When the Covid-19 pandemic began, almost all industries were affected, as businesses were forced to shut down their premises and have their employees work remotely from home. With their entire workforce now spread out, companies had to quickly find a way to keep their employees and their businesses fully connected. Many companies, in response to the pandemic, adopted some form of Unified Communications (News - Alert) technology to allow their employees to work together and communicate easily, allowing for efficient work to be done even amidst social distancing.
Unified Communications, otherwise known as Unified Communication and Collaboration, is a conceptual framework for integrating various enterprise communication methods, such as cell phone, video calling and conferencing, email, and any other form of communication into a single platform, with the goal of streamlining and enhancing business communications, collaboration, and productivity. UC&C technology refers to the convergence of software that supports both real-time communications (RTC), such as voice over IP (VoIP), and asynchronous communication, such as email, so the end user has easy, immediate access to all relevant tools in a consistent environment, from any physical location and digital device.
While UC&C technology isn’t exactly new, its ability to keep people connected during the pandemic thrust it into the spotlight, with record numbers of users turning to UC&C technology in the past year. A survey commissioned by Ribbon Communications (News - Alert), a real-time communications company, found a 103 percent increase in usage of UC&C technology by small businesses of less than 100 employees, and a 36 percent increase in usage by large businesses of over 1000 employees.
“The data reveals that there is still a significant market opportunity for IP communications and the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated interest in adoption of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) tools across the board, but particularly amongst small companies,” said Steven Bruny, EVP of Sales for the Americas at Ribbon. “The demands of the shift to remote work, and the widespread availability of popular platforms are key drivers in the increased interest in adopting UC&C.”
The survey found that most companies were choosing Microsoft (News - Alert), Zoom or Skype for Business as their UC&C platform. Almost three fourths of all companies that adopted some form of UC&C technology chose one of those three platforms to help increase the connectedness of their business amidst the pandemic. However, not every company adopted UC&C technology, and the companies that didn’t are now behind the game, but don’t plan to be for long. According to the same survey by Ribbon, roughly 93 percent of large companies already have an interest in adopting UC&C technology, while two thirds of that 93 percent also already have plans in place to adopt some form of UC&C technology into their company within the next two years.
When asked what impact the pandemic had on how companies responded to the survey, Ribbon SVP of Channel Marketing and Enterprise, John Macario (News - Alert) responded, “There's no doubt that the pandemic affected the responses to every question in this survey. Companies’ infrastructure, their communications environment and their use of collaboration tools like Teams were all impacted.”
Macario added, “One of the questions in the survey asked those who had already deployed Teams in their organization to identify the most difficult part of that deployment. In every country the number one answer was “training users.” At the beginning of the pandemic, we all started using tools like Teams, Zoom or other collaboration tools and we all trained ourselves - “battlefield training” if you will. For many CIOs, if they saw that 80% of their workers were already trained on a specific collaboration tool, they were more inclined to standardize on that tool.”
While UC&C technology was brought to the forefront of business operations thanks to the pandemic, it seems that the new technology isn’t going away any time soon. While businesses are eager to reopen their actual doors, many of them have found the advantages of UC&C technology and working from home to be too beneficial to turn away from once the pandemic is over. The survey by Ribbon found that roughly one-third of all businesses, regardless of size and industry, were planning to continue to institute some form of remote working post-pandemic.
Even when enterprise workforces move back into an office space, it’s hard to imagine going back to a meeting room that contains only a white board and conference room table in it when half of your team is still working at home. Technology is now a requirement, the bar has been set higher, and people will expect to continue using the powerful tools they’ve been relying on during the transition to remote work. We have crossed the tipping point for collaboration platforms and technology, and there’s no going back.
Edited by Maurice Nagle