Webinars • Mar 26, 2020 • ON-DEMAND

Keep the modern workforce connected

IR Media

Published by IR Media

info@ir.com

Details

Bill-Haskins
Bill Haskins Sr. Analyst and Partner, Unified Communications @ Wainhouse Research
JR_photo[2] copy
John Ruthven CEO @ IR

Unified Communications has always been an important part of companies' digital transformation efforts due to its ability to enable rich virtual collaboration and communication. But with COVID-19, we've reached a break-through point.

In order to prevent the spread of the virus, social distancing has been adopted globally. Companies that can are sending workers home to work remotely, and consumers are preferring to interact with vendors online. As the level of emergency continues to increase, companies are experiencing a spike in call-in volumes, customer inquiries and online orders. Unified Communications was built for this, but it has never been pushed this hard.

Join Bill Haskins, Sr. Analyst & Partner, Unified Communications at Wainhouse Research, and John Ruthven, CEO at IR discuss UC challenges companies are experiencing due to the Coronavirus crisis.

During this session, you can expect to learn:

  • How your peers are responding to the COVID-19 crisis
  • Strategies your IT department can take to accelerate your digital environments
  • Proactive UC solution approaches to streamline operations in the future

Show Notes

Keeping the Modern Workforce Connected Webinar

Tim Poindexter: Hello, my name is Tim Poindexter and I'm pleased to welcome you to today's webinar on how to keep the modern workforce connected. We're fortunate enough to have two fantastic speakers today. 

Speakers for the webinar - Keeping the Modern Workforce Connected

With that, I'd like to introduce our two speakers. Today, we're featuring John Ruthven - CEO at IR. John, go ahead and tell us a little bit about yourself.

John Ruthven: Thanks, Tim. Well, probably first and foremost, I’m in a part of the world which is currently about 1 am in the world. So I’m joining you at a very, very early time. 

So as Tim said, I'm the CEO at IR. I've been with the company for about 12 months. My background, at least for the last 20-25 years has been in enterprise software. So as our American friends might say, I'm rusted on, in terms of our industry, being with companies like SAP, CA technologies, which was recently acquired by Broadcom, etc.--so, a good, strong background in enterprise software. In fact, I started life as a teacher. So I have more than a passing interest in how people learn and certainly in the current predicament that we find ourselves in worldwide. Maybe my skills will come in handy from that part of my life, with everyone learning how to homeschool their kids. But that's my background; and I'll hand it over to one of my co-presenters today.

Bill over to you.

Bill Haskins: Thanks, John. Appreciate it. Hello, everyone. Thanks to team IR for bringing us onboard here. 

Bill Haskins. I am a Senior Analyst and Partner over at WainHouse Research. It’s a small research firm that focuses specifically on the UC industry. And what a fascinating place to find yourself in current events. 

Personally, I have about 20 plus years in the UC Industry, spent my time initially managing a video operations team. So delivering video conferencing services out to the enterprise. Spent time also as the IT director over at Level Three, responsible for the internal unified communications environment; put on the internal IT hat for a while. Spent time delivering and developing the UCX product in the marketing side of the shop over Level Three, as well. Moved from a big, big business—there were 11,000 of us at the time when I moved into Wainhouse Research, which was about 10 years ago—into a small research firm. Also moving from working from an office into working from home. So personally, I have first-hand experience only working as part of a virtual team now and that transition itself is top of mind for myself and the topic at hand. That's me.

Tim Poindexter: Well, thank you both for joining me today. I'm really honored to have both of you as guests. And the context for our webinar today is a unique and challenging health crisis. 

Correlation of Coronavirus and the use of communication applications

Last night, I was looking at the John Hopkins tracker, and there are about 460,000 Coronavirus cases globally. We know that number is going to go up today. And unified communications has always been an important part of a company's digital transformation efforts. But with COVID-19 I feel like we're reaching a tipping point due to the number of people who are being sent to work remotely. Companies are sending the workers home. Everyone who can. Consumers are preferring to interact with vendors online. 

As the level of emergency continues to increase, companies are seeing a spike in calling volumes, customer inquiries, and online orders. And unified communications was built for this. So really grateful that we have that technology, but it's never been pushed this hard. 

How is UC performing under vastly increasing workload.

So the first question, with that in mind, to get us going this morning, is “How is UC performing under a vastly increasing workload?” And, Bill, let's start with you, your feedback on that, and then we'll hear from JR.

