Webinars • May 20, 2020 • 60 MIN PLAY • ON-DEMAND

10 Questions IT Leaders Ask to Keep the Modern Workforce Connected

Bill Haskins
Bill Haskins

Sr. Analyst and Partner, Unified Communications @ Wainhouse Research

Headshot Harrison Bliss
Harrison Bliss

SVP Professional Services @ IR



COVID-19 has pushed the world to reevaluate the way we live – interactions with others, human connection, family priorities, consumer purchasing and even business operations. In this time of uncertainty, we are learning to adapt and be agile to keep our business connected and maintain customer service.

Businesses are experiencing travel restrictions, supply chain shortages, and many are contending with the requirement to have a completely remote workforce. As a result, new technology and processes are quickly being implemented to support this rapid digital transformation.

In order to succeed in this new norm, its vital your UC and collaboration tools are working properly. If teams cannot communicate and customers cannot be served digitally, businesses will fail. Now more than ever, IT leaders are challenged to have the right mix of tools to ensure business continuity, and many are finding that UC Performance Management solutions play a critical role in their company’s success. When your UC solutions don’t work properly, agile solutions that give you deep insights, and quick troubleshooting capabilities will ensure you find and fix the problem before it impacts your employees or customers.

During this session, you can expect to learn:

  • Understand the impact of COVID-19, and new ways to approach IT strategies
  • Strategies that IR customers are evaluating
  • The important role customer satisfaction plays in your organization’s success
IR | BrightTALK

Host: Jacuelyn Painter

Speakers: Bill Haskins, Sr. Analyst & Partner, UC @ Wainhouse Research| Harrison Bliss, SVP Professional Services, IR

10 Questions IT Leaders Ask to Keep the Modern Workforce Connected

Jacuelyn Painter

Hi everyone, we're going to wait just a minute or so -- just to give people time to get logged in, and then we'll be starting shortly.

Okay, great. Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining today's discussion. We're really excited to have you. Today we're going to be talking about how IT leaders can help make sure that they are really helping transform the modern workforce, make sure that everyone's connected, and everything runs smoothly and is successful. And we're going to really highlight the top questions that IoT leaders are asking and/or need to ask. 

We have a great discussion panel today: Bill Haskins from Wainhouse research, as well as Harrison Bliss here at IR who leads our Professional Services team.

Speakers & Logistics

Jacuelyn Painter  

Before we start the presentation, just a couple of housekeeping items.

  • These slides, as well as, additional resources are available on that Attachments tab. So feel free to download those after the webinar, during the webinar. 
  • If you have any questions, please send them through and we'll make sure to go through them and address them at the end. 
  • This webinar will be available on-demand, so please share with your friends and colleagues.
  • And we'd really, really appreciate it at the end of the webinar, if you can rate the webinar and share your feedback, because this is what's going to really help us improve and make sure that the content that we're delivering is helpful and effective for everyone. 

So with that, I'm hoping that Harrison and Bill can introduce themselves really quickly and just give us a little background on your experience. Harrison, we'll start with you.

Harrison Bliss

Yeah, sounds good. Thanks, Jacques. So I've been with IR a little over six months, having a fantastic time meeting our customers and understanding how they're using our products. Prior to this, I spent about 25 years in telecom both on the carrier side as well as the software solutions vendor side. I also have experience in the energy industry and financial services.

Bill Haskins

Thanks. I am Bill Haskins, UC Analyst at Wainhouse Research, who cannot figure out how to unmute his headset. Hopefully, I just did. Yeah, that shouldn't scare you as we get into this. Yep, UC Analyst, so I am the data nerd on the call. My background—similar to Harrison’s—I spent time in the telecommunications industry at a global carrier. Multiple hats from running the UC product. They're selling to customers, supporting it from the operation side. And also as an IT decision-maker managing the internal network email and communications infrastructure. That's the package.

Jacuelyn Painter

Awesome. Thanks, Bill.

The COVID-19 Pandemic New Enterprose Realities

Jacuelyn Painter

Alright, so just to quickly set the stage for this discussion and conversation that we're going to be having, it's really covering how this pandemic has really changed our perspective and a lot of the things that we're experiencing on a day to day basis. 

I mean, on a personal level—for me, I've always worked from home and it's normal for me. But I've never had to work from home with my husband working and our two small children. So that's been quite the challenge. 

From an organizational perspective, companies are trying to figure out what their strategy is going to be moving forward, after this pandemic. With more here on the IR side we're evaluating this 100% remote working environment. We're seeing productivity is up, that work life balance is up. So it's something that we're looking to make sure that we can support in the future, when things kind of get back to normal. 

We're also seeing how people and organizations are interacting. Internally, everything's virtual—obviously, digital. And then with our customers, too: how do they prefer to interact and what kind of services can be offering?

So that's really what's going to lead this discussion as we talk through some of these issues, and how IT leaders can really ask the right questions to make sure they have a strong strategy for this true digital transformation now, but also in the future. 

Has your service delivery changed for your customers

Jacuelyn Painter

So with that, maybe Harrison, we'll start with you. The first question for IT leaders is: has your service delivery changed for your customers? So, Harrison, love to get your feedback in terms of what you're seeing at IR and also what you're seeing from an IT perspective with the customers that we talked to.

Harrison Bliss

Sure, no, sounds good. And, Bill, chime in. I don't think this is going to be a one-hand-over-the-other kind of discussion here. But there are four factors that we see in terms of service delivery, as we work with our customers. We see a change from in-person to remote. So, for example, a lot of our customers were primarily handled remotely. We'd save costs that way. But we had some customers that had special security demands and we're now having to figure out how to deal with those remotely. And we say: how can we make our in-person service remote? 

