Overcoming the Challenges of Remote Working to Maximize Collaboration

By Erik Linask December 10, 2020

Over the past decade, businesses have invested in many different communications and collaboration solutions, looking to increase operational efficiency and make it easier for employees to work and collaborate efficiently.  When the pandemic engulfed the world early in 2020 and businesses were forced to move employees to remote environments, the demand for cloud-based communications and collaboration tools skyrocketed and new working patterns were created. 

Now, that businesses have seen the benefits of remote working – productivity, employee satisfaction, financial, and more – most companies have already indicated they will implement permanent remote work policies in some capacity.  That means the tools they have adopted in 2020 will become permanent fixtures.

Not surprisingly, many collaboration vendors have seen significant increases in usage as a result, including Microsoft (News - Alert), which reported a 70 percent increase in daily active uses in March, up to 75 million, and has now reported an additional 50 percent increase, hitting the 115 million mark.  For many companies, Teams quickly became one of the collaboration tools that enable their workforces to work effectively from anywhere and will continue to drive a new era of digital workplaces that transform how companies operate.

But, while these solutions have helped businesses rapidly enable remote working, many cobbled together solutions as a knee-jerk reaction to the rapid shift to remote working.  They didn’t always take care to ensure tight integration between solutions and, as a result, aren’t able to fully leverage their investments and are now looking to tighten up their technologies, knowing that these new standards of work and collaboration are here to stay.

SCB Global is a UCaaS/CCaaS provider that has taken the extra steps to ensure complete integration between communications solutions and Microsoft Teams, something it has focused on since long before the pandemic.  With its native Teams integration, it is able to embed communications and contact center solutions directly into the Teams environment, bringing all communications and collaboration capabilities into a single, unified framework. 

I recently had a chance to speak with Shams Khan, Principal Solutions Architect at SCB Global, and had a chance to hear how SCB Global itself has handled the pandemic but, more importantly, what the permanent changes to workforces means to businesses and how they can overcome the challenges to drive maximum operational efficiency.

Erik Linask (News - Alert):  Briefly explain who SCB Global is. 

Shams Khan:  SCB Global is a leading provider of UCaaS and CCaaS solutions imbedded natively within Microsoft Teams. We augment and optimize the Microsoft experience to deliver a range of advanced integrated functions including direct routing, global PSTN calling, contact center features, compliant call recording and more.

EL:  How has the pandemic impacted SCB Global’s own workforce? 

Shams Kahn, SCB Global

SK:  When the pandemic hit back in March, SCB Global, like many other organizations, were forced to migrate out of the office and quickly adapt to the new normal of working from home. SCB Global were at a huge advantage in that we already had a comprehensive collaboration platform in place, leveraging Microsoft teams to deliver a work-from-anywhere environment.  Our OPTO4Teams solution meant that all communication tools were accessible within a single pane of glass – enabling us to make the transition to remote working relatively seamlessly, without disruption to businesses operations.

EL:  What was the biggest challenge you faced internally with the transition to remote working?

The biggest challenge for the SCB Global team internally was the sudden absence of in-person interaction that we were previously very accustomed to in the office. So, we decided to introduce a whole-team video call once a week, where we all get together with a coffee for an informal catch-up to make sure that everyone is doing okay and still connecting with each other despite the physical separation.

EL:  How has it impacted your business?  What opportunities has it created? 

SK:  The pandemic caused an explosion in demand for digital collaboration tools as organizations everywhere rushed to try and virtually replicate the communication that once happened in the office. Teams was an obvious choice for most businesses, mainly due to its seamless integration with Outlook and other Microsoft products – and, as a result, the number of daily active users has rocketed to over 75 million.

This has inevitably created many opportunities for us at SCB Global, as our OPTO solutions lie completely natively within the Microsoft stack, enabling enterprises already using Teams to unlock additional capabilities such as global calling, call recording and contact center, for a truly Microsoft-centered collaboration experience. However, despite the huge boom in Teams adoption across the globe, as many as 90% of users still are not Microsoft Voice enabled (no access to make PSTN calls).

Now that the transition to remote working is no longer in the emergency phase, we know there are many more opportunities for us to continue to help enterprises make the most of their existing Office365 investment as they adapt their UCaaS strategies to find robust, future-proof collaboration solutions. 

