Over the last six months, pressure to keep employees connected remotely has forced the hand of many decision makers, accelerating their investment in unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) solutions. Embracing a remote working setup was a first for many and left a number of businesses changing their course of spending, facilitating company-wide home working and staying collaborative through a challenging time.
Now, effortless remote collaboration between employees, stakeholders and even customers is not only a driver of better satisfaction; it is a fundamental part of business success. We’re seeing that remote working at scale can actually be a huge success, and the buying habits of these businesses are proving that we can expect to see a shift towards long-term home working after COVID-19 has passed.
Concerns over availability
With the increasing demand for software, hardware, and home office equipment, availability becomes a prevalent issue. Increased demand can put a strain on supply chains in the best of times, but at the height of a pandemic, these problems were amplified significantly.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, manufacturing of many products ground to a halt as factories were forced to close down temporarily. Lockdown clogged up supply and distribution channels all over the world as a result. It became harder to transport goods and deliver them quickly. This inevitably made it incredibly difficult for suppliers to keep up with demand, leaving many with either long wait times, or goods being out of stock for long periods.
With this in mind, it should come as no surprise that the availability of kit, speed of supply, and the ability to upgrade existing hardware, all became major concerns for organisations – an attitude which has quite literally transformed in the last few months. In February, research undertaken by UC EXPO found that these considerations scored zero amongst respondents. However, this figure rose to 17% in April – demonstrating the clear shift in priorities during the remote working period.
Many have now realised the necessity of collaboration, and they have been focused on improving their ability to operate remotely as lockdown has set in.
UC&C has become business critical
Pre-coronavirus, UC&C was considered by many as a ‘nice to have’; a nod to the needs of a future workforce where prosperous businesses would look to invest slowly over time. According to UC EXPO’s 2019 Digital Transformation report, UC&C was middle ranking in the technology mix, and with 29% of teams investing in it. Now, almost half (48%) of respondents consider UC&C to be part of complete digital transformation. For an area that was previously seen as entirely non-critical, that’s a big leap.
UC EXPO also found that 13% of respondents anticipate that there will be significant investments in home office equipment as a result of COVID-19. Demand has gone through the roof since lockdown was first introduced as largely unprepared workforces look to get up and running from home as quickly and effectively as possible. Where the vast majority of the country would normally only work from home sporadically, it became a full-time role, and is expected to continue in the long term. This is inevitably going to increase the demand for home office equipment, whether that be for personal or professional use.
The COVID-19 lockdown forced businesses to invest, adapt, and totally re-evaluate what is business critical, what a business needs to survive, and how best to implement it. Easy collaboration has never been more important to companies and UC&C has been an ultimate winner of lockdown. It is proving how quick and easy it is to implement, but more importantly, it is redefining the future of work and giving business leaders the confidence that workforces can operate just as effectively with more flexibility, or in remote conditions.
The working from home leap was something that many businesses were considering, but few actually had the confidence to take the plunge – until COVID-19 made the decision for them.
A long-term investment
UC&C has taken an obvious sideways step away from being a luxury, forward-thinking area, to a key investment to secure the future of businesses. Since February, there has been a 9% increase in those who are now turning to UC&C to ensure that they are prepared for long term success.
The forced coronavirus lockdown has shown businesses that employees can work effectively from home with UC&C becoming a ‘must-have’ technology. Effective collaboration between staff now plays an integral role in maintaining productivity and efficiency, but also in attracting and retaining happy employees due to the added flexibility that modern tools afford.
Preparing for the future
It’s difficult to know exactly what our businesses will look like in the not-so distant future. However, with various financial considerations at play, it is clear that many are prioritising investment in areas that they feel are totally necessary. The general focus has been turned to the short-term, ensuring that investment is streamlined in areas that will keep employees connected and businesses operative – such as UC&C.
While a lot of companies may see current investment in UC&C as a quick fix to immediate challenges, the truth is that having access to the best collaborative tools available can really future proof a business. It allows employees to work from home flexibly, saves travel costs and can even save the need for office space. Many anticipate that we are going to see a shift from working at home being a ‘professional inconvenience’, to becoming a ‘professional normality’.
Guest Blog by James McGough, Managing Director, UC EXPO
James has been CEO of Clarion Events and Imago Techmedia since January 2019. Since May 2018, James has also been a member of the Development Board with the Association of Event Organisers, the trade body representing companies which conceive, create, develop or manage trade and consumer events. James is an experienced leader with a track record of developing people, teams and businesses internationally. He has successfully led and transformed a range of event and media businesses, delivering double digit profit growth across multiple sectors including property, architecture and interior design, telecoms, technology, and life sciences. His portfolios have spanned Europe, North America, Latin America and Asia.