ADOPTING UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS IN THE WAKE OF COVID-19

AN IMMEDIATE PRIORITY FOR BUSINESSES

Have you ever been at the beach as the tide starts to move in? There’s no momentous wave indicating its imminent arrival. Instead, the water level rises slowly and before you know it, you’re caught between jagged rocks and an angry sea. The ISDN switch-off in 2025 is no different.

2025 may seem far away but deactivation trials are already at the planning stage in some areas of the UK and if businesses don’t start planning their next-generation calling & communication solutions soon, businesses may soon end-up adrift come 2025 when the existing landline network is switched off for good.

However, the effects of COVID-19 have caused this metaphorical tide to surge inland much sooner than previously thought. Now that we have all been pushed to adopt remote working strategies in order to keep businesses trading, the adoption of a Unified Communications platform which many had planned to implement in the next 5 years, has now become immediate priorities for companies of all shapes and sizes.

Why should you adopt a Unified Communications Platform?

When the National Lockdown was put in place, thousands of businesses needed to quickly divert calls to mobiles and decipher how staff could remain in contact with colleagues and customers. The ISDN network, better known as ‘landline,’ was only ever intended for calling and isn’t powerful enough to support all the new ways we now communicate on a daily basis, like email, instant messaging and video conferencing.

Operations need that flexibility now, that ISDN never had and we’ve seen how consumer communications applications, like WhatsApp and even HouseParty, have been used recently to bridge this communications gap. However, these apps aren’t business focused and don’t offer a unified experience as staff must jump from app to app, affecting productivity and overall employee engagement.

Seen as the primary successor of the landline network, UC platforms like Microsoft Teams and Circuit by Unify are perfectly suited to situations like the one we now find ourselves in. Not only can the right UC solution save your business resources and reduce call costs, but it provides a robust data and voice network that ensures critical tools like video conferencing are always crystal clear and your teams don’t have to rummage through hundreds of emails to find ‘that one document’.

While these platforms are the perfect cure-all for remote workers, and we’ve explained why we think Teams and Circuit are the two best options available, just having the technology in place to make this transition is only half the battle. There are several factors that operations will need to reconsider to ease the transition to fully IP-based calling. Here are 5 suggestions that will help you get the most from a UC platform and enable your team to maximise their productivity.

Reimagine your BYOD policy

One of the major features of Unified Communications platforms, is that it enables office calls to be pushed to a mobile, tablet or computer via pre-installed applications.

This will help reduce CapEx costs for businesses but presents new questions around BYOD policies and who is responsible for key aspects of the service. Factors like data protection, who is responsible for damage to devices during working hours, supplementing the costs of phone contracts, and more must be answered to ensure disagreements don’t occur further down the line. Those that look to protect their employee’s experience and support them as much as possible in their policies are sure to attract and keep the best talent. A strong implementation may also prevent employees from requiring separate business and personal phones, once and for all!

Strengthen your cyber-security

As we’ve seen with video conferencing application Zoom, once a new communication platform becomes popular, hackers will turn their attention to it and search for valuable exploits.

Just like phishing in the early years of email, businesses require stronger encryption and firewall services to ensure calls and conferences stay private. Without an expert team of IT professionals – which are becoming harder to find and more expensive to employ – many have turned to Managed Security Services from telecoms suppliers and third parties, to secure their networks.

Even smaller firms now require strong safeguards with regulations like GDPR set to only become stricter in the future, as the cyber-security landscape continues to evolve at such a rapid pace.

Invest in your teams’ digital skills

As we continue to move to a digital-first industry, businesses must provide their teams with the skills necessary to maximise their productivity. While most Millennials and younger workers will already have those skills from their upbringing, some will slip through the net and many already in work are lacking those essential skills with half of all employers surveyed in the UK advising that they are struggling to attract talent with the right IT skills.

Moving to a new mode of communication, with all its new bells and whistles, may over-burden staff that aren’t naturally tech-savvy, so supporting them through personal development will only benefit the company both in the short- and long-term. For the time-being, E-learning courses and motivating staff to share their knowledge and best practices will help reduce this learning gap until more solid strategies can be actualised.

Once we’re all back to the office, leveraging apprenticeships, adult learning services and other vocational qualifications will become a vital enabler for operations looking to make the transition to a UC platform seamless for staff and ensure they have the knowledge to use these services to their full potential.

Ensure your connectivity has room to grow

Mobile internet usage is set to double in the next two years alone and while this is certainly a factor for leaving some ‘wiggle-room’ to flex up in the coming years, forward-thinking operations will already be considering what services are required to mitigate current disruption from remote workers putting extra strain on the network and what needs to be in place as that usage will only grow over time.

Having the right connection and features in place now will allow operations to establish strong foundations from which they can ensure that teams, either remote or on-site, will rarely reach the upper limits of their connectivity.

Partner with an expert

Simply considering these factors though, won’t help businesses prevent themselves from being left behind once the tide has drawn in. Many businesses, both large and small, will require guidance and support in designing these changes and implementing them and that’s where we can help. Get in touch and we can work together to ensure your business’ connectivity foundations are strong enough to last through this tidal shift in communications technology.

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