Same thing—like dermatology appointments, we do those via telemedicine now. The people who service my car will now come and pick it up. I don't think that one's going away, because I really love that one. So things like that, how can we change the underlying model that we look at in-person versus remote? We think about it from what works for our customers? So our customers are going through some of the same challenges that we do. They've got people that work strange hours, they've got people that don't have the same connectivity we have. They've got people that maybe don't even have the same tools that they have. And so how can we change things to work with that? 

So for example, unreliable internet connections. Instead of relying on an always-on connection as we do things around configuration or implementation, maybe we’re relying more on scripting that we can disconnect and do things that way. So how can we change to accommodate what our customers are doing now, but also our internal people? One of the common themes that we'll talk about is: what works for our people? What flexibility do they need? 

So for example, I'm on a call and suddenly my three year old comes in and needs some chocolate milk. What does that mean for our own team? Or how can our own team be more productive? How can we give them flexible working hours, for example, to care for children as they have a spouse at home and trade off on that? And then, what are the organizational capabilities that we have? Do we have enough VPN connections to let everybody connect at the same time? Can folks in the US maybe use our European VPN, for example, to increase our VPN capacity? And how can we help them maintain connectivity within our organizations to make sure that we can continue to deliver for our customers. So those are some of the things we see both within IR and within our customers.

Bill Haskins

Thanks. I think you provide—the IR experience here provides a nice benchmark for what we're seeing, interacting with a broad number of enterprises on this exact topic. And your comments on, obviously, more reliance on virtual services is the theme. The entire workforce has been disrupted, average enterprise that ripples out through the supply chain. And basic concept: analog, in-person interactions have to be replaced for Business continuity. You have to replace it with some other virtual interaction. 

If there's a silver lining here, in the pandemic topic, it's that it's a universal impact, right? So it's one thing if you're a single enterprise who's disrupted and trying to work with your partners. Everyone's disrupted at a similar scale, depending on the type of product that they deliver. So there's a lot of solidarity, a lot of understanding and that's the perfect time. We're seeing it as the perfect time for every enterprise to reinvent the analog side of their business, their traditional interactions. 

And that equates to more reliance on virtual communications. Also, as we're talking about more virtual communications, I think in general, just the number of interactions has increased. It seems the common theme with the enterprises we talked to, that for you to maintain a digital continuity here, you got to talk more, you got to interact more. And while every team is busier with new tasks and new learnings and new new shifts, they're also making time, it appears, for more hands-on, direct interaction through that supply chain, whether it's a customer you're touching, or somebody who's delivering your service or your product or selling etc. So it's actually pretty cool to watch. Solidarity. Yeah.

Are you evolving and adding new experiences and service for them

Jacuelyn Painter

And that kind of leads into the next question. So we're seeing as this dynamic is changing, everything's becoming more digital and virtual, IT leaders need to ask: are you adding new experiences and services for them? 

One experience from my perspective is telemedicine. With two kids getting sick or having payments, it's been a new service that I've been craving for that's finally happened. And I don't think it's going away now. So, Bill, what are your thoughts on that?

Bill Haskins

Telemedicine? How about education? I didn't know I was a teacher. I had no idea my wife was such a good teacher. Wow, big props to the teaching community. We've all learned how hard that task can be. 

I'm absolutely with you. The evolution side of this, I think, initially and even ongoing, most technical teams, most IT teams responsible for the communications infrastructure, felt a lot of pressure to immediately change parts of their infrastructure depending on what they had in place. But that kind of panic wave seems to have subsided from my perspective, and there's a more strategic focus. I think, if anything, when we talk about evolving and adding new experiences, there's a bigger focus on automation: what parts of our customer interaction are automatable? Where can we replace what might be a resource-heavy, personal human interaction with information online or with chat back into the service center, ideally bot automation? What are the layers of the experience that we could potentially automate and allow our customers to have more fluid and kind of real-time access to solutions that might be delayed when you are trying to interact with a traditionally, human-based or real-time-based interaction? 

Which really turns in a lot of our conversations, that laser focus on that contact-centered plan, and how do we evolve that towards a more of an omni-channel or integratable kind of platform? And I'll be frank, not every enterprise has an immediate solution there. So for those who have been looking at a roadmap approach, you probably got to compress some places. Others have features that simply weren't quite enabled yet that we see them more aggressively enabling, I think, on that topic. Harrison, you’ve seen similar inside the IR world?

Harrison Bliss

Yeah, we are. And one thing that ties all of what you're talking about together, for me, is: what can we do today that we never could have gotten approved today? It's, as they say, in politics, “Never gonna let a good crisis go to waste”. I think it's the same thing in terms of how we service our customers and what our experiences for them are. 

Everything from picking up a car example that I gave before, which never would have happened before. So what we're seeing is, sort of, three different factors from our side. 

  1. Time to Value

The first is Time to Value. Where traditionally, maybe an organization was conservative, and they wanted to have a plan outlined from soup to nuts and approved at 16 different levels and part of the next fiscal plan. But that's not where we're at in today's environment. 

So how can we get time to value for customers, both for our customers, for our customers’ customers, and we see us looking at how we can build value incrementally. What can we get out there today, tomorrow, this week, that gives us maybe only 10% of where we want to be in a month, but gets us farther. And gets us taking a look at data, and giving us some sort of information to base businesses decisions on, then incrementally, adding more data, monitoring more things, putting more alerts, putting in more automation, those sorts of things. And what can we do with that information? As we deal with smaller workforces, can we implement more automation? Can we implement more alarming? Those sorts of things that help us get that value out of it? 