Bill Haskins: So as I kind of led off with—being a researcher and analyst whose full-time job is focused on the UC industry—it gives us a unique perspective as to what's going on. So how the analyst looks at current impact to core moving parts from our side. The core players, of course, are the UC providers, the service riders that you’ve listed who's who in that last slide. But you got to remember that it's a dance. It’s the UC partners, these wish guys, and very critically, the network providers who are underpinning the entire experience. Often we forget about those guys. We just focus on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Cisco WebEx. And we're watching this really interesting circle form here. 

Initially, as it became apparent that the COVID-19 was going to have the impact that it is now, it was really cool to watch every one of those players step up, really kind of on the human side of things focused on: “How can we help?” “How can our tools help?” “Who needs our tools the most?” “Who may not have them?” And virtually everybody on that list and more started this conversation by extending paid services into their free service offering. Literally every one of them. Microsoft, providing free E1 trial licenses for an extended six-month period. Zoom, Cisco, the list goes on. Each of them adding—you're releasing limits that generally come with their free conferencing services and extending them—the paid services—into that free offer. 

But the network vendors are doing similar things, too. ComCast, CenturyLink. These guys are suspending things like data usage limits. Committing to a “no termination for an extended period” for enterprises who may be hit financially during this crisis. And the FCC stepped up there’s “Keep Americans Connected” in the US. Really, the goal is how do we keep continuity service in what's definitely going to be an increased volume time.

As you'd expect, that is the next stage of the cycle: volume spikes, massive-massive increase in traffic. But there are a few things you can count to kind of put it in perspective. Zoom recently noted they've added more active users this year than the entire 2019 calendar period, that is crazy. Cisco, same boat. 2 million hosts, 2 million new users added in just the second week of March. The volume that's created on the network is nuts. 80% increase in video meetings for Cisco. 300% increase in mobile downloads. 24 times the volume. Think of that: 24 times network volume at peak times. CenturyLink says the same thing. 35% increase, in general, internet usage. One thing they told us that I thought was fascinating is—that they're watching this thing super closely, you can imagine—but it's not just conferencing and collaboration. Yes, voice. Yes, collaboration spikes. They noted that gaming downloads. Measurable increase in specifically gaming downloads. Multitasking activities. Lots of online gaming happening while the same endpoint is doing video conferencing at the same time. So something to remember in multitasking. 

So the next stage of the cycle. You can imagine what happens next. Service brownouts. And we call these unconscious brownouts. This is when you're trying to join a call and you can't get in—busy signal or you're in a call and the call drops. You try to do video and just the video endpoint doesn't work. Chuck Robbins at Cisco, his nugget of the day: “We built WebEx for scale. But we didn't build it for the entire global workforce working from home at the same time”. Yeah, that's reality. What these guys are facing. Everybody online at the same time.

Next stage of the cycle and I'll handoff. The response, as you'd expect, is an all-hands build-out. And it's actually really, really cool to watch. Back to the human side of things. AT&T deploying portable cell sites. Things that you just didn't necessarily think about. CenturyLink doing a massive build-out while working with partners. And that's one of the neatest things to watch. Is that these two sides of that collaboration experience have really, really increased how they partner during these things and how they talk. It's a constant stream of communication between them as they find those choke points.

The last part of the cycle is conscious degradation. So conscious brownouts now, instead of unexpected. You see the providers now moving towards reducing or eliminating areas of their service that may not be as highly used but still have an impact on their resources on the service side. Microsoft is a good example of a couple of nuggets they're throwing out though, they're slowing down or restricting the amount of times they send presence information to and from clients. The interval that shows, like when you're typing, little things that are helpful, but that add a resource impact on the backside. And the last piece of that cycle—what I think has really changed well—is the amount of communication that each of these vendors is providing. I think not just communication and collaboration between the moving parts, but how they're sending information back out to the street. There is a ton of information online from all of those players looking at your partner site. And you'll find everything from stats and information on observable impact. But also kind of coaching and information on how to use the service better, when to use the service potentially, and what services are consciously degraded. So you're going into your collaboration eyes wide open instead of just getting a busy signal with that unexpected? 

Yeah, that's a view. What do you think, John?

John Ruthven: Yeah. Thanks for a couple of anecdotes that, I guess, largely play off some of the points that you've made. The first observation and experience that we have right now is—in the same way that you quoted one of the vendors in terms of the expectation was that literally, in a matter of weeks—that we would have an extraordinarily large percentage of the global workforce, remotely working or working from home. 

What we see with particularly larger enterprises is that whilst every company most likely had a pretty valid business continuity plan. Again, I don't think the world or the infrastructure anticipated that we would literally have an extraordinarily high percentage of companies who have now, almost, at the same time activated those business continuity plans globally. And that puts an incredible load on the infrastructure. What we're experiencing is that we've seen a quite significant change in the prioritization of projects that we might have been working on with customers. And without referencing specific names, in the last week or so, we had a major US-based university that, of course, has now been forced into literally serving all of its content and classroom content online. So a project that we've been working with in good time, has suddenly gone from a project we're working on, to essentially a completed order within a matter of weeks.