EL:  What are the biggest challenges of remote working? 

SK:  One of the greatest challenges of working remotely is that it is difficult to authentically replicate the spontaneous human-to-human interactions that occur when collaborating with colleagues in person. Many argue that having a dispersed workforce serves as a barrier to productivity as teams are less freely able to come together and generate ideas.

This is particularly challenging for organizations that do not have a robust digital strategy in place for mobile working. Using separate applications for different aspects of communication results in multiple silos, creating friction in the collaboration process that reduces efficiency by limiting people’s ability to truly connect with one another.

SCB Global believe that our OPTO solutions eradicate these challenges of a disparate workforce – providing a digital design strategy that is completely Microsoft centered, so that all collaboration tools sit within a single pane of glass. We integrate directly with Teams to break down communication silos, empowering enterprises to achieve truly optimized collaboration from anywhere.

EL:  As you pointed out, Microsoft Teams has received a lot of attention this year. But, SCB Global were focused on Teams well before the pandemic.  Why are you focusing so heavily on Teams? 

SK:  SCB Global have been delivering Microsoft solutions for many years, acquiring a lot of experience working within the Microsoft stack. We have been focused on Microsoft Teams since its initial inception in 2018, as we saw the potential in creating a complete collaboration experience natively within the Teams interface.  

We first launched our OPTO4Teams solution back in January 2019. Despite some uptake from global clients with dispersed office locations, we found that, generally, businesses were not quite ready to embrace additional collaboration features, such as direct routing, video conferencing and contact center within Teams, and did not yet understand the potential that could be unlocked within their existing Office365 investments.

Then, the pandemic hit and suddenly we were inundated with interest as remote working, which was previously seen a nice-to-have perk, suddenly become a global necessity. With so many opting for Teams as their primary collaboration tool, it opened many doors for us to enhance and tailor the Teams experience to meet the exact needs of enterprises with our bespoke OPTO solutions. Going forward, we continue to focus on how we can further optimize the Microsoft environment to meet evolving communication requirements. 

EL:  How does OPTO4Teams differ from other competitive solutions? 

SK:  OPTO4Teams provides the complete package for enterprises that want to implement Microsoft Teams as their primary collaboration tool, with the ability to natively add rich UCaaS features such as CRM integrations, compliant call recording and omnichannel CCaaS. We break the communication silos that are currently in place with other bolt-on calling solutions, eliminating the need for additional apps, third-party connectors and portals that prevent Teams from serving as a holistic collaboration hub. 

OPTO4Teams is delivered natively within the Microsoft stack – giving the end user the single pane of glass experience that is not offered by other competitive solutions that are delivered alongside Teams rather than directly integrated into the Microsoft environment.  It is a bespoke solution built around each business’ unique requirements and can integrate any existing PBX (News - Alert) or phone system into Microsoft Teams, supporting enterprises in making the transition to full cloud enablement at a pace that suits their unique timescale and capabilities.

EL:  You also have a contact center solution that integrates into Teams.  Why is that important? 

SK:  With a view of embracing open standards & open architecture, SCB Global is actively working to build a narrative of “Breaking Silos,” by removing the need for enterprises to have multiple technologies and disparate platforms that do not talk to each other and, in effect, drain efficiency levels.

We are proposing to make Microsoft the core of the technology stack, utilizing Teams for all communication needs in order to achieve a truly frictionless collaborative experience. Like OPTO4Teams, our OPTO4Contact solution also sits natively within the Teams interface for a complete omnichannel contact center that integrates seamlessly with your other business-critical communication tools.

There’s a lot that goes into making Teams the core of a business strategy, which is what SCB Global has focused on.  With the growth Microsoft has already seen – and likely more to come – the effort SCB Global has put into native integration with Teams adds value to the technology investments businesses are making. 

For more of my discussion with Shams Khan, read the second part of our conversation to hear about some of the features SCB Global adds natively to Teams, as well how native integration adds value, and how SCB Global is helping companies who aren’t ready to give up their existing PBXs but want to enjoy the full benefits of Teams.

Edited by Erik Linask
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