  1. Flexibility

The second thing, for me, that we see is flexibility. What can we offer our customers that maybe we couldn't offer before? As we have people that are looking to work after-hours, because their spouse is home to help take care of their kid, can we offer our customers hours of service that we couldn't offer them before? Where it used to be maybe 8 to 5, Monday through Friday was normal support hours, maybe now we include Saturday and Sunday because that works for some of our workforce. Maybe we offer less stringent payment terms. Maybe we offer to get started at-risk as paperwork works its way through the finance process, also on our customer side. And I think the great example there is the wireless carriers. They're sitting here saying, “Hey, no overage charges on data anymore.” What sort of flexibility can we offer? 

  1. Innovation

And then, innovation. Our customers all faced different challenges no matter what business we're in, and how can we innovate to help them do that? What can we offer that we normally would charge for that, now, we can just do. And I take a look here at IR, our customer success teams and our SE teams that have that deep industry experience and know what our customers are going through and put together some dashboards and just offer those to our customers for free. And saying, “Hey, this gets you started right back to that Time to Value and and you can put these in. And then if you want us to tweak them, we're happy to engage with you to tweak them.” But how can we add that value and innovate in some different ways?

Bill Haskins

I love that direction. Let me play a little more jazz on that exact topic, at a market level. I think your points on how IR is looking at your current product portfolio in where it can and should be fine-tuned—at even a feature and an experience level. Based on learnings over the last two months, I think that applies at a broader scale. And as the analysts watching the UC space specifically, we are seeing a number of evolutions around what our tools need to do to address not just digital interaction and virtual interaction, but virtual interaction at scale. And it's not just a resource conversation. 

Your point on data is super, super important here. When you have this type of event, it fundamentally changes not just the tools you use, but your view on security in this new environment and as a backdrop, the required data, a different set of data and a different workflow around insight and analytics, around your new footprint. And I think that development inside the IR side, there's a lot of insight in that. And being able to translate for an IT team or technical team not just how many interactions I have, but where are those interactions happening? Who has a poor quality of experience? Do the patterns look like they should? These are much more relevant questions in this environment than they might be when you're primarily inside a fully-controlled land or environment that you got full management over.

Harrison Bliss

Well, and I think that metrics and the data that you talk about is key to making our leadership feel comfortable with what we're doing. They're letting us do a lot of things again, that they never would have let us do six months ago. But it's also up to us to have the data to prove that we're doing that responsibly. So we can talk about how these tools get used. We can talk about making sure that the quality of service is good for our end customers. We can talk about some of the survey data that maybe we get from our customers and help our executives feel more confident in the decisions that we're making. 

Bill Haskins

That's huge.

How are you engaging with customers to ensure a good customer experience

Jacuelyn Painter

Yeah, and I think this naturally ties into the next question. So evaluating that data, and being able to engage with customers is kind of key. So we want to ensure that—IT wants to ensure that their customers are having a good experience. And one of those scenarios is having multiple platforms to really juggle and understand how you use them in terms of when you're when you're virtually interacting with somebody. So when do you use maybe a Teams solution versus a WebEx solution? One might be more internally-focused, one is more customer-centric. And so I think those are kind of questions that IT leaders are having to think about. And so that really talks about how IT needs to ask: how are you engaging with customers to ensure a good customer experience? Harrison, any thoughts on this one?

Harrison Bliss

Yeah. So I think one of the things, Jacques, you mentioned in the intro to this question is the multiple platforms. A single platform, whether it be Teams or Skype or Zoom or whatever, isn't likely to meet all of our customers needs. Some of our customers may not allow their employees to use certain tools. We may have a need to use multiple tools. 

Our people may be on whatever our customers are using, if we're on a customer call that they're hosting. And being able to support those and understand how those are working in our environment is going to be important to making sure we've got internal productivity, we've got customer satisfaction. 

But it's also about some of the technology that we have at home and how some of those tools interact. So for example, do we have a tool that lets us share just an application? Or do we have to share our entire screen? And what applications do I use that maybe I don't want to share? So do I need a multi monitor setup working at home so that I can share one screen where I'm sure there are stuff I do want to share, and another screen that has maybe sensitive data that I'm referencing, but that are not ready to share. 

And how do we make those platforms work together? How do we make sure that we can monitor all these platforms that we're potentially using? We probably can't monitor our customers’ platforms. But maybe there's some quality of service within our network that we can take a look at that data, but certainly the tools that we're putting out there. 

And then, I think it’s also about customer choice. Some customers may want different things. And giving customers choice, I think, is a good example, not just from a technology perspective, but take a look for an example you call a call center. And one call center says it's going to be a two-hour wait and you're sort of grumbling, but you have to talk to them, you have no choice. And another call center calls, they say: “Hey, it's going to be a two-hour wait, but would you like us to call you back when your number comes up?” 

That's a fundamentally different experience from a customer standpoint that IT leaders can help enable radically different customer experience behind the scenes just by giving customers a choice. And it doesn't even have to be a good choice. I really want my question done now. I really want that telemedicine call right now, because my kids got 102-degree fever. But if you told me you’ll call me back in two hours, at least I can take care of my kid for two hours, without dragging my phone around, as I chase my three-year old down the hall.

And then I think it's about customer feedback. What data should we be gathering from our customers? We may think we're doing a great job, and our customers may tell us something different. So how do we do that? And some of that data we'll get internally. We monitor our platforms, we know what cloud quality looks like. We know somebody clicked a one-star rating on our response after an interaction with us. But what do we do with that data? Do we always see one or two of our reps, someone call Quality Data? This is maybe their home network isn't up for what we're asking them to do. Are there things we can do about that? And I think a lot of us do customer surveys, at points. It's even more important to be reaching out to the customers for a survey prospect, but also our customer success team here at IR are reaching out to customers on a regular basis. They are ramping that up and saying, on a weekly basis, I'm going to be talking with key customers and asking them, “What are your challenges? How can I help you solve your challenges? How are we doing? What could we be doing differently to help you out with this new normal that maybe we aren't even thinking about? Bill, what are your thoughts?