So, an example of it, that's called Project Acceleration. Similarly, one of our very large global service providers that bundles our solution as part of their overall managed service. In terms of the capacity order that they had in flight with us to cater for their, let's call it normal growth. Suddenly, that capacity order is now doubled or tripled in size just because of the sheer load that they are experiencing. The other thing that we're seeing with some of the projects we're working on, which is not surprising, is that the projects now are, all of a sudden, mission-critical and being business lead rather than where they may have had more of a UC or infrastructure flavor. This is now a school, for example, that has to serve all of its content online and you've got this massive change with children effectively being homeschooled. And so, everyone's struggling with how you deliver not only a reliable but good quality service. 

Is your business continuity plan ready

At a higher level, we've seen this massive change with BCP plans being enacted at the same time, at scale. We've seen a reprioritization of projects within organizations that were either customers or partnering with, around ensuring the reliability and quality is bad infrastructure. So those are two of the major related challenges we’ve seen.

Bill Haskins: That’s a really interesting point on roadmap escalation. I'll just tag on in one of our briefings with Cisco. Mr. Robbins said the same exact thing from the UC vendor side. As you think about what a service provider can do to support the global enterprise now—yes, there are extended free, paid services and free, etc. But the other thing that they're consciously doing is increasing resources in support of escalated roadmaps. So teams who had been planning over an extended period to perhaps migrate into the Cisco WebEx, in this use case, are bringing those in. And so the vendors are responding by saying “Let's add resources to assist with those escalated roadmaps.”  I think that's a great observation.

Tim Poindexter: And JR, you mentioned that not everyone expected to put their business continuity plan into action at the exact same time. Which is basically what we've seen happen over the last few weeks, and it's going to stay that way for the foreseeable future. What are some interesting things that we've seen pop up as challenges as a result? Are companies figuring out that they have to do things differently maybe than what they expected?

John Ruthven: Certainly, there's a number of factors that come into play. And from where we sit, from a priority standpoint, it’s not so much around the technical capabilities. Certainly, Bill's done a good job of referencing some of the challenges that the vendors have in that space just around capacity and some of the techniques that are applying whether it's throttling, etc to get us through this initial bump, but it's more the use of the technology. I think that there are, literally overnight, a number of new use cases that organizations are struggling with. And these come down to some very simple examples, where you've got schools, as an example, who are thrown into delivering or serving content online. You have a whole community of parents and kids who are now suddenly learning to homeschool. And as an example, there's a small number of people that are homeschooling anyway, but suddenly, now, there are communities homeschooling at scale. You have organizations the same way where, particularly in our industry, the software and technology industry, remote working, and so forth has been part of our cadence in vernacular for some years, if not decades, but not everybody. 

And so what you're seeing is that it's more on the human side that some of these factors are starting to play out a lot in terms of whether the tech can do its thing, but whether people can adapt how they work. So what we're saying is that some of the challenges that are exhibiting themselves are more about how people interact with the new environment versus whether the tech can do its thing. And I suspect as we're looking at our own roadmap and so forth. And if you look at the evolution of telephony or UC over many years from, way back from analog to digital voice over IP. Nowadays, we talk more about it in the context of our collaboration, environmental platforms. We're very quickly moving into this digital workplace as an example. And this is where you're bringing all the factors together, where not only does the employee experience become paramount, but it also comes into the customer experience. So how are we helping customers serve their customers, largely in a remote working or work from home and dynamic environment?

Bill Haskins: Awesome, I’ll tag on. The enterprise teams that I've spoken to recently. It becomes apparent from personal experience that continuity plans, generally, are formed, as JR said, for fixed periods. And we're seeing an extended period that really stresses the average continuity plan. But they're also generally more technical and tactical. “How do I keep lights on?” “How do I shift traffic from A to B in an expected environment?” And what you need to take into account now—as we work into an extended period that these plans may not be designed for—there are additional elements, including: “How do I change my workflow?” This is not just “How do I use the same tools from A to B?”, but now you need to start thinking about just basic productivity concepts. 

There's an awful lot of business that gets done in an analog frame that you just don't notice until your teams are no longer in person. And you don't know what you don't know until you start observing it. You need to start measuring and observing. And then you can understand what additional kinds of workflow elements need to go into continuity plans. How do you change? Should you be changing a meeting tempo that used to be in person? Maybe more frequency, because your teams need more communication with each other and it needs to be formalized when you're fully in a virtual team. 

