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The role of unified comms in a post-COVID world

The role of unified comms in a post-COVID world

After the initial rush to adopt new technology aimed at enabling remote work last year, a new consideration is emerging for partners.

Credit: Christin Hume / Unsplash

The role of unified communications and collaboration (UCC) technology across the business landscape rapidly took on a new element last year with the onset of COVID-19. Since then, the function of such technology in the enterprise has not stood still.  

Far from it. 

After that initial rush to adopt new technology aimed at enabling remote work last year, a new consideration is emerging for partners: how to keep up with the still-evolving role of UCC technology within clients’ businesses as they settle down into a new normal? 

For Datacom product solutions group strategy general manager Peter Stein, the new way of working, post-COVID, will be nothing short of a generational shift in terms of dynamic.  

“It is no longer about the technology that we will stand up. Now it is all about culture,” Stein told ARN.  

There is no doubt in Stein’s mind that, as the unified comms story for all becomes more cloud-based, the answer for partners will be in specialisations around UCC offerings.  

“User experience is always going to kill tech capability,” he said. “Our aim is to get the tech right but also to work with our clients to ensure they are enabled and can make the best use of the tools shared with them. The UC vendors have accelerated their dev strategy, which becomes even more vital as the tool is continually evolving. 

“The on-prem PABX [private automatic branch exchange] is dead, and the landline is not far behind. 

“The opportunity is endless for the next few years at least: UC as a service, collaboration suites for UC, custom integrations, including CRM [customer relationship management and ERP [enterprise resource planning], Learning and enablement, security and compliance,” he added.  

Finding follow-on needs

According to Sebastian Maciejewski, SSDL director, demand and consumption of UCC solutions continued to increase from the initial rush to remote working earlier last year.  

As a result of the prolonged lockdown measures in Victoria, for example, a lot of customers and their teams were looking at what the new normal would look like heading into 2021.  

Echoing Stein’s gloomy prediction regarding the future of PABX in the enterprise, Maciejewski said his company saw many businesses last year further embracing UCC solutions by replacing ageing private branch exchange (PBX) solutions, while enabling full public switched telephone network (PSTN) voice functionality, allowing their users to become truly mobile.  

As a result of this new technology, Maciejewski and his team found that user training and feature adoption was in high demand with business during the second lockdown in Victoria.  

“Discussions with customers and their teams have started to move toward downsizing offices and enabling remote working as a longer-term solution that benefits both the organisation and the individuals,” Maciejewski told ARN.  

“The extended lockdown has shown businesses that they can operate outside of the traditional four walls of an office and that, in most cases, employees are willing to adapt and go the extra mile to ensure that a business survives in such challenging times,” he added. 

In terms of what all this means for partners, Maciejewski suggested that the follow-on needs organisations have been reviewing relate to the consolidation of UCC platforms that were first trialled during the initial lockdown.  

Part of this consolidation process revolves around the large amount of shadow IT that has crept in over the months. At the same time, workplace occupational health and safety (OH&S) concerns have come to the fore.  

“As a result of the global crisis, we are looking at new ways to enable employees the flexibility of working at home whilst ensuring that they are complying with OH&S obligations,” Maciejewski said. “We are also looking at expanding our product offerings to help those in need to be able to quickly and easily access support services.” 

Looking forward, Maciejewski suggested that, in the coming year, his company expected to see a greater level of interoperability between the platforms arising, allowing organisations to quickly and affordably interconnect with other business UCC platforms.  

“The dramatic rate of change and enhancement in UCC platforms over the last 12 months has been mind-blowing,” he said. “The global UCC players are listening to their users and are fast-tracking features to satisfy customer demand.  

“We believe that there will be some acquisitions across some of the UCC platforms in an attempt to increase market share whilst enhancing the user experience.” 

Accessing ancillary services

For some partners, the biggest areas of interest in the wake of the initial rush to remote working situations and the associated UCC technology revolve around ancillary services, with cyber security becoming a big problem to be solved and, as such, a major opportunity going forward.  

“While there has been a rush in [UCC] products, it’s made companies evaluate other areas of their business to ensure that with the UCC solutions, they take into consideration areas of their business with disaster recovery and security,” Exigo Tech co-founder and sales director Niten Devalia told ARN.  

From Devalia’s perspective, having employees on remote collaboration tools opens up the possibility of attacks, meaning it is important for organisations to not rush solutions in and instead make sure they do their testing thoroughly.  

Beyond this, once new solutions are considered permanent, organisations will find themselves needing to create systems internally to ensure productivity and engagement levels are sustainable. Meanwhile, training and additional, ongoing support services will represent another area of ongoing interest and demand.  

“As we look to adapt new UCC tools, we are also looking at how we provide training and support in these areas to ensure that the products are not phased out early and allow organisations to change the way in which they use these tools,” Devalia said.  

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Tags unified communicationsKurt SolarteNiten Devalia

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