Bill Haskins

I love it and I think you nailed it. And although, I have to admit, as the UC analyst, the concept of platform flexibility just rubs me the wrong way. It's the exact opposite message that some of us have been talking to IT admins about which is: “Dude, you gotta consolidate. Get yourself on a standard. Why do you got six different meetings services you're supporting and paying for you? Unify. Unify.”

But you raised the exact right point. And the bottom line is that the internal, universal standard platforms that IT has deployed—that we've been recommending they move to—don't always fit every customer interaction and it is the truth. So I love your point on having empathy for the external customer that you're interacting with, and making sure your tools are fine-tuned and appropriate for that specific customer, that interaction. 

And it's not rocket science, you can do that with a limited universe of solutions that can be applied. I think the other side of that is not just toolset. But there is a cultural piece to this also. And as a virtual team at Wainhouse, we are highly reliant on the video workload for all of our virtual interactions. I don't know how I would get my done without being able to see and interact with a virtual team, internal and external. But that is absolutely not a universal culture and an understanding that we're seeing this, we knew the etiquette kind of was there but watching it evolve actually in practice, in scenarios where you're interacting outside your enterprise, is absolutely key. Have empathy not just for the tool, but also for the workload and the type of communication.

How are your employees affected

Jacuelyn Painter

Yeah, and what you're saying really hits home. So, for me, when we start to talk about: how is this pandemic affecting employees? Having that video capability, to be able to connect with people is really important. I've worked remotely for eight years now. At my previous job, we never used video, so it was very isolating. And now, working at IR, they've really provided the tools for all of us to talk every day, to be engaged, and just to keep that productivity level up. So I think that's really crucial. And so the next question is: IT leaders, how are your employees being affected? And I’d love Bill, for you to continue that conversation that you've outlined already.

Bill Haskins

Cool. You got it. And then we get to talk about data. Finally, data, Why don’t you share out a couple of slides on your desktop while I warm up the data engine here. So let's just talk about some numbers first at a broad market level around telecommuting, in general. And you've heard probably a range of different stats here, but I think NetScope provides some of the best stats on this topic. 

User dispersion

Bill Haskins

We're going to look at some charts that—there we go. We're going to look at—backup a couple to that very first one. Yeah, there you go. There you go. Perfect. 

Here's what the charts are telling us: A NetScope hats off to these guys. They're providing a view of network traffic between network IP traffic that originates from an enterprise network versus a consumer, or what you would expect the telecommuter network—all business oriented. And you can see over time, we're generally—we float around 26%, 26.7% of enterprise IP traffic originating from that kind of home network from it from a telecommuter frame. And as you'd expect, love the little data points down at the bottom there, you can see when COVID was first reported back in January 2, all the way through it being acknowledged. You see Microsoft, Amazon, big enterprises around early March formally moving towards work from home. And then you see this massive spike up above 40% of telecommuting, right as the world basically digitized their workforce. 

User dispersion (2)

Bill Haskins

Next slide shows the next wave of this. So now we're at the end of March. And you can see that telecommuter percent grow up from 40%, all the way up to above 60, close to 65%, of enterprise interactions. Obviously, you got critical workforce who still needs to go into an office, those who aren't necessarily relying on enterprise IP. But around 65%. 

User Dispersion before and after COVID-19 pandemic declaration

Bill Haskins

Next slide shows the table. And here's what's interesting to the analyst. Aside from charts and graphs, you see the table of traffic around a little above 60%, 65-ish%. let's call it, and that's been pretty consistent through April, through March. And I think represents a good view of what that digital workforce looks like, when you're in this kind of pen pandemic scenario. What's important to the analyst in that though; there was a ramp, there was a transition from pandemic declared to the table value at 6%. We went from 30%-40%, couple weeks about three or four weeks really to hit that peak stable 65% number. That window, specifically for us, is a learning curve window. 

There's a couple things that happened there, that we think: A) Entire workforces digitized in end of March timeframe. But it took three weeks for the adoption and adaptation of services that allow you to be productive from home to really generate that 65% traffic. 

What that means is that: A) IT has to make sure that services were available to end users that allowed them to be productive from home. But as or more importantly, those users had to adapt themselves. They have to learn new solutions. They have to put hardware, potentially, in place, maybe a new headset, maybe a new video unit, etc, to be able to actually use the services appropriately. And there is still a window in there that is just a general learning curve from the user side to be able to be as productive from their new home environment, as they were from the office. And that's not necessarily a natural or technology-based problem. The users just have to get some practice, have to adapt. 

And then that, as I would expect, is the use you had to see during that adaptation side of the curve, that there was a massive loss of productivity as users were adjusting and altering their own environment and their own workflow. And do we expect that that productivity is the same in the current digital workforce? Maybe yes, maybe no. It depends on the enterprise. But I think in general, you got a lot more overhead for these board users, as they're still in some form of adaptation. What do you think, Harrison?

Harrison Bliss

I think that's the case. Actually, what I mainly think is that I got data envy right now, but that’s okay. Because this section is all about people. It's about employee success. And that data tells us that our people are going to be under stress and going to have some challenges—and what do we do about that? 

So we talked about remote enablement. And IR was fortunate that we had a remote work policy in place, and a bunch of guidelines and the infrastructure in place, and even people working in the office were doing video calls. But then, all of a sudden, we have—instead of maybe 5-10% of the workforce working from home on any given day—is your chart showing we might have 80% or 90% or 100% working at home on any given day. 

