This article is based on The State of Unified Communications in 2021 by Metrigy, a leading industry analyst firm in UCaaS. Read the full report here.
Just a year ago, work as we knew it changed. We went from working in our office cubicles to using kitchen tables as temporary workstations. And while we don’t have any crystal balls, we have a much better understanding of where the future of work is headed—and how businesses should prepare for it.
For starters, there’s no question that work after the pandemic will continue to look very different than it did before COVID-19. According to a new report from Metrigy, The State of Unified Communications in 2021, only 8% of businesses expect a full return to the office once the pandemic is over.
Tomorrow’s workplace will be hybrid
But tomorrow’s workplace won’t look anything like the lockdown days when the majority of knowledge workers were confined to their proverbial kitchen tables.
Though support for remote work has reached unprecedented highs—91% or organizations are now in favor of remote work models, according to Nemertes’ Visual Communications and Collaboration: 2020-21—experts predict that in reality, the future of work will look a little more hybrid, where employees split their time between the office and home.
For example, employees might spend three days a week in the office, while working remotely for the rest. Some teams might split forever, meaning that some employees work in the office while others work fully remotely (we call those distributed teams). In other words, flexible work is the future.
Remote work challenges in 2021
To make these new flexible work models the norm, businesses will need to heed the learnings of the past year. The reality is that despite the overwhelming success of remote work in 2020, keeping employees engaged in a permanently hybrid world is a different story.
Why? Several reasons:
- Teamwork and collaboration can be a challenge.
- Managing remote workers is a new concept for many leaders.
- Not all teams can be productive in remote scenarios.
- Employee isolation is very real.
What’s next? Gearing up for the next normal
The good news is companies are investing in this new normal, with more than half of respondents reporting that their companies will increase investments in video meeting apps, team collaboration apps, collaboration security, and other cloud technologies to support work in 2021 and beyond.
But the next question businesses must grapple with is how to identify the solutions that will provide the greatest real-world benefits. For future success, this means looking at not just what collaboration tools are needed, but how businesses can optimize their delivery and support to improve effectiveness and reduce costs.
Here’s what Metrigy suggests:
1. A single integrated vendor
Given the number of dedicated solutions on the market, businesses might be tempted to implement a collection of separate apps. For example, an app for team messaging, another for video conferencing, and another for calling (aka the best-in-breed approach).
However, without a unified approach towards collaboration from anywhere, businesses risk creating disjointed user experiences. This impacts overall productivity in several ways:
- Loss of focus and employee fatigue from constantly switching apps
- Lack of centralized provisioning, management, security, and governance across multiple apps
- No centralized team space for collaboration
- Additional expenses from licensing and supporting multiple apps
- Lack of a unified touchpoint for third-party integrations (CRM, HR, and other business apps)
There are some critical advantages to selecting a single, integrated app that combines all of the necessary collaboration functions. These benefits include a simplified user experience, reduced management complexity, and 56% lower TCO, thanks to reduced licensing and operational costs.
2. Integrated contact centers
Though unified communications (message, video, phone) and contact centers are traditionally separate, the lines between them are starting to blur. In the Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service, Worldwide report, Gartner considers contact center a welcome addition to unified communications.
The report by Metrigy follows that line of thinking too. An integrated unified communications and contact center (UC+CC) solution allows businesses to integrate customer support with the back office, improving the flow of communication and information, as well as the overall delivery of customer service.
Metrigy reports that businesses that integrate call centers with a unified communications platform report the following benefits:
- 56.7% increase in customer satisfaction ratings
- 19.7% reduction in operational costs
- 23.4% reduction in monthly per-agent licensing costs
The year to make remote work better
In 2020, the rush to work remotely forced businesses to use all available tools and enact ad hoc workflows in the name of business continuity. But with the majority of organizations planning to make remote work a long-term option, the time has come to focus on optimizing tools to improve the effectiveness and cost of flexible working arrangements.
To start, this means taking inventory of current collaboration tools and enacting a strategic approach to leverage the benefits of cloud-based communications services.
Learn more about how cloud solutions will ensure success in this remote-first future, download the new report, The State of Unified Communications in 2021.
Originally published Feb 22, 2021, updated Jan 18, 2023