Getting employees to use all the features of a solution is not just a case of ensuring adequate return on investment; the successful implementation of these new ways of working depends upon it.
As they wrestle with what the future of work looks like, organizations are faced with three core challenges: the cost of running their operations; improving productivity and ensuring business continuity; and delivering a high-quality user experience.
Fixing the challenges of today
Traditionally, those challenges would have been split up and dealt with by different functions, with little consideration for how the changes in one area might impact the other. Yet as the demand for digital transformation accelerates, there is increasing realization that they are all inextricably linked and that technology underpins the successful management and solving of these challenges.
This leaves IT operations decision makers with the need to provide the technology and tools to handle these issues, while also dealing with a significant legacy estate. For some, the solutions are already in place. This allowed them to maintain business continuity, productivity and a consistent level of user experience during the pandemic.
New ways of working
Looking forward, IT departments will need to reconsider new ways of using technology, if not investing in new tools. For example, unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions were the key to facilitating business continuity during lockdowns, enabling productivity and driving exemplary experiences. However, what worked when everyone was working remotely needs to be revisited as hybrid working models become the norm. Employers are going to be wondering how they ensure that all employees are equally part of the conversation when half are in the office and half are at home.
Even more pressing is the question of how IT operations teams ensure that any investment in new tools is properly realized. Solutions like Teams offer immense opportunities, but are all organizations with Office 365 licenses making full use of Teams as a collaboration tool, not just a messaging and videoconferencing service? If they’re still very much on the latter, then suddenly Teams is costly and is not fully contributing to helping bring down the cost of running businesses.
Changing role of office
Then there’s the role of the office itself and how it is changing. Companies pursuing hybrid models need to reinvent their workplaces, and not simply by turning cubicles into hot desks and having more breakout spaces. They need to think about how users move from individual work to collaboration, how their physical movements affect their network connectivity, and what happens when people in the office set up a Teams meeting with those at home, all with a focus on improving overall productivity. Will everyone have the same experience, or will those in the office be able to see remote workers clearly, but those at home will be left looking at a small image of their colleagues huddled around a table in a boardroom?
There’s also the consideration of being able to use different devices and platforms in the same virtual meeting. Imagine that a key individual is running late to a meeting: the ideal would be that the person dials in on their phone, then, as they arrive, can transfer seamlessly into the meeting without interference, dropping calls, or even other participants realizing they’ve changed locations. And what of those moments, perhaps with external parties, where each has their own preferred or corporate-sanctioned platform? The improved user experience would be significant if parties could join virtual meetings using the solution they’re used to, rather than grappling with something new. It might sound fanciful, but the interoperability already exists between the likes of Zoom, Webex and Teams, if properly enabled.
Focus on ease of use
But it has to be easy to use as well, otherwise users will fall back on unofficial workarounds. A good example pre-pandemic would be the challenge with hardware in meeting rooms. A combination of inconsistent knowledge across the organization and an unintegrated mix of hardware would mean that each time a new meeting took place, changes would need to be made to the hardware (for instance, changing TV channels, unplugging telephones, adjusting projector settings), which then required resetting for a different type of meeting.
It was frustrating in 2019, and it will be unacceptable to today’s drive for better user experience, business productivity and operational cost management if every time a meeting takes place, precious time is spent readjusting settings. With solutions like Cisco Meeting Rooms, Microsoft Team Rooms and Zoom Rooms, combined with the right audio-visual hardware, participants can press a button or click a link, and they are instantly in the environment they need to be in.
Success in this environment requires integration and a commitment to user adoption. Employees need to know that these features exist, and how to use them in a way that fits with their ongoing workflows.
Support for successful user adoption
Of course, focusing on user adoption does not mean an end to user support. Problems will still occur; with proper user adoption, it just means that those issues will require specialist knowledge to tackle more difficult challenges, and the cost of general support will come down as users should have the knowledge to fix many minor problems themselves.
In addition, the right providers can deploy monitoring to catch issues before they dramatically impact the overall experience or drive up the cost to the business. Not only does this help prevent daily tasks being disrupted, but it also helps boost the internal perception of IT operations as proactive, rather than reactive.
To deliver all of this, IT operations teams also need to consider whether they have the capabilities and skills in-house to not only deploy UCC solutions and drive user adoption, but make sure it all connects with the broader IT infrastructure. It’s important to remember that much of UCC is rooted in telecoms, not historically the domain of corporate IT. With the cloudification of telco services, this has changed, but having something fall into one’s remit does not automatically confer knowledge. As such, IT functions should consider whether they need outside support to integrate everything – UCC, user adoption, infrastructure – and deliver a successful digital workspace deployment that supports the organization’s chosen model of work.
Organizations that wish to enable new models of working – whether fully remote, hybrid or office-based – need to deploy the right technology today. To find out how, take a look at our new ebook on the digital workspace.
Serge has been with Orange Business since 2006 and has engaged in several business development and go-to-market strategies to help customers with business transformation on workspace and customer experience challenges. He has extensive knowledge of many facets of the IT industry through his experience working for software, media and telecom service providers.