The COVID-19 pandemic created an extreme stress test for business communication systems, and many didn’t make the grade. Most organizations were forced to hastily adopt a variety of cloud-based communication apps and services to augment legacy phone systems that weren’t designed to support mass numbers of remote workers.
With a little breathing room, organizations are now taking some time to evaluate their options and develop a more cohesive communication strategy. Most are realizing that a robust and resilient unified communications (UC) solution should be a key component of their long-term business continuity planning processes.
By tightly integrating voice, collaboration and conferencing capabilities, UC allows employees to share and receive information in a variety of ways from a single platform. That will be essential for organizations planning to maintain remote operations for the long term.
Caught Off Guard
Although UC adoption has been steadily increasing for a decade, interest intensified in the early months of the pandemic. A new survey of some 4,500 IT decision-makers across 18 countries finds a 103 percent increase in the number of companies deploying or planning to deploy UC solutions.
The need to support previously unimaginable numbers of remote workers is driving UC adoption. Even organizations with legacy UC systems quickly discovered that the mass transition to remote operations presented significant architectural limitations.
Few business continuity plans anticipated a scenario in which workers would need to remotely access UC services for months or even years. Last year’s unexpected transition was often impeded by inadequate network infrastructure, insufficient bandwidth, poor diagnostic capabilities and limited application integration.
Remote workers unwittingly exacerbated the problems. If company communication and collaboration solutions weren’t available or reliable, it was easy enough use a cloud application or service — usually without IT’s knowledge or approval. This ad-hoc adoption addressed immediate productivity requirements, but it also created application sprawl.
Instead of using an integrated UC platform, users often found themselves using a different app for each mode of communication — phone, messaging, team collaboration, file sharing and video conferencing. Studies show that remote workers often toggle between 10 apps every hour, which disrupts focus, reduces productivity and increases stress.
Streamlined and Scalable
Upgrading to a UC solution designed for today’s remote operations can eliminate those issues and help future-proof business continuity plans. It will ease the burden on remote employees by allowing them to effortlessly switch between multiple communication modes without every needing to leave the app. It will also make it easier for IT teams to manage compatibility, scalability and support issues.
Even basic telephone communications become much more versatile. UC solutions seamlessly integrate landlines and mobile phones with shared access to contacts across both devices. Remote employees can use the company phone and conferencing systems as if they were in the office. Calls can be forwarded to the worker’s home or cell phone, or a PC-based softphone utilized to serve as the worker’s extension. Voice mail can be managed through an email client.
Advanced video and web conferencing features keep the remote workforce connected and engaged by bringing colleagues together for face-to-face communication. Easy-to-use conferencing solutions support spontaneous, ad-hoc meetings among dispersed teams, boosting productivity, cutting costs and enabling faster decisions.
UC solutions also enhance business continuity through built-in redundancy and survivability features. Providers such as Mitel have engineered their systems with redundant components to ensure there’s no single point of failure. In addition, UC software can be installed on multiple physical and virtual servers in a failover configuration to ensure survivability in the event of an equipment failure or service disruption.
The ongoing pandemic has demonstrated the need for reliable business communications. With remote work likely to remain a necessity for some time to come, now is the time to consider upgrading to a robust, scalable unified communications solution. Let us show you how we can design, deploy and manage a solution that will enhance your operations.