Businesses around the world are to be congratulated for how quickly they have got their employees working remotely, in an incredibly short amount of time. UC and collaboration solutions have made remote working easier and helped organisations adapt to this new situation quickly.
However, it looks as if the shutdown in most countries will continue to a lesser or greater degree for some months to come. Plus, organisations of all kinds are realising that not only is remote working possible for large numbers of people, it could reduce the need for office space, pave the way towards more flexible working methods, and therefore change the nature of the workplace forever.
So, having carried out an initial ‘quick fix’, companies need to look at whether what they have in place is going to be fit-for-purpose in the months and years to come. Adoption of apps that are great for consumers may have solved an immediate problem, but do not provide the full integration with business apps required to ensure efficient replication of work processes, communications and collaboration. Plus, businesses must have solutions that provide necessary levels of security and privacy. This is more important than ever, given that many employees are working from home.
Organisations need ‘business-grade’ unified communications and collaboration. There is a huge opportunity for the channel community in Europe to help them navigate through all the options being offered, and find the answers that best fit each situation. Here are some issues to consider when looking for a robust, secure and flexible UC and collaboration solution:
1) Data storage and privacy
The processing of personal data of EU citizens and residents should always be GDPR compliant. When dealing with businesses located within the EU, GDPR compliancy is becoming increasingly evident, and more or less something you could expect from an organisation. Plus, with local data protection authorities in all EU countries using their powers to enforce the GDPR on businesses, handing out massive fines for violations, this is now something a business in the EU simply cannot ignore.
When processing is taking place outside of the European Economic Area (EEA), GDPR compliancy cannot always be expected. On the contrary: in the media we see all kinds of failure regarding the protection of data, rights and freedoms of users by tech companies outside of the EU.
Also, the GDPR has some very specific rules that prohibit data processing outside of the EEA, unless certain conditions have been met.
This is why many companies are opting for UC and collaboration solutions that only store data within EEA, so that they feel more confident that their data is in good hands. That being said, even with European UC and collaboration vendors, ask them about their GDPR-compliance policies, just to be on the safe side. Look for things such as data encryption, strongly advised by GDPR, which is one of the measures that can be used to mitigate the risk of exposure to hackers and data being sold to third parties.
2) The right fit
A UC and collaboration solution should not impose a new way of working on people, particularly right now when continuity of the workplace in a virtual environment is so important for productivity and morale. Open APIs should allow businesses to integrate a choice of video conferencing and other tools, because needs will vary depending on the type and size of organisation. Other factors to consider might include: ease of use, such as solutions that do not require participants to download software to participate in a meeting, or a choice of different deployment models (on-premise, public and private cloud).
Users should also be able to easily connect to their existing business apps, to provide a seamless experience. This will help prevent the risk of having siloed apps – which typically happens when companies have made quick decisions using consumer-grade tools – that will impact on business productivity. Look for UC and collaboration tools that integrate seamlessly with diaries, contact directories, and ‘presence’, whereby colleagues can see when others are available, so that they can initiate an instant audio or video call, or request a callback. Some organisations will also benefit from integration with more specific solutions, such as contact centre and CRM packages.
4) Don’t lose sight of FMC
With so many people working from home, it would be easy to think that they will be less reliant on mobility, but based on our own data, the opposite is proving true. Kids interrupting an important video conference call? It is a lot easier to instantly move to another room with a mobile than a laptop. ‘Mobile-first’ Fixed Mobile Convergence can have full integration with business apps too.
5) Local knowledge
Does it matter in a virtual world where UC and collaboration can be deployed from anywhere? Understanding the needs of a particular country — for example regulations — with channel communities who can support their business customers remotely, arguably matters more than ever. Plus, if there is any physical equipment that needs to be shipped to a customer, then it is a lot easier and faster in these current times if carried out within the same continent. We can expect to see continued growth of MSPs offering a wide range of remote services to their customers.
The new game in town is giving users control over what they purchase, and for how long. Gone are the days of locking customers into rigid contracts: today’s technology solutions need to stand or fall based on their quality. Satisfied customers equal loyal customers, so offering flexible subscription-based service is the future.
In addition, right now, the channel and their customers have the opportunity to try out business-grade UC and collaboration at no cost, with many vendors making some of their products free for a while. For instance, Enreach Meetings is free-of-charge until September, and offered by our local companies and partners in the different markets.
These are fast-changing and turbulent times for everyone, but one thing seems certain: UC and collaboration will have a bigger role in the workplace. Europe is home to some of the industry’s best technology, channel communities and end-user experience: let’s make the most of us, for everyone’s benefit.
Stijn Nijhuis, CEO of Enreach