The other thing that business continuity plans don't account for necessarily is that it is back to our point on a massive change at a global scale and the impact that has on things like time of day contention or regional contention. You don't expect that when everybody's working from home, peak meeting times are going to be highlighted—the impact is going to be greater. I'm talking to my buddies over at Cisco, they noted that there are a number of regular peak times now that have come out in the workday. Let's see 11 am Eastern is the first one, 8 am Pacific. And think about that 8 am Pacific US time is when the entire kind of global economy overlaps the most from UD across the coasts, to the UK, to everybody who could be awake at the same time.

Tim Poindexter: That's why my videos are not working at that time, right?

Bill Haskins: That’s exactly right. Good thing that you scheduled this a little bit out of that. Actually you scheduled it right at the wrong time. Sorry. 9 am Mountain, 11 am. Eastern, 

Tim Poindexter: The video quality goes throughout the rest of that.

Bill Haskins: But they see these regular peaks now. So you have the 8 am Pacific overlap, then two hours later again at 10 am Pacific, and then a final one another hour later at 11 am Pacific. And you can just picture a follow the sun model where teams overlap. And then as one team is getting ready to exit the business day, there's another spike at the final overlap. And so from a business standpoint, it's really that front end of the day. And business continuity plans didn’t, and probably shouldn’t have, built-in best practices around when to schedule meetings. But that's an important observation. Do you think about scheduling your meetings towards the afternoon in this case? 

The other observation was just as far as kind of time of day contention that came up from our buddies at CenturyLink. The busiest time of day on the internet is when people get home from work and start watching movies. It's 5 pm. It is and that's still the case, even in this escalated workload. All of this volume pattern is amplified. So 5pm, in the business day, still has a higher level of traffic. Probably not a good time to try and hold a video conference to be totally honest. In fact, if you're wondering what the best time to hold the video conferences, we asked them, it's 3 am US time.

So, John, good job. 

Tim Poindexter: Our next webinar is scheduled for 3 am now. 

Bill Haskins: Exactly, but you get the gist. These are the kinds of things that you just don't know until you know. And, so, back to business continuity planning. Answering the question “Are business continuity plans ready for this?” Absolutely not, like, this was an unscheduled event that nobody really kind of literally dreamt up at a mass global business scale. But they all have the right foundation. They’re built to think through what kind of a worst-case scenario is; we now have a new worst-case scenario. We need to adapt our plans with some of those kinds of new learnings in mind.

Tim Poindexter: Well, we're learning on the fly. And one of the things that help us learn on the fly is that we have great access to data. We can see, by monitoring our communication internally, as well as getting feedback from the vendors, what kind of traffic patterns there are. We can identify latency and jitter, across our conference calls, video conferences, so on and so forth. And we can identify things that might be specific to our own organization that we can try to mitigate. And then it really does transition over to the human factor, that John was speaking about earlier. And I do want to come back to that point. I mean, one of the things that my team has started doing is that we have a daily happy hour on video conference, and we do it in the afternoon for Denver. So it's the cocktail hour for people here in Colorado, and it's coffee hour for people in Sydney, the team in Sydney. And that's been something that's been really helpful to sort of connect, check-in and kind of keep that convivial spirit alive. 

So let's go back to talking about the human factor for a minute. I'm going to share that slide one more time. The human factor is really important. And JR, you touched on this really nicely. But as a leader of an organization, the human factor is something that probably needs to be addressed upfront from senior leaders. What can leaders be doing now to get in front of the situation, and helping make sure that that human factor doesn't get lost?

The human factor of remote work

John Ruthven: One of the points that Bill touched on was around this new way of working. First of all, from a business continuity point of view. Businesses usually planned for a spike and then the crash has just passed and things go back to “normal”, whatever normal is. What we're experiencing, and obviously the current crisis we find ourselves in. Very few people are willing to make a call as to how long this goes. 

There are some people who have an opinion that essentially says that even when the crisis has passed, that things will never go back to the way they were. And so you will have a fundamental change in terms of the way that people work. And so when you look at some of the things that are germane to an employee's work life, things like KPIs, performance, and performance management, there are certain roles that have probably been more remote for years and there's a certain cadence that has been developed around that. Maybe, sales guys or field personnel that are working remotely. Probably most companies are caught a little bit more of a cadence around how you manage that particular cohort of your workforce. But what we're seeing now is roles, but arguably, were never intended to ever be remote roles, working remotely. 

