Over one year into the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses are continuing to adapt to ever-changing realities. Initially, adapting involved shuttering offices and canceling work-related travel and events. Today, however, Covid-19-induced changes are a bit more nuanced. In fact, large enterprises with advanced technology and work-from-home policies may notice little difference when they’re comparing pre-pandemic operations to today’s. But for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), research from The Blueprint suggests that some changes brought on by the pandemic — like layoffs and remote work — were significant. While their offices may have been closed for a long time, SMBs still face the challenge of optimizing the productivity of a fully remote workforce.
The Growth Of UC&C Tools
Many SMBs are using unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) tools to transition to a remote-first workforce. As the SVP of global marketing at a company that offers UC&C solutions, I’ve found that SMBs are embracing the technology with marked enthusiasm. My company recently surveyed 4,500 technology decision-makers and found that businesses with less than 100 employees are increasingly prioritizing IT as a result of the pandemic. The number of these SMBs that now employ a full-time, on-site IT person increased from 18% to 29% between April 2019 and November 2020, and IP communications adoption is up 41% compared to last year.
Key Factors Driving SMB Market Potential For UC&C
What is surprising about our survey findings is the data that outlines the remaining addressable UC&C market. While 24% of SMBs surveyed by my company indicated they’re putting UC&C initiatives into action (and that’s a massive increase compared to the year prior), that still leaves a whopping 76% of SMBs out there for whichever UC&C provider can grab them first.
The time for UC&C providers to capitalize on this substantial market segment is now, especially considering our findings revealed that 34% of SMBs reported that they were “poorly prepared” to support their remote workers during the pandemic. That said, 83% of employers surveyed by PwC in November and December of 2020 considered the shift to remote work a success. Additionally, the number of SMBs that said 25% or more of their employees will work remotely post-pandemic increased by more than 30% compared to pre-pandemic levels in our survey. PwC’s research found that 55% of employees would like to work remotely at least three days per week post-pandemic.
The Future Of UC&C And The Benefits Driving Adoption
Over the past 12 months, SMBs have been forced to adapt quickly and extremely — and often with far fewer resources than large enterprises. Many companies are leveraging one of the many UC&C solutions available for purposes like:
• Portability and productivity from anywhere: When they’re not tethered to desk phones and monitors, employees can work from anywhere.
• Fewer communication silos: While remote settings might seem like they would result in increased silos, enterprises can actually reduce silos if they use one tool for all of their communications.
• Cost savings: Although there might be an upfront investment to start, UC&C solutions can consolidate legacy fees for multiple communications systems.
While software collaboration tools and currently hold a significant portion of the SMB UC&C market, there are also a variety of other tools available that SMBs can use to seamlessly transition into productive, remote-first workforces. The only question that remains is how your team will choose a solution.
Here are a few tips for choosing the right UC&C solution for your needs:
• You want to choose a platform that offers any capabilities and functionality you currently leverage or need, which could include audio/video conferencing, chat/messaging, voicemail or call routing.
• Look for a solution that allows you to conduct all of these activities in-app without requiring you to leave.
• Make sure the solution you’re considering can adequately support your company and your work-from-home model. (Don’t invest in a solution that is designed for a 100-person company when you only need it to support 10 employees, for example.)
• You want to look for a solution that is market-tested and has referenceable customers.
• Make sure the solution includes protection against any security threats your organization or industry struggles with. This could include fraudsters, robocallers or Denial of Service (DoS) attacks.
• Don’t just look for the cheapest platform, because as the old adage says: you usually get what you pay for.
There is no doubt that the pandemic has had a profound effect on the way we work and collaborate and that work as we know it has been changed forever. One major example is the surge in companies that have adopted UC&C platforms. I expect those adoption rates to continue increasing going forward. If companies leverage these solutions properly and choose the right tools for their organizations, they can be great assets for helping them succeed in a post-pandemic world.