Unified communications crucial in coronavirus era

How businesses communicate and operate has had to evolve at lightning speed, fuelled by remote working. What would have taken years to articulate has occurred in as many weeks, with unified communications now becoming a lifeline for organisations. This is set to continue.

“In the last two months we’ve seen a vast increase in deployment. Companies are upgrading their solutions to include full, unified communications. Bringing video and audio conferencing, desktop sharing, data access, with both fixed-line telephony and mobile, integrated together under one roof,” explains Alan Mackie, chief marketing and product officer for Gamma, a leader in unified communications.

“Access to an organisation’s resources remotely via the cloud isn’t a nice to have anymore, it’s vital if companies are to survive beyond the pandemic. Right now, business continuity is at the top of everyone’s agenda. Communications with clients and collaboration between workers must carry on unhindered if companies are to thrive. Staying connected, but apart, is crucial.”

Businesses will need to integrate all their communication and collaboration tools into the bigger business picture

Unified communications are the new essentials. With more than 49 per cent of the UK workforce now working from home, according to the Office for National Statistics, employees are demanding new ways of doing business. Zoom and Microsoft Teams, both US imports, are now household names.

Yet one British firm is underpinning this huge shift in how we work, providing tools and services that are keeping the economy running and communicating during unprecedented times. Gamma has more than six million business users in the UK alone.

“We’re the unified communications company few have heard of, in part because we mainly sell through a larger network of resale partners. Yet behind the scenes we’re providing support to NHS trusts and central government in Whitehall, major banks and supermarkets, including many high street retail brands, large enterprises and over 140,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). We’ve been doing so since 2006, but never before have we seen such a shift in consciousness,” says Mackie.

“In the last few months, many companies have put in place a sticking plaster to answer their communication and collaboration needs. That’s why video-conferencing tools have gained a lot of press. Some might provide a good service, but they’re short-term fixes. Businesses will need to integrate all their communication and collaboration tools into the bigger business picture, which includes payments, sales, customer relationship management (CRM) and more.”

Many are now looking for flexibility because the future is uncertain and the landscape for business operations requires an agile and nimble approach. The good news is how employees work in an office can now be easily replicated when everyone is dispersed remotely, with little constraint in terms of access to resources and communications, both internally and externally. Such is the power of unified communications as a service, or UCaaS.

“We’re seeing not only a convergence of touchpoints – mobile, video, sales calls and CRM – but also data. This allows business leaders to direct their effort going forwards. UCaaS via the cloud is particularly useful when it comes to managing people and gauging productivity. That’s why we’ve seen demand grow,” says Mackie from Gamma, which is also active in the Netherlands and Spain, and is expanding elsewhere in Europe.

“More companies are now looking at staff efficiencies. As we start to emerge from the pandemic and face a harsh economic reality, the C-suite will want to know how effective teams are in supporting customers and the business, especially with more flexible working. Therefore, they’ll need to see assets all in one place and analyse them with the latest reporting tools.”

The main challenge, particularly for smaller businesses, will be getting new customers. Vast numbers of companies have had to move to a digital-first approach. With shuttered stores and no in-person sales visits, the shift to online has fast-forwarded many into what they thought was the future.

A recent survey by Gamma of 400 IT decision-makers found only 18 per cent of UK businesses are thriving in the digital age, while 79 per cent agree getting business communications – telephony, mobile and network services – right makes the difference between surviving and thriving.

“This was before lockdown. The move towards integrated digital communications and collaboration is now on steroids. The competition is going to be fierce going forward. Everyone will have to work harder to get new customers or keep their existing ones and do it remotely. It’s not just your business that’s changed the way it works, but everybody else’s has as well. The latest tools will be crucial,” says Mackie, adding that Gamma has one of the largest fixed-line telephony networks in the UK and was AIM Company Of The Year in 2018.

Omnichannel communications is also a greater issue now and not just for bigger businesses and those in retail. SMEs in business-to-business sectors are seeing a shift as well. Sales can come from Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp, a web post or chatbots. Only having a fixed telephone line as a point of contact is not enough for many organisations.

“Everyone wants to communicate how they want to communicate. The challenge is how do you gather all that information together and have a single source of truth for the customer, when it comes via multiple channels? How do you support businesses that have to communicate in many different ways? They need to be able to deal with every request and cannot afford to lose any leads, especially post-coronavirus. This is where UCaaS comes in,” says Mackie.

“If businesses don’t have unified communications in place, it’s best to do an audit first. What are your needs? Where are you today? Where do you want to be in the future? Finding the right unified comms partner is crucial. Everyone needs to make the right investment in these challenging times. The future is already here.”

For more please go to Gamma.co.uk