Supporting Collaboration with WFH is a Team Effort

Supporting Collaboration with WFH is a Team Effort

6 Apr 2020

BCStrategies provides a wealth of information to help decision-makers in their buyer’s journey for collaboration solutions, and hopefully that’s why you visit this portal, as well as why you’re reading my analysis right now.

With WFH – work from home – becoming a part of the solution for the COVID-19 pandemic, collaboration solutions have never been so important, and so strategic for businesses of all sizes. For this post, my focus is mainly SMB, but the implications hold just as well for enterprises. In short, collaboration capabilities are critical in supporting WFH, but there’s more to it than just picking a platform – it’s very much a team effort.

Last week, I was a speaker on a webinar hosted by Metaswitch, with the audience mainly being service providers with large bases of SMB customers. There is no shortage of content to help businesses adopt WFH best practices, but much of it has a singular focus on a particular problem set. This content certainly helps decision-makers, but I want to broaden the conversation by sharing takeaways from our webinar.

WFH has many moving parts

That’s the essence of this post, and kudos to Metaswitch for bringing that message to the market. They could have just talked about their MaX UCaaS platform and how it will make carriers successful in helping end customers support WFH. There is truth to that approach – and really, any UCaaS provider could say the same – but for the most part, they can’t do it alone. IT decision-makers need the UCaaS piece for sure, and they may even end up going with a mix of UC elements to cover all the applications needed for WFH.

Whatever form that toolbox takes, WFH is a bigger story. First is the fact that SMBs are behind the curve in terms of adoption. During the webinar, Metaswitch cited some recent research from the Cavell Group showing lower adoption rates the smaller the business. For businesses of 250+, 92% are doing remote working, but that level steadily declines in smaller tiers – 80% for 50-250, and 71% for under 50. The good news is that all tiers expect higher adoption levels going forward, and that’s in line with the broader trend now to WFH.

More interestingly, the data also shows that among those doing remote working now, it accounts for a larger segment of the overall workforce among smaller businesses. For the under-50 tier, 24% said more than half their workers are remote, whereas only 5% said the same for the 250+ tier. The implication is that WFH will have particularly large impact at the lower end of the SMB spectrum.

To support that, the aforementioned MaX UC platform provides all the requisite UC&C capabilities: cloud-based, Web and video meetings, mobile-centric, SIP trunking and contact center. This provides carriers with an all-in-one UC solution built around the needs of SMBs, but more is needed. Poly was another presenter on the webinar, and they showed why hardware is an important complement to the software that drives MaX UC. When businesses begin their WFH push, it’s easy to think that the only thing different will be workers changing locations from office to home. The physical workspace and surrounding environment will often be radically different, and WFH isn’t a simple matter of just logging in from home.

What type of remote worker are you?

In terms of hardware, Poly talked about a broad range of devices that I’m sure go well beyond what decision-makers would consider with first-time WFH scenarios. I may be over-simplifying, but the least-effort approach would be to take a mental image of an office desk space and transpose that to desk space at home.

Of course, the first mistake is to assume there will actually be a desk to work from in the home, but that’s another conversation altogether. Secondly, it would be easy to assume the endpoints will be the same, and workers just have to get out of bed, hop to their desk and never skip a beat.

The reality is much different, and I’m sure it was helpful for carriers on the webinar to see what Poly can provide to really make workers productive in this new environment. IP phones are the starting point, but to varying degrees, these workers are going to need headsets, webcams and speakerphones. Not only that, but they need to be plug-and-play, and seamlessly interwork, as home-based workers will be expected to hit the ground running.

Furthermore, these aren’t just off-the-shelf devices – they are designed specifically for home environments, with features like acoustic fence, speaker tracking cameras, and HD audio/video. These are the little things that decision-makers probably haven’t needed to think about until now, but they make all the difference. Consider also that all levels of employees will now be working from home. To this end, Poly has offerings that cover the spectrum – such as for mobile-first workers, for executives, and for workers who do a lot of video conferencing.

Their WFH hardware lineup is impressive, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. For several years, I’ve been tracking ongoing research they’ve been doing on end user personas (initially done by Plantronics, now under Poly), and it’s a distinct way of understanding how we communicate and collaborate.

During the presentation, Poly outlined four distinct remote worker personas – Remote Worker, Flexible Worker, Road Warrior, and Connected Executive. I’ll spare the details, but the main idea is that each persona has a unique set of UC&C needs, and that drives the types of devices that will best support them. I think there’s validity to this approach, especially to paint a more realistic picture of how the way we work has changed, and that using one set of devices for all won’t optimize your productivity.

Solid UC&C opportunity here for carriers

Poly’s remote worker portfolio is clearly additive to what Metaswitch brings with MaX UC, and I think the webinar got that holistic message across effectively for carriers. I’d like to think my contribution was additive as well, where I shared some learnings from focus groups I recently did with Metaswitch about the mobile UC user experience. While the research showed that improvement is needed, we also learned how mobility is playing a growing role for collaboration. Smart phones will never displace PCs for team work, but given how landlines have largely gone away from homes, mobility stands to become even more important with WFH.

All told, the webinar presented carriers with a strong set of value drivers that should translate into compelling service offerings and bundle packages for end customers trying to implement WFH initiatives. Carriers could also take a piecemeal approach, only offering a UCaaS platform and leaving end customers to figure out the rest. This might be a faster route to market, but it puts more onus on SMBs to get it right, and carriers risk losing control over the customer and share of wallet.

Regardless of the route taken, the opportunity looks solid for carriers. To help validate this, we took two polling questions during the webinar, with the first one being whether they thought remote work was a flash in the pan or here to stay. Respondents were pretty clear on this one, with 74% saying it was here to stay, and that’s very much in line with everything I’m hearing.

The second poll asked what kind of opportunity remote work represented for carriers. Again, the response unequivocal, with 44% saying it was “excellent,” and 51% saying “good.” As such, not only does the opportunity look good right now, but odds are good for this to be a long-term play, making it all the more important for decision-makers to get this right on the first try.


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