And even a company like ours that had remote work as part of our culture, at least in some groups, says, “Oh, yeah, multi-monitor setups at home are important.” Or “Hey, that cheapo office chair I bought was great for an 1 ½  or 2 hours emailing at night, but sitting in front of it for nine hours a day—that's killing my back. 

So we sent people home with their chairs and multiple monitor setups and “Don't forget your headset and your video camera, while you're at it”. And as the pandemic was ramping up, we took some strategies to say: “Make sure you're ready to go”. And we did some testing to say, “Okay, all the VPNs can handle load.”

And I think one of the things that means for us is if we go back we need to do that same sort of thinking about going back. And then also got people the work-life balance piece was important from a cultural standpoint. Do you, as a company, value having work-life balance and not having people do that—recognizing that people are under stress and things are going to happen in a working from home environment that will become part of our culture later. “You remember that story about Bob when his son came in and stuck that big peanut butter hand on his chest in the middle of a customer call?”

Those become part of our company culture that can be fantastic. Like the meme of the guy that was interviewing and the other kid comes in and is now circling the internet for 6 millionth time. 

Education I look at—what can we do to help our people maintain that positive energy, to understand what work-life balance is all about? And we have common expectations. And that's both with our co-workers that “Hey, I block out family time from 6:00 to 9:30, but I'm happy to get back on a call, 11 o'clock at night, but don't bother me during family time.” 

And with our families—I started working from home 20+ years ago, and my wife and I almost killed each other in the first month. Because her thought was: “Hey, working from home means you did the vacuuming, the dishwasher has been cleaned out, and the laundry got done.” And I'm gone: “I barely had time to get lunch. Here's my calendar”. 

And coming to those common ways of working across things, and then remembering that employees are people. And that in this environment, we have people challenges that can either bring us closer and form the foundation of our culture going forward, or they can rip us apart. And it's up to us as leaders to make sure that we're moving in the right direction.

Do they have the resources they need to collaborate and communicate with colleagues and pears

Jacuelyn Painter

Yeah, I completely agree. I think this pandemic, the silver lining has been—just from a team perspective—a lot of us have said, we feel closer now than we did before seeing each other in person. Because we're sharing a part of our lives that we normally wouldn't be able to. Having my kids run in and want to say hi, and just that interaction of checking in on each other every day, having weekly or daily chat times—those are also crucial. 

And you've kind of already touched on this at the beginning, of talking about making sure that employees have the resources that they need to be successful. So I think that's another crucial element that IT really needs to make sure they have a plan in place for us. We’ll move into that question. 

And Harrison, if you can continue to kind of expand on what you've already touched on: do they have the resources they need to collaborate and communicate with colleagues and peers? And what are your thoughts around that?

Harrison Bliss

Yeah, so some of these things we've already talked about—around platforms and policies. Do we have the right tools to do our job? Do we have the right collaboration tools that allow us to share the right things in the right way? Do we have VPN connectivity so that we make sure that as we connect to our customer networks, that we're keeping those environments safe? 

We have formal policies around workplace safety, so we have a lot of people working from home. Are they in a safe environment? Or are there things we could do to make the environment better for them? And some of those things are—that we've done, for example, is if you want to work from home within IR, you go through—and there's this whole checklist that you provide back. In this environment, it's not a pass or a fail. It's a: “Hey, we noticed in your environment that you didn't have this; is there anything we could do to help you be more productive from that environment? And our HR team has really been a great partner, as we work through this to say: “How can we help our employees be more productive at home, be safer at home, have the right sort of environment?” 

We've talked a lot about the equipment, the multiple monitors, the noise-cancelling headsets, those sorts of things. But I think that we need to think about that from a new normal standpoint, as well. We probably aren't likely to go back to the office in the same numbers that we did before. 

And what does that mean? Does that mean our primary working environment is now from home? And when we go into the office, instead of everybody having a bespoke cube with my office plant that I remember to water every day, I have a hotelling cube. And what does that look like from an equipment, environment standpoint going forward? 

And the collaboration environments. We had a whole bunch of tools before that let us share things, whether it be SharePoint, OneDrive, whatever it might be. But how do we encourage collaboration in a virtual world? Before it would be: somebody from support has a question about what we did in services, and they can just walk over their desk and tap him on the shoulder and go, “I don't understand what you did here. Can you explain it to me?” 

But as we work in a virtual environment, sometimes we're afraid to bother people. We can look over my shoulder and say: “Oh, Fred is free now.” I can't look over my shoulder and see if Fred is free. So how do we create those new cultural norms to say, “Hey, Fred, can I IM you now? Are you presenting? Are you busy? Are you heads down?” 

Getting people used to hitting Do Not Disturb or Busy and what do those mean, culturally, within your organization, and helping set those up so that we maintain that collaboration environment that we love when we were working from the office. 

A part of that’s technology. Part of it is making sure you have the right tools in place. Part of it’s training and culture. And some of it’s monitoring to make sure that people are actually using the tools in the way that we intended them to be used. Or are they using them in ways we didn't intend, but why are they doing that? And what value are they getting out of that? And how can we use some of that data that we're gathering? From a data standpoint, what do you see in terms of how employees are connecting and what resources they need and what resources they're using?

Bill Haskins

I lost my punchline, I got muted—back to the data. Yes. So the tool conversation is very bespoke to each enterprise. Each enterprise had a different mix going into this thing. But there are obviously market averages. So let's talk about those. 

