IT/AV

Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) And Virtualization Are Today’s Reality

Tablet, Unified Communications

A primer on how we’re all adapting to UC platforms and their benefits to keep the world going.

If you believe in fate, then look no further than the old (often misattributed) quote, “May you live in interesting times.” Interesting indeed…

I’m in my fourth decade of working in the media technology / collaborative communications industry and I’ve never seen anything like this before. Just in case you need some perspective:

  • For nearly two decades I and many others have been advising people to get ready for the “remote working” or “smarter working” future. Here’s just one example of me explaining the benefits – https://Tinyurl.com/DantoPPinPJs
  • For nearly a decade I and many others have warned that a time will come when a breach or pandemic will force employees to suddenly become remote workers. Here’s just one example of that warning – https://com/DantoPandemic
  • Home broadband connectivity is now available in most corners of the world. There are still gaps that our society must resolve to ensure access is a right and not a privilege, but access is far better than it has ever been.

With the onslaught of the COVID-19 Coronavirus, our world has seen the definition of normal be completely upended. As I write this we are living through a social, health and economic disaster the likes of which have not been seen in modern times. I’m sure we will recover to some degree, but what that will look like, and when it will happen, is anybody’s guess at this point. Putting aside for just a moment (but surely not minimizing) the tragic health impacts we have suffered, we can look at how our industry has responded to the crisis with pride…or, can we?

With nearly 100% of the workforce suddenly needing to be remote, and our collaboration tools and platforms simply absorbing the tremendous increase in demand, it should be a proud moment. Without exaggeration, the following statements ae true:

  • With no other option but to remotely collaborate using the tools we’ve been advocating for years, people have discovered to their shock that they are actually easy to use and reliable.
  • Business publications, analysts and some organizational leadership – the same people and groups that have derided remote working for years – are now suddenly advocates and self-purported experts in these technologies – the same ones that they previously fought against.
  • To everyone’s surprise, most organizations have discovered that instantly turning-up services to their employees / users (instead of the typical gradual rollout) didn’t really cause any additional problems. Our concepts of change-control with slow progress may forever be changed.
  • At just one university (USC) the staff turned-up new services to nearly sixty-thousand users and supported eighteen-thousand simultaneous video and collaboration calls in just a couple of days. And that’s only one of hundreds of universities and thousands of schools. The scale of what’s happening globally baffles the imagination.
  • Just about every person to person interaction in our lives has now become virtual. Everything. Work meetings, higher education, K-12 schools, individual classes and trainers, religious services, virtual meals and happy hours, family events…like I said, everything.

So, do we see stories on the news about how virtual religious services and community events have brightened everyone’s spirits, how knowledge workers are functioning in their roles, how students and teachers are continuing the education process (with both sides learning new things) and how families and communities are actually in touch with each other using our technology more than they were in-person before the pandemic? Well, we did for a while…

…but then the FUD started.

FUD is short for Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt. It is a term that describes the behavior of one or more firms to make customers worry about their competitors in order to gain market share – planting or exacerbating stories about their competition rather than saying good things about their own product or service.

With the overwhelming influx of new users and use cases to one platform (Zoom) there was inevitable scrutiny, and also the inevitable discovery of issues. Some were legitimate issues (lazily using existing SDKs that pushed mobile app data to Facebook, allowing servers in non-geo-fenced areas to be used for overflow.) Some were only related to novice users not understanding that their own inaction left their meetings vulnerable to intruders (Zoombombing.) When these stories were pushed by competitors to their “champions” and the news media, the fanning of these flames became the news stories du jour.

Were the issues real – of course. Every platform has had and will have vulnerabilities discovered. During the same time frame Microsoft announced they patched multiple zero day vulnerabilities, and Apple patched vulnerabilities in their systems. Bugs and issues have always been discovered in platforms and they will continue to be. The only measure of these incidents has to be how the firms respond to fix them. Zoom responded rapidly and honestly, which should have been case-closed – just as in the above situations with Microsoft and Apple. But that didn’t happen. Some of Zoom’s competitors shamefully jumped on the story and emulated the proverbial people in glass houses throwing stones.

The saddest part of this episode is that it has detracted from the news our industry should be boasting about:

  • Hundreds of thousands of new users have been absorbed into a UCaaS model with little or no issues.
  • Remote working has proven itself to be a valid model that many industries will be supporting for many years.
  • Education, Healthcare, Community, Religious and Entertainment sectors have embraced our systems and we’ve come through with flying colors. (If you get a chance take a look at one of my recent webcasts that highlighted many of these awesome use cases: https://tinyurl.com/UCNewNormal )

So, when I ask if you were paying attention, it refers to a number of things:

  • Did you heed the warnings and the predictions and equip your organization’s employees to work remotely? It’s more than just having a device with a marginal embedded camera. In order to demonstrate things, have good body language, and be perceived as trustworthy and sincere, one probably needs to be using a high-quality UC headset and external camera.
  • Have you personally experienced a “we were right” moment about UC, collaboration and videoconferencing? I know all the FUD distracts us just about as much as it does the media, but it is certainly worth taking a moment and toasting the world’s acknowledgment that what we do matters and that what we’ve promised has come to fruition. This stuff really works!
  • Did you let yourself or your customers, clients and friends get distracted by the FUD, or did you stay positive and rightfully boast about what your platforms and products can do?
  • Have you considered what the new normal will be? “Densified” open offices are certainly not going to be in-vogue until we develop a Coronavirus vaccine – and probably not even after that. The old concepts of “hoteling” or “hot-desking” are probably dead as well, since no one will want to use a shared keyboard, mouse or even a chair for that matter. Many more collaboration systems will move to a touchless control – most likely some combination of voice control and / or paired personal device control.

Paying attention is important. If you did so in the past then you were ready to handle the current crisis. If you didn’t, then you’re probably just coping as best as you can. Hopefully, however, you’ve now learned the importance of paying attention and preparing, and you’re now getting ready for the inevitable next crisis. Have you ordered extra cameras and high-quality headsets yet? Have you prepared talking points and awesome case histories about your own products and/or services (instead of throwing stones at competitors?)

Welcome to the new normal.

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