• The evolution of team collaboration

        • The recent pandemic has led to a significant rise in the number of businesses requiring collaboration tools, as large volumes of employees continue to work in different locations. 

          This shift in working practices provides numerous opportunities for monetisation and support areas for the channel to be involved in – by helping to underpin the user experience and maintaining productivity obtained by strengthening the network infrastructure and connectivity. 

          With an influx of new entrants to the market looking to make big waves, Nick Sacke, Head of IoT and Products, Comms365 explains what the Channel needs to do to not just attract business in the short term, but also keep them as long term, loyal customers.

          As is to be expected, there have been multiple networking problems for businesses looking to get up and running remotely during Covid-19. Not just in terms of user bandwidth, but in resilience, reliability and security of the Internet connectivity and ensuring the correct equipment is available to use. By having solutions for these network challenges in place and offering support and consultation alongside the actual collaboration platforms, this formula is an opportunity for the channel to support customers with their network connectivity and business productivity needs.

          In order for applications to work properly and businesses to maintain continuity of service, it’s necessary for solid end-to-end infrastructure and reliable quality connectivity to be in place wherever the user is. Often, because of the diversity of infrastructure available, there is variation in application performance. Remote working adds further complications, due to the differentiation of in-home connections, offering each user a different experience. Additionally, some of the collaboration applications aren’t just connectivity bandwidth-hungry, but they also consume a lot of the resources on the devices themselves, which ultimately leads to tying up processor power and memory, which can impact the overall user experience.

          Businesses, therefore, need support to ensure reliability in hardware, software, connectivity and performance – as well as security – to underpin their collaboration tools for users working apart from each other, whether that be at home or in the office. This is fertile ground for innovative new services such as analytics, which analyses application performance from cloud to user device. This can identify pinch points in the network infrastructure that can be remediated by network managers and collect useful data statistics on quality of service and usage patterns. The channel has an opportunity to embrace these new service areas and offer them as value-added enhancements to the standard offerings.   

          There is a clear monetisation opportunity for the channel to help their customers to strengthen their infrastructure across the board; from software applications to hardware, and security and resilience solutions to connectivity. Providing support and consultancy to minimise the number of these challenges will enable channel partners to become trusted advisors, valued by their customers.

          At the start of lockdown, many IT providers were offering ‘free licenses’, plugging the gap temporarily when the pandemic began in order to get people on the platform But this creates an artificial transactional relationship and doesn’t consider what’s going to happen next – what happens when the license ends? Is there any troubleshooting or support available, or does that come with an additional cost? Instead, channel partners can offer value-added agile and innovative ways to help and support their customers in order to retain them long-term. By ensuring excellent user experience beyond the transaction point, you’re more likely to keep a loyal customer base.

          Team collaboration software offers great tools to connect workforces with one another for collaboration without being in the office, but there is still a clear value-add opportunity for channel players to educate and demonstrate best practices for users to work with these applications seamlessly. Additional training, education and consultancy are necessary, particularly for the ‘new normal’, to get the most value and productivity out of team collaboration tools, not just for now, but for the future.

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