The best you see the volume impact of this virtual workforce is having on online meeting solutions, we talked about that at length. But let's talk about the numbers behind that. First off, your users, most users, have a work phone number and do make calls to the PSTN. However, only we—you'll get arranged for everyone—but there's somewhere between 10% and 15% of the global workforce that gets their calling from a cloud-based solution. That which implies 80% to 85% to 90% of those calling solutions are still behind a corporate firewall in a data center somewhere. Managing, calling, distributing to a virtual workforce within that environment. It's a lot harder for some IT teams when they got to get back into the data center for things like call control. 

Next question there is: Do you have a soft client that allows you to bring your telephony with you? The attach rates of enterprise calling to a UC or cellphone app is much lower than a lot of people think—around 20% right now. Which means, most enterprise workers—to make a call—have to be at their phone where that call terminates, and you're not there anymore. 

Which is why we saw this massive jump in meeting volumes. That's the next platform. Reality, guys, is that half of enterprise voice—that half of the minutes of enterprise interaction on voice today end up, on average, on a meeting platform anyway. So this is not a net new kind of experience in terms of relying on those online services. 

What is likely net new—let's go into one more data point—the way the enterprise provides paid meeting services is much more strategic than a lot of people think. That's a cost center. So about 20% of average enterprise, plus or minus, gets a paid host license on a meeting service. Which means you got 80% of your workers right now who can't necessarily schedule meetings, enjoying all the time. But in this new environment, that 20% likely needs to be much higher—50%, 60%, 70%—for the average employee to be able to host and schedule and call; interactions when they need to. 

And the last point here I'll make is that paid meeting deployment. Most enterprises also are licensed for a meeting capable platform within their productivity suite. Both Microsoft, Google wherever you get your email from, has done a good job at adding, Teams-related meeting capable services to your solution, that many enterprises still aren't using. So if you roll that all together, you did see a massive jump in the meeting volume inside both Microsoft and Google frames. And I think that's—unravel that entire conversation—that's exactly why is that: “Look, man, everybody doesn't have host accounts. But I've already got something in place to fall back to easy.”

And are they working

Jacuelyn Painter

Yeah. And this dives right into the next question and it's: “Are those policies and platforms and technologies that organizations are utilizing for this new kind of remote workforce environment, are they working? Bill, thoughts on this?

Bill Haskins

I appreciate it. I'm super bullish on the technology side. Again, you saw what happened immediately. Every cloud provider had to adapt as quickly as possible to this new volume and there was a pretty rough period during that initial ramp, where you just don't add that kind of access overnight. You got to work with your vendors to expand your access footprint. But they did. And the volumes have stabilized. Everybody in the cloud side gets an A to an A+ (in that range) for that short=term adjustment. 

And I think at a service layer, things are—there's still some adjustment, but it's looking really good from an uptime continuity standpoint. The bigger question in my mind on this is something that Harrison touched on before, and that's how the users adapted in this new environment, not from a tech standpoint, but from a cultural standpoint. And that's a much harder curve to make. And it's an unknown. I wish I had a data point on that. 

But I would expect that you have a lot more practice than the average user, average displaced user needs to have to get good, and knowing when to send an IM, knowing how to use presence right, and working that into your workflow. Knowing when to send an interrupt IM; maybe reducing the amount of superfluous emails. We send an awful lot of unneeded emails. If you really analyze everything you send, sending a reply: “Thank you.” Yeah, it feels nice it shows you're listening. But you know what? That's an extra email I gotta read through and delete that didn't really let me take action, that didn’t give me something actionable. And I think that's a much harder, longer road. You can short-hop some of that with really strong enterprise direction. Would love to see more leadership teams taking an active role there saying: “Look, this is our cultural rulebook.” There is guidance on how, when, and why to use each of the communication tools, but that is a nascent practice. Very few have matured to the point where they provide that coaching, because it's still unnoticed. What do you think, Harrison?

Harrison Bliss

I think, now, you're my long lost brother. Because we all talk metrics. And some of the data is really interesting. And how can we use that to figure out: Are things working? Is what we're doing working? 

So the first thing is: What does working mean? What are your metrics for your organization? Does all this stuff working from places mean that they're productive? Does it mean that they're engaged? Does that mean that they're satisfied? Think about what that means for your organization. And does that metric need to change? So from a productivity standpoint, depending on what we do, it could be calls per hour, it could be revenue generated, it could be your sales, whatever it might be. It could be widget shift.

Bill Haskins

Project completion timeframes, mean time to resolution. There's a data point for all of us.

Harrison Bliss

So there's all that at the company level, but there's also data that we can help our employees learn to use. So for example, our mail platform sends me data on—if I pull up an email, how many people opened it? Or how long it took them to open it? And I could use that data, say, if only 30% of the folks I sent this email to even opened it, what was wrong with my messenger? Who did I copy that I didn't even need to copy to reduce that email storm that you talked about? What can I do as an individual person? Or as an IT team, what can I do from a training standpoint to train people to use the tools that we have more effectively? 

And again, that gets back to the data. If you don't have the data on who opened your email? Or how many people are even using that feature that exists in your platform? Or how many emails you're sending or receiving per day? I'd love to have data that said: “Hey, how many emails did the average person with an IR receive today? And getting that data would be would be fundamental to changing things. 

But also long term visibility. As we take a look at what we talk about is the “new normal”. How do we manage this for the long-term? How do we help our teams learn this and give them the data to maximize what they're doing going forward?

Bill Haskins

Dude, I love that point. I just gotta say that a lot of what you're talking about, in terms of quantifying your effectiveness as a communicator, and your messaging, and your approach—these are things that the contact center, the B2B side has been doing for years and has a lot of experience. I love the idea of applying that to your internal communication. There are many of the same metrics that make sense. And you're tracking it now probably on party business. How do you expand that to your users? It's a great idea.

