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Enabling Remote Workers: Five Questions to Start the Conversation

Posted by David Lover on Apr 2, 2020 10:00:00 AM

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I’ve been spending a lot of my time talking with customers about remote worker strategies. Most are sending their employees home to work. As I discussed in an earlier blog post, for some customers it’s a very easy, short conversation (i.e., those that have already adopted a mobile-first strategy). For others, that discussion is a bit more involved. Customers who find themselves behind the 8-ball are not looking for a long, strategic, vendor-agnostic conversation. They want to know what they can do now. So, when conversations go that direction, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and dive into the tactical weeds. They don’t have time for a rip and replace. They require a vendor-specific conversation, that can include layered cloud services on top of their existing platform.

I find most of my current conversations with customers about preparing to support remote workers, specifically around COVID-19, center around 5 basic questions:

  • What is your timeline?
  • What types of users are you looking to work remote?
  • Are these user types fixed remote or truly mobile?
  • What does your existing infrastructure look like?
  • What are the available solutions and deployment models (on-premises, cloud, or hybrid)?

The answers to these questions can drastically change my recommended solution. Let’s look at each one of these in a little more detail.

What is your timeline?

Every company’s timeline is different, for a lot of different reasons. Sometimes it is a phased rollout for network bandwidth purposes, or just based on worker types. Some companies are just waiting to see what happens—which may have been a legitimate option two weeks ago, but is officially off the table for almost everyone. Sometimes, companies are looking for a very short-term solution because they were already in the process of some modernization, and just need a month or two. But it’s critical for the company to have a timeline in mind, as some solutions simply cannot be implemented in days.

What types of users are you looking to work remote?

A lot of companies will initially answer this with, “We may want to send them all home.” Great. Let’s identify the specific users, because from a communications standpoint, they may all require different solutions. Are they traditional dial-tone-oriented telephony users? Unified Communications and collaboration users? Workstream collaboration users? Contact Center agents? Receptionists and attendants? All these users typically use different tools and applications for communications. We need to identify them and map out their specific solutions. The good news is that while the applications that those workers use may be different, a lot of the core architecture is universal and can support multiple use cases.

Are these user types fixed remote or truly mobile?

These two things are not the same. A lot of remote workers are NOT mobile. When I think of a remote worker, I’m thinking about a fixed user who is not going anywhere—but they’re not at the office. Most likely, they’re working from their home. They’re working almost exactly like they did at the office, but they’re at home. A mobile user is different. They’re moving. Sure, they might be at home, like they might be at the office, but they also might be in their car, at a hotel, in an airport, and so on. And while most people are currently less mobile than they were two weeks ago, it’s still a long-term strategy most companies want to get to. But as a minimum, these two scenarios may have different applications (with similar infrastructure requirements). Contact Center agents are good examples of this. Could a Contact Center agent be mobile? I suppose in some casual, Subject-Matter-Expert kind of way, yes. But in the traditional hang-up-the-phone-so-you-can-answer-the-next-call scenario, no, agents are almost always not mobile. Working from home, they are fixed, remote workers. There’s just too much customized integration and supporting applications that are not mobile in nature. So, you must understand the user types you need to address.

What does your existing infrastructure look like?

We have to know what’s available to work with. Let’s face it, MacGyver showed us all you can always do amazing things with what’s available. Maybe you have to get creative. Maybe you need to search for some extra chewing gum. The vast majority of companies have something great that we can start with. Maybe we need to go old-school and pull out a capability we haven’t used in 10 years, or maybe the platform already contains capabilities that simply were never deployed. A lot of companies have standard user licenses that include some incredible entitlements that they simply didn’t think they needed initially. This is a great time to dust those off and re-visit their value. And yes, sometimes, you clearly see that it’s time to modernize and innovate. This doesn’t always require any type of rip-and-replace strategy. All of our strategic partners support all the kinds of things we’re talking about here. You can’t compare one vendor’s legacy platform to another vendor’s modern platform and expect any kind of valid apples-to-apples analysis.

What are the available deployment models (on-premises, cloud, or hybrid)?

Lastly, we need to talk about what this solution actually looks like. What’s your position on on-premises solutions? Cloud solutions? Or maybe you like the idea of layering new, innovative cloud services onto your existing on-premises solutions? ConvergeOne has great solutions for all the above.

Maybe a company currently requires continued use of its existing, on-premises solution. This where we look at that system and make recommendations for the best path to move forward in supporting remote workers. For cloud, C1CX Private Cloud solutions are great for companies who still like the idea of a dedicated environment but just may not have the desire or expertise to stay current with best practices. Dedicated virtual instances, variabilized consumption, and managed services all make it easy for a company to focus on what it does best. Maybe a company would benefit from a combination of both. We’re seeing some of our partners able to layer in innovated cloud services, for things such as workstream collaboration, with a tight integration to endpoints and applications used by users of an on-premises system.

It’s important to note that this all rides on a network is secure and resilient. I find that when companies get over the hump of acquiring the appropriate remote worker licenses, their next hurdle is resolving their undersized—or incorrectly configured—VPN, session border controllers, Firewalls, and WAN links. Instead of just asking what licenses you need to have your Contact Center Agents work from, you should ensure that those users with those new licenses will function as intended.

Clearly, the conversation gets a lot more technical based on the answers to these questions. Reach out to ConvergeOne if you’re interested in a deeper dive into how you can solve your most immediate needs as you work to protect your employees.



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Topics: Unified Communications, Remote Working, COVID-19


 

David Lover
David Lover  -- David is a leader in our Office of the CTO and works with every part of the business. From Sales to Professional Services, from senior leadership to end-users, from overall business strategy to nuts and bolts technical understanding, his skills at identifying, articulating, and managing our strategic technology direction to customers, partners, and employees sets ConvergeOne apart as a leader in our industry. David is a former Senior Engineer at Lucent Technologies and Avaya and has applied communications technologies in a business environment for large Fortune 500 and Enterprise multi-site corporations. David is a nationally recognized keynote speaker and presenter at numerous industry conferences, forums, and seminars across the United States. He has built tremendous, strategic relationships with analysts and manufacturers alike, insuring relevancy and the best possible “future state” outcome for ConvergeOne and its customers.