advent of content streaming, and Blockbuster was left behind. Right now, the world is changing: consumer behaviors, workplaces, almost every aspect of daily life is undergoing long-term change — businesses that don’t want to be left behind must embrace this.

Broaden your footprint, deepen relationships

The shift to selling and providing services online gives SMBs a unique opportunity to expand their geographical footprint at minimal cost. Consider that many SMBs were launched to fill gaps in the local market. Staying small helped them create unique and intimate customer relationships, and with today’s technology, those relationships no longer need to be constrained by geography.

For a boutique retailer, this might mean offering one-to-one fashion consulting outside of regular business hours. An architecture firm might share in-progress designs via the cloud so that clients can give feedback. Going virtual will help SMBs strengthen existing customer relationships while opening doors to attract new clients.

Create new revenue streams

In May, RingCentral Sponsored the LiveWork Small Business School Challenge. Incasa, a home decor store in Astoria, Queens, participated in hopes of finding ways to survive when they closed their storefront due to the virus. While 90% of their pre-COVID revenue came from in-store sales, Incasa has always offered informal interior design consulting. Amid lockdown, they realized the untapped potential of this service. An analysis by MBA students found that by providing virtual consulting and selling some of their wares online in curated bundles, Incasa could match 89% of their pre-pandemic revenues even with their physical shop closed.

Connection, collaboration, and productivity

Unified Communications-as-a-Service offerings make it easy for companies to provide integrated Message, Video, Phone (MVP) to their employees, making it easier for them to connect, collaborate, and stay productive. Selecting the right solution will keep your employees and customers happy! – Read more

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What Exactly Are Cloud-Based Integrations?

My Post (12).pngIf you’ve considered new enterprise software for your organization lately—whether for a function such as unified communications, collaboration, customer relationship management, or something else—you’ve probably noticed that cloud-based integrations are among the key features many providers like to tout.

So what are cloud-based integrations, and why do they matter? Providers will tell you that working with a platform that offers robust integrations will make your life easier—and they’re right. But if you’re among the many businesses looking for new enterprise software solutions this year, it’s important to understand exactly what these integrations do so that you know what to look for to enable teams’ best work.

What are app integrations?

App integrations might sound complicated (and on the backend, they can be for developers), but they actually simplify things for users. Essentially an app integration plugs one cloud service into another, so that second app can provide two-in-one functionality.

For example, if you use Skype, you’re probably familiar with its dedicated desktop app. But Skype also offers integrations that allow you to use Skype via other platforms. By installing Skype’s Google Chrome integration, you can make Skype calls right from your Chrome browser.

How app integrations simplify work

Slack. Salesforce. Google Drive. Microsoft Teams. These are just a few of the apps workers use every day to share information, collaborate, and get the job done. Even before COVID-19 and remote work put even greater importance on seamless technology, the average enterprise was using 129 different software apps for work. And nearly 10% of businesses employ 200 or more apps within their ecosystems.

While the right dedicated app makes it easier to get work done, the sheer volume of cloud-based solutions most workers need to use creates its own headaches. In one report examining app ecosystems in the workplace, 56% of employees said they find searching for information in various apps disruptive to productivity, and nearly seven in 10 say they waste an hour of each workday navigating between apps. That’s 32 wasted days per employee every year. This lost time that adds up to lost value, too: an estimated $500K in revenue drain.

Cloud-based app integrations make using different solutions for various work functions more efficient because they automate the flow of information. This means that instead of having to switch back and forth between apps, you can access everything you need and get more work done within a single interface. For example, if you use Google Chrome, there are countless extensions you can install that let you perform functions you’d otherwise need to leave your browser and use a separate app to do.

Two ways to integrate your apps

When two different apps connect and share information, they do so via an API, or Application Programming Interface. This is the background programming that allows each applications’ servers to communicate, similar to how you would use a waiter to order and receive food at a restaurant. If you’ve ever shared a photo to Twitter right from your Instagram, then you’ve done so via an API, which operates invisibly in the background of the Instagram application.

Method 1:

Like with the above example, you can take advantage of prebuilt applications, letting you use APIs without having to know any programming or build the app yourself.  For example, when you install a plugin on Chrome or Firefox, the app already comes fully designed and ready to go.

Method 2:

For greater customization to meet your specific business needs, you can build your own integration or application using an API.  However, the downside of building your own integration is that it can be costly, time consuming, and require regular maintenance and upkeep.

To make things easier, there are services such as Zapier, Workato, and Built.io that allow you to use their tools to build your own integrations, without having to worry about writing your own code.  These will save you time, and potentially money as you build out and integrate your different services – both on premise (on your machine) and in the cloud.

Which method is better?

When deciding which route to pursue, it’s important to understand what functionality you need, as prebuilt apps often only encompass the most common use cases.  For example, if you wanted to schedule RingCentral meetings directly from your Outlook calendar, you’d use an application like our RingCentral for Outlook integration.

But if you wanted to automatically import information that exists within your business’s custom-built analytics platform, you would need to use an iPaaS service like those mentioned above, or build your own integration using the RingCentral APIs.

How cloud-based integrations make work better

We’ve already outlined some of the ways app overload can cost your business—and if you’re using multiple apps to get work done, you’re probably all too familiar with these added headaches. At the same time, if you’re using software that specifically fits your business needs, it seems silly to miss out on key functionalities just to reduce the complexity of dealing with different software. Using cloud-integrations gets rid of this conflict in several ways: – Read more

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