How is your IT department handling the rapid infrastructure transition

Jacuelyn Painter

Great. So we've talked about questions IT should be asking about customers, about employees, and their internal users, and now we’re going to shift to the IT department. Obviously, with this rapid move to remote workforce, IT is probably struggling, as well. It's a big transition and making sure to support, this is a huge undertaking. So the first question for the IT department is: “How is your IT department handling the rapid infrastructure transition?” Bill, do you have comments on this?

Bill Haskins

Yeah, absolutely. Access, augment, and adjust—triple A. It's a simple algorithm. I say that it's so nice, as the analyst, to just wet blanket the entire market. 

It's different for every enterprise. Let's be honest. As an analyst, I do have a quota where I need to say cloud at least seven times per hour, and we do it all the time, but the reality is that every enterprise has a different approach—awful lot of on-prem services there. And we see a number of especially larger enterprises successfully managing what's, effectively, their own private cloud—just happens to be on their premises, in their data center. 

But the approach is the same. A short-term: Does everybody have access to the solutions they need? Better augment the solution set, and adjust my access to make sure it's the right size for the current environment. And for some that meant literally physically changing their current data center environment. For others, it meant a shortened transition plan to some cloud services that they might have expected to move to later on in a cycle, but that, now, they said: “Look, it can't handle what we need to throw at it.” And so they have a Plan B cloud provider to deliver that service, is still a little stuck on the calling side—it's a little harder to port your phone numbers and keep everything rolling in the immediate term. But meetings are things that people can quickly adapt and deploy.

Harrison Bliss

So I think you covered most of this one. I think what we see is three large classifications of folks that are reaching out to us, that we're talking to. 

One group didn't have anything and they're in crisis mode, and they're figuring out that off-the-shelf isn't quite as off-the-shelf as they thought, and now looking for us to help them give them tools to manage and monitor the environment. 

There's some that had some early enablement, that they're looking at scaling that now. And they're finding some scaling challenges and, again, looking for help there. 

And then there are the ones that had been doing remote-type things for a long time, but now they're trying to roll that out maybe to new types of folks that they hadn't thought about before and seeing some challenges there.

Do they have the tools to succeed

Jacuelyn Painter

Alright. And what about: do they have the tools they need to succeed?

Harrison Bliss

Sure. So I think that there's different pieces here, right. One is trusted partners. The cloud stuff, I'll help Bill get “cloud” in one more time this hour. But it's not the panacea. It's having a trusted partner to help you walk through the space and think about things and help make decisions. Whether that be a vendor that helps you do more than just sell you software, helps you get it implemented, helps you get value out of it. Some sort of third party that can help you get that value out. 

It's about avoiding that whole squeaky squeal syndrome. “Marketing has to have this to get this done.” But don't forget about things like security. Don't forget about things like optimizing the experience. Don't forget about creativity and how you can get creative around technology. And again, it's being about forward looking. It's not about just today and what we do today. It's: How do we optimize our business? So when our kids go back to school in the fall, how'd you like to be an IT administrator in a school district, trying to figure out how we're going to do remote/remote-and-in-person learning come the fall in thinking about how we're going to move from our current crisis to the new normal.

Bill Haskins

As you see, I focused all the day, all the night on the UC environment. It's easy to say that the core tech—most teams already had access and could easily augment access to enable a digital workforce. But to me, what Harrison’s saying here, if I poke a little more at that, the tools to succeed are much broader right now in this environment than just those core platforms, your core access, to core line of business. They should be, in my mind, much, much more data centric. That said, most of the off-the-shelf solutions do a good job at providing some pretty deep data within what you've already purchased. The real question is: Does that data align with your new footprint? And the answer is not always. 

Even if you got access to data—I'll do a finger wag at my IT brethren out there—we’re pretty bad, in general, at actually using the data that we have available and turning our data universe into actionable insight. And what Harrison said, I think, most most importantly, is turning it into proactive solutions. You have that universe available but you have to massage it and adjust your workflow in a way that you're identifying the KPI-driven outcomes that you're looking for and then that you're actually taking action within that workflow around data. And I still think most IT teams on average, they're so busy, they're so overtaxed, I’ll give some solidarity there. They're so overtaxed that you find yourself reactive. You use data when you need to. “Is my executive having a problem? All right, I'll go look through CDRs.” Terrible. Much better to say: “I was a C-executives last call, how does their pattern look like? What does the data tell me, in terms of, is there a potential issue that I should solve before the next call?” Not once they call me and tell me that my service sucks.

From a financial perspective, how are you evaluating the tools you are investing

Jacuelyn Painter

And this leads us into the next question. So this is a hot topic for all organizations and all departments, not even IT. But from a financial perspective, how does IT evaluate the tools that they invest in? So there's all these new technologies that are required to support this remote workforce environment. How do you—given the crisis that we're in, in budgets being very conservative right now—how does IT make this happen?

Bill Haskins

[Voice overlaps with Harrison’s]

Harrison Bliss

So, now we're in panic spending mode right now. I think the key aspect there is some financial perspective, that our financial business partners have opened the wallet right now to say: “Hey, whatever it takes to keep the business running”. And there's been a lot of spend in maybe less analysis than our financial business partners are probably comfortable with. And so it's up to us now to make sure that they're comfortable going forward. 

So first of all, are we using the investment? Did we invest in Platform X, but it's used once a week, and we shouldn't do that. And what we're really using is this other platform that we should invest in rolling out. It's about metrics. Financial people, in general, are metrics driven. It's: What's the return on this investment? Is it revenue? Is it utilization? Is it customer satisfaction? And do our metrics need to change? 

So for example, maybe we measured our IT team or our services team on sales or utilization to use professional services. But does that measure need to change a little bit in the new normal? So that we need to take into account a bunch of the things that we're doing that aren't what we used to measure. Things like virtual happy hours may change the metrics we use, and then measure for the long-term. 

