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The value of an integrated communications stack in a hybrid working world

Adam Wilson, strategic partner director for EMEA and ANZ, Vonage, discusses how changing working practices highlight the significance of integrated commununications.

Covid-19 has created a seismic shift in employee expectations for working from home. As talk of a return to normality grows, companies have begun to grapple with the implications of meeting these expectations for hybrid working environments. With this comes multiple challenges for communication and collaboration, which are the lifeblood of any business.

On top of this, to connect with consumers now and in the future, businesses must turn to more innovative channels and employ new communications technologies that allow them the flexibility to embed programmable capabilities – voice, video, messaging and verification – directly into existing applications and workflows. It’s becoming increasingly clear that significant value lies in considering an end-to-end communications stack proposition for IT decision makers.

Shifting work patterns and collaboration

The pandemic has driven a marked shift in working patterns globally. A recent report from research house Nemertes in April 2020 indicated that more than 91 per cent of employees were reported to be working from home because of Covid, an increase of more than 25 per cent on those polled before the pandemic began. Earlier this year, 46 per cent percent of employees polled in another study indicated their companies were planning to permanently allow remote working, whilst 41 per cent of respondents had indicated that changes in communication and collaboration were the primary change they’d witnessed to working habits over the preceding year.

These figures point to a major shift in how employees expect to interact and use tools to connect and engage with each other. For channel partners looking to solve problems for their customers, this shift requires a complete reassessment of how to approach both external and internal communications solutions in a world headed towards full-time hybrid working, where not everybody will be in the office as before.

A single communications stack solution and the channel

One way to tackle these challenges is execute an all-encompassing cloud communications strategy that accounts for both internal and external communications and allows for a complete view of customer communications – including unified communications, contact center and communications APIs.

Communication solutions – whether UC or CC – that are purpose-built from a single programmable platform enable companies to transform how they communicate and operate from the office or anywhere, providing enormous flexibility and ensuring business continuity. Cost savings and scalability are also a large part of the draw of cloud-based UC and CC offerings, particularly when looking to streamline communications solutions and reduce capital expenditures.

The channel can also form an important part of supporting companies looking for a comprehensive comms stack solution. For end users, a useful channel programme would ideally comprise three important elements – a consulting service, managed and professional services, and API-enabled development services. As a channel partner, being able to provide advice and guidance is crucial when choosing a cloud-based communications solution, and an effective channel partner would present its offering with a consultative bent, collaborating with vendors to share expert insights. Managed and professional services can also form a key part of such a channel programme, enabling partners to upsell and add value to the sale, delivery and support of the solution. The addition of APIs allows partners to develop bespoke capabilities into communications solutions, tailoring them to the customer’s needs. Whether partners have their own development capabilities or collaborate with a third party, this is an additional service they can offer to add value.

The value of programmable communications

Programmable communications solutions demonstrate their flexibility and value by providing developers with the ability to weave real-time communications features such as voice, chat and text directly into existing applications and workflows, without having to build back-end infrastructures. Frequently used for customer-facing communications, though increasingly leveraged to improve internal workflows as well, APIs enable end-users to program custom integrations for everything from accessing data and managing features on accounts to connecting with customers via video, SMS, and social messaging channels.

In a hybrid work environment, API integrations can deliver a slick, streamlined user experience. They simplify the way a business customer can access the business apps they rely on, creating better data interactions with multiple business applications through a single platform, and providing advanced features for contact management, call control and analytics.

The pandemic has changed the game for both employers and employees where remote working is concerned, and there’s little doubt that hybrid working will become a core feature of business strategy across the world. Hybrid working environments must be fit for employee needs, and mobile devices and applications are crucial for retaining employees who expect high technological capabilities. Tomorrow’s successful businesses will increasingly look to channel partners to help them draw together tightly woven unified communications and contact center solutions in conjunction with APIs as part of a seamless, integrated experience that allows them to stay ahead of the competition.

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