Choosing tools, hardware among questions in the remote work transition

Will Zoom make it as a long-standing part of the unified communications toolbox once the Covid-19 pandemic subsides? Do huddle rooms and meeting areas need to be re-equipped to enable all UC vendors? And what will be the long-term impacts of roughly a year of the remote work transition once workers come back to offices in large numbers?

Those are some of the questions facing enterprise organizations in the next 12 months, with work habits having changed forever and companies likely needing to support a variety of remote video and collaboration tools that have become part of their workers’ everyday lives.

During a recent Vyopta webinar leaders in the UC sector said going forward that large companies, education and health systems and governments will face pressure to allow a “bring your own” device or tool mindset to ease the remote work transition.

That is likely to mean increased demand on IT teams, a high likelihood of moving away from “one flavor” meeting rooms geared to support only one meeting service, and performing regular, comprehensive analysis of audiovisual and collaboration needs.

“One-third of the workforce is home all the time, working remotely. One quarter is working remotely sometimes. We are truly in the middle of that hybrid work environment,” said Ira Weinstein, managing partner at Recon Research.

”Before Covid, these people were doing on average two video meetings a week. Many of them were doing no video at all but during Covid usage has approximately tripled and the percent of people that were never using video went from about 25 percent to zero percent. It may sound simple and clean and easy to use a single platform all day, but that is not the reality for the information worker. The reality is about two-thirds of enterprises out there are using two or more video conferencing providers at the same time. So that means they may have a Zoom meeting now, a Cisco meeting later in the day, and a Microsoft Teams meeting in the middle.”

Weinstein said the escalation of remote collaboration, and the options that have become available to meet the surge in demand since last spring, have created something of a Wild West scenario for UC and IT teams. While flexibility will be important, he said the time will come soon when enterprises make the decisions to consolidate, centralize and optimize the tools they support for their workplace.

“I think big things are changing in the tools. It’s going to be an interesting push-pull. You have the users who have become used to driving their own experience in their way with their preferences? And you have IT needing to centralize, control cost, control and protect data and the like… it is fascinating,” he said. “This time this is different because, frankly, we’ve never been out of the office and working differently for so long.”

Lots At Stake Behind The Remote Work Transition

Those decisions centered around servicing the remote work transition will have a two-fold impact, said Nick Wiik, product manager at Vyopta. In the short term organizations will need to make choices on how to use budget and other resources for competing online platforms, hardware and equipment that can best enable productivity.

Longer term, Wiik said that gathering data around remote work can let companies make major reductions their commercial real estate footprint. The potential cost savings from such moves make it necessary to get the most accurate and comprehensive data possible around work habits and space usage.

“In the short term, we need to support this very hybrid, predominantly remote environment but things are in flux. We don’t know when we’re going back to the office and that’s different on every site, different in every location,” he said. “It is kind of an unknown, when does it make sense to go back to the office? In the meantime, I’ve got plenty of work to do and whatever platform in use needs to work.”

The demands around the remote work transition have made it even more important for vendors like Barco to help their clients adapt to current needs by staying on top of the latest AV and collaboration options.

David Fitzgerald, Barco’s vice president of global alliances, said there will be different needs for large service and manufacturing companies – that are likely to push for a faster return to work – versus financial and creative firms that allow more flexibility for remote work.

“We’ve proven it’s been the biggest experiment in human history, that we’ve proven that people can be very productive and not be not all be under one roof,” he said. “Companies are going to pick a horse to ride so somebody will become a standard for us to use for collaboration.

“Today I’ve been on four different platforms since this morning. If the companies make the arrangements to let you bring an agnostic solution back into the office, it’s going to allow people to collaborate around the world much more effectively. But the time is coming when companies are going to standardize on something.”

This webinar gives the latest insights on the changes coming to the UC space. Watch it all to learn more.

Chad Swiatecki

Chad Swiatecki is a business writer and journalist whose work has appeared in Rolling Stone, Billboard, New York Daily News, Austin Business Journal, Austin American-Statesman and many other print and online publications. He lives in Austin, Texas and is a graduate of Michigan State University. Find him online on LinkedIn.