And so you have the whole working or operating model having to change to support these roles. You have a group of employees who have never really been in that environment. So that's one of the big changes that is happening, real-time and at scale. The point you raised around just some of those human factor elements of how do you keep people engaged? How do you try and replicate some of those workplace collaborations and keeping people connected etc. are so critical. And there are some great examples. I mean, even as you've referenced in our own company, Tim, there are some great examples of people wanting to be connected in the leaning-in on how they do that. And the point I raised earlier, I do think that what this will do for companies like ourselves, it's going to accelerate the demand from our customers around thinking of it more in the context of the digital workplace, and the overall employee experience versus simply “Is the infrastructure reliable?” “Is the core quality of the reasonable level?” etc.

Tim Poindexter: Okay. We're gonna transition to part two of the webinar here. Part two is really going to be on company policy changes. Maybe long term change, work styles, or company policy. And then some practical examples of what IT teams can do to make changes now to help them with this. 

So, to kick off part two. 

Let's share the screen here again. 

Let's go over to Bill. And, Bill, let's get your take—and JR alluded to this in an earlier comment. Do you expect long term change in work styles or company policy as a result of this crisis, or is this just something temporary? And we'll revert to the mean, in a few months? 

Is there a long term change in work style and company policy

Bill Haskins: Long term. That’s my answer. Look, I'm a shiny object guy. I'm easily excitable if you haven't figured that out. And, I think, there's a very positive long term impact that will come from this current environment. And the long term benefits are going to ripple throughout the UC industry and beyond here. 

We're collectively being forced to learn to use digital tools in a way that we just never really anticipated. Go back to that point on a kind of long term roadmap suddenly becoming short term week-long roadmaps. The first thing that happens here is everybody looks at tooling. Now we have to figure out if everybody has webcams. “Does everybody have access to the right services?” “What past tools do people need?” Okay, we need training on where to click and what button to click for video and how to share your desktop and stuff now that we're virtual. All of that is a kind of known universe. And we're very good at that as an industry, identifying those kinds of core tactical training, activities. Distribution and training—we're good at that. 

But we're not necessarily collectively good at each side of the equation. It is transitioning from tooling into workflow optimization. So bringing this to the long term conversation, the current wave of UC solutions that are out there, that team collaboration genre. From Slack to Microsoft Teams, WebEx teams. Zoom is actually a team collaboration construct. These solutions were all built to do more than just web conferencing. They were all built to be able to allow teams to share content with each other and communicate with each other on this really cool time-flies kind of construct. Somebody comes into work, everyone else is asleep, they can interact with the team on their own time, go back to bed and the other team comes on and picks up the thread of information. Glorious conversations, glorious concepts. But that construct, this current wave of solutions, represents a materially different workflow for most of the enterprise. 

There's a reason that Slack has become super popular with development teams. It's because threaded messaging works as a developers mindset. That's how developers think it's our technical teams think. It's not necessarily how HR thinks or even I think. The example that I thought resonates very well, is that you can divide the workforce into two core categories. Those of us, that I won't put an age bracket on this, but those of us who are used to putting information into folders. I grew up building my own folder structure. Every time I get an email, I take it, and I plop it into the folder that makes sense. And I had a nice tidy thing. And when I needed information, I would go look into those folders. The new construct, this team collaboration solution, is built for people who are used to just dumping their data into their own pond and then searching for it when they need it. It seems like a simple trick but learning that new construct is different for a lot of people. 

We're seeing now the workhorse figure out how to train themselves and adapt workflow. Things like email structure, email communications, transitioning into this new kind of construct. It's happening now. But we've shortened the cycle where teams now are going to force themselves to practice it. And just that concept, as an example, ripples into a much broader long term benefit. As you adapt workflow into these tools, these tools are really powerful. Once the team adapts and starts using them efficiently those who do point to their productivity and say, “We communicate and collaborate better in this new construct than we did previously.” They're much more efficient when you do it right. You just got to figure out how to do it right.

Tim Poindexter: And, John, have you seen or heard any anecdotes of people, perhaps in our company or in some of our customers, adapting the way that Bill just described. And kind of finding out new ways to use these technologies?

John Ruthven: Yeah, absolutely. And similar to Bill, I won't wade into a debate about how long the crisis lasts. But I certainly have a view that people's behaviors arguably will have changed forever. And some anecdotes I would share with you in our own company. In Sydney, we've got a number of our developers who would spend anything up to two hours a day in getting to and from the office, whether that's on public transport or their own car, etc. These people are reflecting on their new normal, which now, they save those two hours a day and how they use that time, whether it's more time with their family or in some cases they are more productive because they're saying, well, I'll work a little longer. 

