Many organizations needed to adapt quickly to new ways of working as the COVID-19 pandemic forced offices to close and states to enforce stay-at-home orders. Employees had to shift to working from home, and IT departments needed to update communications infrastructure rapidly to support remote work.
Even as some states ease stay-at-home orders and organizations resume business, many plan to continue to support remote work. As a result, organizations are reevaluating their unified communications and collaboration (UCC) strategies.
Post-pandemic, organizations will accelerate their migration to cloud-based communications to support remote work and business continuity, according to a report from Aragon Research.
"With the arrival of a worldwide pandemic, the need for a robust and redundant cloud-based communication platform is now an enterprise requirement," the report said. "Post-pandemic, the race will be to replace aging PBXs."
In order to support virtual interaction at scale, IT departments are now thinking strategically and examining how their tools need to perform, Wainhouse Research analyst Bill Haskins said in a webinar. Because of the pandemic, some organizations had to pivot to cloud communications earlier than they planned. And a complete transition to cloud is not easy.
Porting phone numbers, for example, can be difficult in a cloud migration, Haskins said. Some organizations already using a cloud-based calling service may have their service running behind a firewall in their data center. It can be challenging for IT to manage calling for a distributed, virtual workforce, he said.
Online meeting services address voice needs
Meeting services provide an alternative for organizations to enable remote communications.
"Meetings are things that people can quickly adopt and deploy," Haskins said. "The reality is half of the minutes of enterprise interaction on voice today end up on a meeting platform anyway."
Meetings are 40% more productive when conducted over video compared to voice-only meetings, according to the Aragon report. Video meetings can also include use cases such as webinars, live events and video-based distance learning. But organizations may find they need multiple meeting services for internal and external communications.
"A single platform -- whether it be Teams, Skype or Zoom -- isn't likely to meet all of our customer needs," said Harrison Bliss, senior vice president of professional services at UC management provider IR, in a webinar. "Some customers may not allow their employees to use certain tools."
UCC strategy focuses on centralized platforms
Video meetings have strategic importance in addressing short-term communication needs during the pandemic. But, in the long term, organizations will seek UCC offerings that offer multiple ways to communicate and will invest in platform-based architecture, according to the Aragon report.
While the UCC market had been experiencing growing demand for centralized communications platforms that provide multiple modes of communication -- including voice, video and messaging -- the pandemic has given organizations a "renewed sense of urgency," the report said.
"Messaging and meetings are poised to challenge the dominance of voice calls," the report said. "That said, the value of a UCC platform is its ability to deliver voice and video calls as part of one integrated stack."
A centralized platform enables users to switch among communication modes seamlessly during daily use, which can save time and improve productivity.
Many organizations have turned to productivity suites from Microsoft and Google that also provide meeting capabilities. This enables organizations to get their meetings from the same platform as email and other productivity tools, Haskins said.