The pandemic has forced digitalization and accelerated it: here is what a collaboration expert sees at the end of the rainbow …

Whether you are an automobile manufacturer in Asia, a pharmaceutical in Europe, or a consumer-packaged goods provider in the US, your business has undoubtedly been turned upside down of late.

Virtually every industry in every location has been impacted by pandemic social distancing requirements and overall lockdowns that have shuttered offices and businesses everywhere.

Obviously, in such unprecedented times, businesses will need to rethink their long-term business strategy and put in place appropriate collaboration measures. With employee safety being the first and foremost concern, and limitations on movement keeping most people away from the office, remote-working (Work-From-Home) has become the much-discussed new normal for employees and businesspeople alike.

Organizations have rushed to support this newly distributed workforce as swiftly, seamlessly, and securely as possible to minimize business disruption. It is a tall order. Business users today have grown accustomed to collaborating with team members, partners, and customers from rich unified communications applications. Executives expect the ability to access financial data and other mission-critical data as needed, without delay. Contact center agents work best when they have ready access to customer information and the corporate knowledge base integrated into their dashboards.

Working from home can throw this all into disarray, leading to reduced employee productivity, poor customer service, compliance breakdowns, security breaches, lost business opportunities, and more. Not surprisingly, organizations have addressed these challenges through a variety of strategies. Some have opted for scaling existing collaboration tools, while others have introduced new variants delivered from the cloud, and many are doing a mix of several options, often by end users’ requests.

Service providers are working with their clientele across the spectrum to share advice on how to improve workforce collaboration and how to keep contact centres running in accordance with business, policy, and security requirements. Such measures have been critical—and reasonably successful—in keeping business rolling in the immediate term, but there is a real sense that much work remains.

A fresh perspective

In the coming weeks and months, we expect most organizations to assess how well these emergency measures, as well as their legacy tools and services, supported the business, and to re-formulate their collaboration and business continuity strategies for the long term.  Responding to the COVID-19 crisis has allowed us to view things with a fresh perspective and discover opportunities.

One big thing that has become clear to us: new collaboration tools are very much good enough to maintain productivity and to replace tried-and-true (but siloed) infrastructure and services, and that users will embrace them.

Questions such as “Is cloud voice quality good enough for me to retire my IP telephony infrastructure?” or “Will my users adopt it?” will largely be resolved over the remaining weeks of lockdown.

In the contact center space, whole new strategies are emerging to deliver a rich digital customer experience in an environment where a retail visit is not an option, and transaction volumes are high. This may have been a forced experiment, but many organizations will emerge from the current situation having duly identified and effectively piloted the technologies that can best address their requirements in the most challenging of circumstances.

The net result is that we may emerge from this crisis more willing to embrace change, having a clearer vision of how we want to do so. Whereas before the crisis, moving cautiously and sweating the existing assets as long as possible may have been viewed as a prudent, “low risk” strategy, many organizations will soon emerge from the ashes questioning the status quo.

For instance, having seen what the new stuff can do for their employees and their customers, they will be asking why they cannot accelerate their strategy, embrace new technologies, and take advantage of all the cloud has to offer.

And having seen the limitations of their pre-pandemic state of technological readiness in a very real stress test, they will know that going back to the old ways is not a viable option. In this environment, organizations need to work with their service providers to plan and start moving even before the dust settles, questioning all their legacy technologies and services and making the most of new options available.

For consideration

Here are a few things businesses should be thinking about:

  • Optimizing the network for remote connectivity across a distributed workforce and a greatly-revised office footprint
  • Facilitating collaboration among employees, supply chain partners, and customers — from anywhere and on any device
  • Leveraging digital technologies to create a tremendous customer experience that can even differentiate the brand, whatever the transaction, and however the customer chooses to engage
  • Ensuring compliance with company policy, privacy laws, and all relevant regulations
  • Making sure everything is both scalable and secure as changes are implemented

Obviously, the list could be a lot longer, and we find it is unique for each business. The point is, challenging as the current environment may be, it is also creating unprecedented opportunities for change.

The current business environment will persist for some time, but businesses with the foresight, strategy and enterprise to negotiate it will survive and thrive.