As we transition to justifying the investments, how do we generate the measures to say: “Hey, this was a fantastic investment and we want to keep it going in perpetuity as part of the organizational platform or the enterprise architecture, so to speak, moving forward.” And just to build on the last thing you said in relation to the previous question is: I think it's a lot more powerful to go to an executive, and rather than having them come to you and say: “My last 12 calls have really stunk.” For you to be able to go to them and say: “Hey, we noticed you've been having some quality issues, we'd like to check out your network up here and your laptop.” That's a whole different message to your executive team that's going to get you support for continuing to implement these tools, than if they continue to have problems and you're just reactively addressing them.

Bill Haskins

Love it. It's been interesting to watch our enterprise partners out there take different approaches to this financial question—that it's a weird time where there's this increased wallet, and it’s much easier to justify specific tools and services that align with a distributed workforce. And we see that happening across the board. At the same time, every enterprise that we’ve talked to, also has an uncertain financial future themselves regardless of what industry they're in. So you have an easier justification on one side to spend on today's tools. And then you have a cautious budget approach on the same exact spend. But I think in the short-term, it nets out to flexibility in the tool set that we see teams analyzing. 

We're also talking to a number of enterprises who are taking this opportunity—and I think what you said was right—around using this scenario as an opportunity to really re-evaluate everything from your culture, to your user mental health, all the way down to your technology platforms. In a number of teams, we see them doing exactly that on a technology layer. Reeling back to: What is my strategic direction with this new normal; not just Business Continuity Planning, but escalating anything related to automation and anything related to potential AI benefits. And how do I establish, rethink my platforms, in terms of integration out to my customers, in terms of new ways for my users to be productive and embedding solutions inside their world. And that's been a conversation that's ongoing, but it's kind of been the undertone. And for a number of enterprises, we see that now becoming an area of focus on: “Alright, it's time for us to revamp our roadmap and strategy” And it's happening.

Is IT playing a critical role to ensuring you protect your companys brand reputation

Jacuelyn Painter

Great. The last couple minutes of the webinar, moving to the last question. So is IT playing a critical role to ensure you protect your company's brand reputation? So typically, we probably think about customer service, customer success teams, but IT is really the foundation of digital transformation and this modern workforce being connected. So they do have a crucial role. And so, Bill, can you touch on how IT evaluates that and how do they ensure that they are protecting their brand?

Bill Haskins

Yep. The answer is yes. IT is playing a critical role. That's all I got. No, I'm kidding. 

“IT is playing a critical role” What the way I see them executing here, back to the point on more communication with partners and customers, IT is doing the same thing. There is more interaction with a line of business today than there was three months ago, which is a very good thing. It's healthy before, it's healthier now; I think. 

The way we see IT handling that ongoing adjustment is really—in the best examples—is taking guidance from the enterprise on everything from effectiveness of the current solutions and how they're enabling their users, towards how those platforms are perceived by the end customer. And back to our point on “not one size fits all”, we talked to a number of financial companies that are very, very focused on the optics of the platform. Is the brand we're using with our customer-facing solution set, does that brand represent what we need to represent as a brand? It has to represent security. It has to represent quality. It has to represent a much broader thing than just: “Can you meet on a platform or do video?” And so, that is a new conversation to us. And we do see a number of IT teams making real time adjustments based specifically on that they're much more reliant on those on the solutions for customer-facing interactions. Optics is a real thing. And IT is doing, I think, a good job at listening, engaging, enterprising, and adapting. What do you think, Harrison?

Harrison Bliss

I think it's key. Our brand is around security. Our brand is around professionalism. Our brand is around customer responsiveness. Our brand is around X and does our online presence represent X in the right way? 

So for example, in my telepresence system is unreliable or is hard to use. And that then leads to two questions about: Are they really about quality? Are they really about customer-first, if this is how they are expecting us to put—what they're expecting us to put up with, or how they're treating us.

And having the information to say, either things are good there or things are having a problem here, from a quality standpoint, I think is important. Because customers will give up on these methods. A customer that has a poor telemedicine experience might put off something critical, because they just don't want that bad experience again. Or they're going to change to a different bank that has better telepresence or better systems or better whatever. 

So I think there's a real risk here of not having the data to improve the experience and therefore losing customers, or losing reputation, or impacting your brand. I think the other piece that goes hand-in-hand with this, which is IT’s bread and butter, is the security and data privacy. So for example: We're not necessarily taking data out of a data repository, but we're displaying it in new places. So somebody has medical data that before, would never have been visible outside your doctor's office, is suddenly available to somebody working from home with their spouse and three kids running around. And what does that mean from a security and privacy standpoint as we start working from home? 

And then I’ll just wrap up quickly by making sure the tools get used. If the tools don't get used? Or are we have multiple tools being used? Back to the point you made earlier, Bill, about maybe consolidating on one or two tools. If a company’s employees are using six different tools for the same thing, it leaves the customer in their mind: “They maybe don't really have their act together.” And that leads to a reputational hit. Harrison likes Teams, and Bill likes Skype, and somebody else has got some homebred system they hooked up, using who knows what. And monitoring again gets back to that saying: “Who's using what, and what isn’t working?”


Jacuelyn Painter

Great. That ends today's discussion. We're a couple minutes over, so hopefully everyone was able to stick with us. If not, we did record this, and you will be able to download it. So please, please make sure to do that. And please also rate this webinar so that we can collect that data and make sure that we're improving our services and content that we're providing out there too. So thanks again. Thanks, Bill. Thanks, Harrison. Great to have this discussion. And we'll talk soon.

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