The pandemic and shift to working from home has rapidly reshaped today’s workplace. Hybrid working looks set to stay, as over a million businesses state they will never return to the office fulltime as before. Having faced such unprecedented change, many organisations are now seeking to optimise their collaborative communication approach and find a better way to leverage technology to solve key business challenges as well as continuously navigate the changing world. Our recent research has shown that IT service providers have witnessed a 62% increase in demand for consolidated solutions that deliver messaging, video or audio conferencing and telephony in one application.
With demand for these collaboration solutions only increasing, we hosted a roundtable with Comms Dealer and other key stakeholders in the field to discuss how collaboration technology can underpin a long-term strategy with measurable outcomes and put a spotlight on the nature of the most successful channel value propositions and how to approach the all-encompassing collaboration ecosystem opportunity.
The market for collaboration tools is predicted to be worth more than £1.6bn annually by 2025 so we thought it is an opportunity worthwhile of a debate.
The roundtable began with delegates discussing the collaboration opportunity and what challenges it presents for partners. Jaipriya Kaur Rai, Voice & Collaboration Propositions Manager, BT Wholesale began by emphasising how the past year has accelerated digital transformation for many businesses and highlighted the need for robust collaboration solutions for customers who may have been thinking about adopting a more strategic collaboration strategy for their business but hadn’t necessarily taken the plunge. The working from home mandate by the UK government meant that businesses had to adopt collaboration solutions in order to keep business going.
Now, as lockdowns continue to ease, it is very likely that many employees will shift to a hybrid blend of working – being partly in the office and partly at home. The key opportunity for partners will be to understand the different profiles and personas within organisations, in order to best offer the solution that’s right for them. For instance, directors will have different requirements than frontline fixed desk workers, so it’s imperative that partners realise not one size is going to fit all. Being scalable and flexible will be key, as will showcasing the long-term value of collaboration to help customers digitally transform their business.
The attendees discussed the main challenges of collaboration services, and it came across that a common theme was needing to be flexible and scalable. Understanding the industries and verticals that need collaboration propositions has been key, particularly in the past year. Anna Roper, Sales Director, Partners, 9 Group interestingly referenced recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), that demonstrated only 48% of Londoners worked from home last year, and only 27% of Scots – going against a lot of perceptions of 2020. However, whilst sole working from home is likely confined to 2020, hybrid working models are what we’ll see in 2021 and beyond.
Pritesh Gajjar, Managing Director, Aastha explained the move to hybrid working very succinctly, explaining how at first the novelty of not sitting in traffic and only having to dress ‘work-smart’ from the waist up made working from home appealing. However, as we’ve seen, this novelty does wear off, as we miss the social interaction of being in an office and seeing colleagues. This is where hybrid working has risen from, and it’s up to partners to offer the right collaboration tools to help facilitate this.
Another key challenge that the participants referenced was the 2025 PSTN/ISDN switch-off and shift to all-IP. Giving partners and customers the right support to educate them on the various options to embrace the all-IP landscape will be paramount. As Anna continued, what’s needed is for partners to get under the skin and understand the business and their requirements to know what’s specifically needed to keep them transacting.
How partners can support
And this is a huge role that partners have to play: understanding the benefits of collaboration solutions and educating customers to find the right product for them. Claire Richards, Head of Voice Portfolio, Digital Wholesale Solutions shared how BT Wholesale’s new integration of Cisco Webex to our WHC has been highly sought after by DWS’ customers. She commented how her team has noticed a shift of smaller businesses starting to look at solutions around collaboration, whereas traditionally it had been enterprise customers, signalling to partners where the opportunity is moving forwards.
Rob Sims, Group CEO, Elite Group and Phil Race, CEO AdEPT Technology Group both agreed that partners need to educate customers and work alongside them throughout their journey. Offering the right support and being the thought leaders and educators in the collaboration space means that ultimately profitability will increase and customers will be stickier.
The session ended with everyone stating their key piece of advice to partners who are currently not offering joined up collaboration solutions for remote working. The key message was for partners to get on board – and fast – to realise the opportunity before it’s too late.