UCaaS and the Re-imagining of work: Why Connectivity is the new currency
Look back just six months and the world looked more than a little different. Before citizens around the globe entered previously unheard-of national lockdowns. Before the phrase ‘social distancing’ became an everyday idiom. And before Unified Communication’s biggest universal embracement to date. In a few short weeks, the adoption of conferencing and collaboration tools reached heights previously predicted to take years as business continuity plans were swiftly put into action. In fact, the web and video conferencing category alone saw a 500% increase in buyer activity in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak [i]. Decisions had to be made quickly. Some had to do in 72 hours what would normally take 12 months +.
Rome, it seemed, was built in a day…
UCaaS is for life, not just a pandemic
The business case for a UCaaS strategy is nothing new. Back in 2018, our Survive + Thrive report found Unified Communications to be a hallmark of thriving businesses; and with the UC market growing consistently since 2015, the market appetite has been apparent. However, the reasons for implementing Unified Comms have clearly shifted. Whereas traditional benefits included consolidating IT spend, enhancing productivity, reducing employee travel costs and even satisfying green credentials, today a different story can be told. Unified Communications has become an essential aspect of business continuity, a lifeline for a newly remote workforce and the heart of business communications.
As we enter the next phase of the pandemic response, however, the question arises: what’s next for UCaaS?..
While the future of work remains the subject of speculation, the ‘world’s biggest remote working experiment’ seems to have been a success, with all parties generally agreeing that it’s time to ‘think outside the office’. In fact, 75% of employees reportedly want flexibility around office and remote working after the pandemic [ii].
It’s clear, then, that for many the future will be characterised by flexibility. What’s also clear is that technology will sit firmly at the heart of our new world of work – and so too will the CIO.
As for UC?.. it’s for life, not just a pandemic.
Connectivity is no longer a commodity; it’s a currency
But enabling remote operations has not been the only catalyst for the accelerated adoption of UC, and certainly isn’t the only concern keeping business leaders up at night. Businesses’ responses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic have been subjected to ongoing scrutiny – with allegations of misuses of Furlough funds, seemingly ostentatious shareholder pay outs amidst staff cuts and accusations of hygiene policies leaving more than a little to be desired becoming prime subject for media debate.
And firmly placed under the spotlight: the (de)humanisation of the workforce. What the recent months have shown is that employees have valued the ways in which their employers recognised the human element to the pandemic. Employee well-being, consequently, has received more boardroom attention than ever before.
The impact of connectivity on well-being in the workplace is undeniable. Productivity, job satisfaction and the ability to manage stress levels are all closely tied to feelings of connectivity between colleagues. Which isn’t surprising given that a sense of belonging is one of the most basic and influential intrinsic motivators. So far, nothing new. Take away the proverbial ‘water cooler chats’ and shared coffee breaks and what has changed, however, is the reliance employees have on their employers to build virtual environments that foster these connections. Employers must now find ways to create and support social connections in the workplace in order to build (and retain) a productive workforce.
Quite simply, connectivity is no longer a commodity; it’s the new currency.
UCaaS is a strategy, not a product
Maintaining relationships and connectivity within a primarily virtual working environment is a big challenge for business leaders – and one which will prove critical in the coming weeks, months and even years as the role of the office is re-imagined. And given that even prior to lockdown, 39% of employees didn’t think their colleagues communicated enough [iii], it’s no mean feat. So, where do you start?..
‘From ports to people’
UC success is no longer about delivering transaction communication in order to ‘keep the lights on’. It’s in creating and enabling an ecosystem of connectivity around the user. One mistake we see businesses make when planning their UCaaS strategy is putting technology first, user second. In fact, the focus of the end user should be integrated with the focus on the technology from the very beginning.
No business is made up of a homogenous group of users but, rather, different user groups with varying needs and required ways of working. As a traditionally desk-based function, for example, a marketing team may need to access shared work planners, collaborate quickly on ideas and enable efficient task/project management. The mobile sales team, on the other hand, may need to seamlessly move between devices at the click of a button. Clearly, these users will have different requirements when it comes to UC functionality. And the coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated this variation of needs further as personal circumstances not only affect how employees are able to work, but also when and where.
It’s crucial, then, that decision makers shift their thinking ‘from ports to people’ and develop a user-focused strategy designed specifically for the needs of each of their different user segments.
If connectivity is your currency, people are your most valuable investment.
Adoption is king
Throughout the pandemic, businesses have – rightly so – quickly swung into action to rapidly implement new (or amplify existing) tools and systems to safeguard business continuity. Thus, instead of going through business as usual training and adoption processes, employees quite literally learned entirely new systems overnight.
The good news? Six in 10 workers [iv] say their digital skills have improved whilst working remotely. The bad? 25% say their ability to collaborate has deteriorated [v]. Evidentially, newly remote workers have quickly upskilled in new systems in order to perform their day-to-day jobs. However, whether they are now equipped with the skills, processes and policies needed to sustain this new way of working and realise the full benefits of UCaaS is a question which should be at the top of every IT and business leader’s list.
Successful UCaaS implementation requires much more than a plug-and-play approach. It’s a fundamental change in the way people work; and one that needs to be fully embedded within a company’s processes, policies and, most importantly, culture.
When it comes to UC’s success, adoption really is king.
Businesses have so far been tested on their agility, emergency response and flexibility to continue their tactical day-to-day operations remotely. The next phase will bring around a notably different challenge: enabling their workforce to thrive in the new era of work. With Unified Communications continuing to sit at the heart of our working lives, a robust UCaaS strategy will prove vital.
To discover more, join our next webinar, Making Sense of UCaaS: Planning a long-term strategy. Simply click here to register.