If I shoot a really personal example, my older son who's 22, and has made a fatal error of following his father into the software industry. So he's working for a pre-IPO American company, as an SDR. He's now three weeks into remote working. And while, like many young folk in our industry, he enjoys the energy of an early-stage company and, kind of the cool aspect. But he just is absolutely flourishing in this work from home garden. He's getting more time to go to the gym because he's not spending time transiting to the office. He's pretty disciplined in how he's carving up his workday. And I just think there are ongoing examples of how people will have adapted very quickly. The other one that is really, really nice in the world right now is that there's this human element that says, we're all in this predicament together and you've seen, not only is the technology doing what it's supposed to do in terms of providing a platform for communication, collaboration and co-working and so forth. But that same platform is now being used at a peak level in terms of people sharing ideas and working collaboratively to work out how to be effective in this environment. I think that what you're seeing is that there's a human behavior element that people are a little bit more tolerant about the fact that everyone's in this together and so you've got this massive power of people learning together at scale. And I referenced at the start that I started life as a teacher, so I've got more than a passing interest in how people learn and say that you have this global experiment as organizations, not just, businesses. But this is school. This is communities, etc, who are learning at scale, how to operate effectively in this new row.

Bill Haskins: This is a really important point, it jogs a thought. You have the collective industry right now adapting infrastructure in a way to handle a unique situation. And that alone will have a long term benefit in supporting kind of the next wave of digital collaboration. But again, the CenturyLink buddies over there, the way they talked about the choke points, you got to picture the way kind of a global network works. The core is handling this fine. The core is generally where you're going to have the least point of contention. But the points of contention ripple out as you get further and further away from the core are where they are the highest impact. Yes, around popular core services, like, cloud-based collaboration, they're building out there and they can address that but where they pointed to that the worst-hit point of contention is home Wi-Fi. That is where they're seeing most of, the experience fall down. 

So back to John's point. It's not just the industry side, the provider side that's adapting here, you're working all the way down to home-user environment, which is adapting quickly as well. Things like video cameras that I might not have thought I needed. Like by optimizing my own internal network, my own workspace, the benefit of that adaptation is massive, and maybe, more important than the larger service provider and in the long run is we're all collectively trying to find in our own personal environments, be productive in a way that we didn't anticipate.

Tim Poindexter: Well, that sets us up for our last formal question here. And I'll set it up. And I'll also just ask the audience. We are going to have a few minutes to answer questions from the audience. So if you have questions that have come up during the webinar, things that you'd like to get perspective of our great panelists on today, go ahead and drop those into the question box. We'll get to those in a few minutes. 

What is most valuable to IT right now

But the last question is really trying to bring all of this great insight and anecdotes down to some practical things the IT teams, IT staff, IT leadership can do today to be more effective in addressing the challenges that they might be facing as a result. And we know IT is already understaffed. But now they have more work to do than ever before: standing up remote sites, managing things from their homes, making sure that the impact on bandwidth is not detrimental. Making sure that even styles and times that people used to meet together is being brought into account, and they have enough licenses so on and so forth. But what are the most valuable things that IT teams right now can do to better manage unified communications and collaboration?

Bill Haskins: I can lead off if that's cool. First thing, get an extra monitor for your gaming environment because, obviously, you can do video games while you're supporting the help desk. No, don't do that.

So the discussions I've had with both IT teams and vendor Help Desks, the same kind of construct, you got to remember that in this kind of environment that they (a) are understaffed, stretched in the first place. But the inbound volume at touchpoints like help desks, user requests, partner questions, etc. takes a massive increase during these things. And it's not just because of technical questions or break-fix issues that are happening. There's a human factor here when everybody is in this extra kind of stressful environment that additional questions start coming in that may or may not be relevant to IT. The first best practice should be getting very good at communication to your leaders and out to the workforce. They likely need some coaching. It's a new environment for them, they need to understand when to call, who to call and why to call. Give some good guidelines on that extra layer of inbound traffic that you may be able to kind of manage and control tactical points. 

The other big piece that works well, we'd like to talk about prioritized firefighting. You got a new set of fires now and figuring out which fire to put out first is your first priority. And how you prioritize the new fires is super, super important. The teams that seem to have a really good handle on this, generally turn the conversation as quickly as possible down to data and quantifiable elements. Let's put some parameters around as much of our new experience as we possibly can. Try and prioritize based on observable metrics, wherever we can in the conversation. I mean, the issue is, if you don't do that, the flip side is you find yourself extra thrashed, based on any number of variables. The leader’s perspective on what's important is important, but they could use some coaching often too on, well “Hey, here is the list of break-fix I got to focus on and why based on data rather than based on who's on first.” 

Tim Poindexter: Okay. John, over to you.

John Ruthven: There are two or three things that come to mind. And I might just tee off what Bill said around firefighting. 

So, first and foremost, and this is not exactly a new thought in the whole kind of infrastructure, enterprise management, and UC management space, but we've got to get out of the game of firefighting. And if you wanted to use a metaphor that plays out there, it's having smoke detectors and fire suppression versus having to continually respond to fires. And so what that means in our world is about being both proactive and automating those processes so that you can resolve things either before they occur. We'll certainly get to them very, very early on. 

The second is what we experienced with a lot of our customers and prospects as we're working with them, is a lot of customers spend a lot of their energy trying to bend or tailor an enterprise management or a systems management type solution to a set of UC or contact center type use cases. We would certainly, and maybe we have a vested interest in having this point of view, but we would certainly say that they're sufficient purpose-built tools and techniques. And particularly when we're in this crisis time that we're in, I just don't think it's a time that the organization should be trying to experiment with this at scale. There are sufficient tools, techniques, etc in the market, to have genuine purpose-built tools and techniques to manage these critical and highly-specialized environments to give yourself a single view across this entire estate. And as Bill referenced earlier, what you're also seeing is that overnight, these collaboration environments are being tested and stretched and being used in a much, much more feature-rich way than we might have anticipated. 

And I guess the last thing is this goes to the whole data thing. There's just such an incredible amount of data available for teams to get real insights into their UC, and contact center infrastructure. Most of the big organizations that we work with are multi-vendor, which we all know adds a degree of complexity. And the important thing that I would say around the data is ensuring that you're not only managing the real-time data or using that to inform your decisions. But you also need to have an overtime perspective. And this comes back to the firefighting versus ensuring that your environment is continually evolving and, and getting better in terms of the experience that you deliver to your customers. 

So those are the three things that are probably top of mind for me right now.

Tim Poindexter: Okay, very good. Well, thank you for your comments on that. With that,  let's see if we have any questions from the audience. And we do have a few that have come in here. Here's a good question. It's about business continuity plans. 

Question #1:

Starting from an actual good and valid business continuity plan, how much extra effort do you think we need to be adding in terms of effort and cost to kind deal with maybe some of the unexpected challenges that we talked about earlier? Are people needing to flex a lot or maybe just a little bit?

Bill Haskins: My bet is a lot. That's the analyst quantified response. What do you think, John?

John Ruthven: Oh, I mean, even if I just shared our own experience, as good as you think your continuity plans are. I'll just give you an example that we're working with in real-time.

Yesterday our American offices, as you know Tim because you’re based there, is in the beautiful city of Denver, and following the governor's orders or whatever, we closed the office. So, you think about business continuity is more of a “How do you keep working?” Well, all of a sudden, we were scratching around going well, “Okay, where's the manual on how to close an office down?” That seems like it is very logical and why didn't that exist? And I just think that companies are finding that there are aspects of that continuity plan that weren’t as complete as you'd like. 

The second thing, and Bill has mentioned this at the start, is most business continuity plans were not built, but they've been built for impact, not for scale over time. And so the big challenge many organizations are facing now and the effort they're getting into is, if the new normal is essentially operating your business continuity plan, when does your business continuity plan actually become your new normal. For the big financial institutions that have gotten very mature and very sound business continuity plans, and they've got this IT team thing and they've got teams working out of their business continuity center, etc. There's a bunch of organizations who are struggling or grappling with that thing. When is your BCP no longer your BCP, and it's actually your new operating environment?

Bill Haskins: That's a really, really good point. And if you go back to the observable tea leaves on how the UC vendor community has reacted in that cycle I was laying out. The adjustment to business continuity plans is very, very large at first when you notice and see the broken throttle points. And so that feels like what your actual business continuity adjustment needs to be. But JR's point, you don't know what you don't know. And it takes time to measure and understand what actually needs to be adapted over the long term in your planning. 

And the next way you quickly observe the tools and the network and the resources that you need to adjust. You quickly need to understand how often does somebody need to go check the office and etc. But the longer-term planning is very personal to each enterprise and the vertical they're in and what business they're in. And that each needs to adjust slightly differently as you rippled this out into longer-term. We talked initially about some kind of need for a new set of KPIs. And there's a point where you start moving past “Where do I need to add network?” to “How do I measure productivity when no one's in the office?” Like, what is the data point that says whether or not... Is it the amount of time you were logged in? When we were talking about the kids’ new school environment, you got to be online certain hours a day, just expect similarly. I can't see you. So I need to see your present status over this window so that I know that you're being productive, etc. And that next wave of, of adjustment to John's point is past what we call continuity plans into how do we get work done in this new environment?

John Ruthven: Just before we move off this question, the other thing that we're experiencing quite legitimately is, you're also finding organizations who are trying to stitch together the mosaic of all of their supply chain of suppliers, etc. All of the parts of the workflow so they were interrogating if each of those organizations have a valid BCP. Because that as it stitches together forms my overall BCP. So you've seen an absolute spike in organizations because as we know, from an end-to-end workflow or supply chain, you only need one small part of that to fail and you’ve got a problem.

Tim Poindexter: Well, we have time for one last question from the audience. And this is an interesting one. It's about industries. We've touched on it a little bit earlier. Speaking of education, but there might be others. 

Question #2

The question is this. How are different industries being affected by this crisis? And what are some unique ways companies in these industries are leveraging unified communications to help them be successful? 

We've got two or three minutes left for questions. So love to hear from both of you.

John Ruthven: Bill, if you don’t mind, I'll tee off on that one. And I mean, this is probably close to my heart. The Australian government's response to this has been legitimately to scale down social interaction. So there are limits on the number of people that can meet in certain places and so you've immediately seen the event industry take a massive hit, the travel industry. But then as you move down from that, you've got this incredible base of small many cases, family base, organizations, cafes, restaurants, bars, these kinds of things, which are just so much part of our social fabric. Who now they've had to either close or cafes or restaurants or literally overnight had to flip their model from being we call it “On Premise” so you'd go there and dine or have a drink, or to order a coffee, to they can only sell on a takeaway or online. And so these businesses are a massively trying to scale over or pivot, if you will, overnight to provide for that. But the great fear that I have is the road back for many of them. I'm less fearful about big organizations. We’ve had a pretty live road test back in the global financial crisis and organization, big organizations by good management, etc, We're able to pull through that I'm more concerned around that incredibly vital part of our society.

Bill Haskins: Back to the human side, and that you got me in the feels. You're exactly right. The way I think about it is, and I suspect this question came from somebody trying to figure out where to invest to keep their 401k propped-up, I'm going to be careful. This is not financial advice. 

I think about it in terms of kind of analog versus digital product first and to John's point, if your product is based on analog interaction, you are obviously quite disrupted now. On the digital side, you're disrupted in a different way. Your workforce and volume and adjusting but it's a different problem set. Lack of business, too much business. That's that's the simplest as I think of it. On the analog side, is your product transferred analog like a restaurant? That's a hard thing to replace. But there's still adjustment you can make in terms of food delivery, and etc. But there's a number of those industries that, hospitality, that's not something that you can adjust and replace when people aren't coming to your hotel. 

But there are a number of analog, traditionally analog industries, that you do see able to adapt and the low hanging fruit is healthcare and telemedicine. So we're seeing already an increase in doctor visits conducted over video. Which, again, I think is a very healthy thing for the global population is “How do I get more access when I can't leave my house?” These are things that we want to figure out faster and you kind of shorten that cycle. And so kind of I that's how I think about. I rippled that digital versus analog through and think, who can adjust and transfer their relationship or their product into digital training and who can't. And there's more that can transfer some of their interaction product into that digital frame than you might think.

John Ruthven: What a great example of where we're seeing at scale is the event industry. I guess millions of other customers got a letter from Benioff the other day talking about that they’re changing something tour to a virtual tour, etc. I'm sure that when the crisis has passed people, we're social beings, will still want to meet and interact. But you could see that that business is going to change at scale. And organizations are going to learn that they were able to successfully engage and so forth in a robotic sense versus having to be face-to-face.

Bill Haskins: Yeah, the good news is we work in an industry that supports exactly what we're talking about. The foundation is there and has been there. And we're now short hopping some of the workflow and practices into a faster time frame. 

Tim Poindexter: That about wraps up our time for the day. I just wanted to thank both of you for your time for your insight and for your commentary this morning. So thanks. Joining us. 

John Ruthven: Of course.

Bill Haskins: Anytime, appreciate the event.

Tim Poindexter: And for our viewers, we want to thank you as well. Whether you're joining live or on-demand, I wanted to remind you to rate the webinar and provide feedback. We also have a number of resources available that I want to point you to. 

Know more about IR

We've added some resources to the “Attachments” tab down below the video screen. Some links that you can click through, a PDF of the slides. And we're also available to meet if you'd like to schedule a tailored solution discovery meeting with IR to learn how we can help you monitor the performance of your unified communications and collaborations and contact center environments and do some customer experience testing and monitoring, as well. 

We will be back with additional insight and commentary on this topic soon. So I recommend you subscribe to our channel so you don't miss any upcoming webinars. 

With that, I want to say thank you one last time. And we hope you stay safe and healthy. And we'll connect with you again soon. Thank you very much. 

Bill Haskins: Thanks, everyone.

John Ruthven: Thank you.

 

Topics: Webinar Multi-Technology Communications Alert automation Customer experience Performance management Proactive troubleshooting High availability Migration, deployment and adoption Real-time monitoring

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