Master Agents on Remote Working: Welcome to the New NormalMaster Agents on Remote Working: Welcome to the New Normal
What will your customers do when the quarantines cease?
March 31, 2020
Remote working isn’t just part of the near-term future. It is the future and has been for some time.
We wrote in a previous article about how channel partners – master agents in particular – responded to the influx of remote workers. Now we’ve asked more partners to weigh in on remote workforce challenges and give us their prognosis for the future. What will the “new normal” be for businesses and the technology providers that serve them?
Avant’s Drew Lydecker
“In these unprecedented times, enterprises are compelled to enable a remote workforce to preserve the safety of their employees, customers and partners,” Avant Communications president Drew Lydecker said. “More than anything, this global pandemic is revealing the true extent of enterprises’ preparedness, as well as their potential to withstand what many believe will be a lasting shift in the way we work.”
Read part one of our series featuring the COVID-19 response from Telarus, PlanetOne, TCG, Intelisys and more.
The challenges are many for businesses, and they’ve called upon subagents not just for technology integration, but to be “sounding boards” for their problems, according to Lydecker.
“Enterprises must balance their desire for a speedy deployment with sizable factors like ensuring adequate bandwidth for all remote employees; interoperability with legacy systems, CRM platforms and edge devices; geographical distribution for those who have a global footprint; and the ever-present need for end-to-end security,” said Lydecker.
Renee Bergeron, AppSmart’s senior vice president and general manager, said partners are turning to “creative solutions,” such as SD-WAN, fixed wireless, and VPN as a service to solve bandwidth problems.
AppSmart’s Renee Bergeron
“Home bandwidth is becoming throttled both by other homes in the area as well as by family members competing for streaming bandwidth,” Bergeron said. “It’s inhibiting virtual meeting effectiveness.”
iTelecom CEO Micah Bevitz said his company adopted this new normal well before the crisis required it. The California-based master agent had already worked with customers to make them “full-time remote ready.”
iTelecom’s Micah Bevitz
That paid dividends when the stay-at-home orders began pouring in.
“All our clients had to say was, ‘OK, let’s work from home now,’ and their teams just went home and worked. They could do that because we had already implemented technology solutions that give the end-user the same experience in the office, at home, or at Starbucks,” Bevitz told Channel Partners.
Bevitz in a LinkedIn post cited hosted desktop companies such as Star2Star that provide a native softphone application.
“When you wrap in a softphone to the desktop you then are able to give your end users the ability to securely work from any location for an extended amount of time without the need for a local IT presence to assist each user because no hardware is sent by the company,” Bevitz wrote.
Bergeron pointed to disaster recovery as a service (DRaaS) as a technology that is …
… quickly moving to the top of priority lists.
“Get ready to have disaster recovery and backup-as-a-service conversations with your clients around distributed workforce. This will affect the entire stack from distributed connectivity, to managed cloud, to software as a service. It’s going to hit fast,” she said.
Joel Hoffman, TBI’s director of information technology, said that for some customers, applications like Microsoft Teams already existed in their system but weren’t being used.
TBI’s Joel Hoffman
“People are now being forced to learn the functionality that everybody’s been touting,” Hoffman told Channel Partners. “They’re going to go, ‘Oh, I can’t believe it does that. That’s fantastic.’ It’s been forced adoption over the last couple weeks.”
And what about the remote-workforce tools that businesses purchased over the course of the last month? Will those go away when quarantines end and licenses expire?
According to Hoffman, no. He said those offerings are here to stay, aside from perhaps providers rolling out new licensing levels.
“I’ve heard really great things about the products, and people are really happy with the tool. I definitely don’t think they’ll go away. I think they’ll just get augmented. Maybe a change here and there,” he said.
Like thousands of companies around the world, in response to #COVID19, #TeamTBI made the decision to put a mandatory #workfromhome policy in place. Learn how our 200+ employees were fully operational, from home, within 24 hours. #RemoteWorkforcehttps://t.co/4UKikf3BYH
— TBI (@TBImasteragent) March 30, 2020
So what’s the new normal?
For the most part, we’re already looking at the new normal. The partners tend to agree that COVID-19 has demonstrated the “increased productivity and cost savings that come from the remote office,” as Bergeron puts it.
Hoffman suggested that the practice of employees coming into the office only two to three times per week may become the standard. That would lead to businesses reducing their office footprint and dynamically schedule workspace use in a process known as “hoteling.”
“People might put up 30 desks for 50 employees,” Hoffman said. “They reserve the desk, they come in, they plug in their machine, they sit down, they forward their UCaaS phone to a phone that’s sitting on there or use the application that’s sitting on the desktop to take phone calls.”
This could drastically change work life for companies residing in large commuter cities like Chicago and New York where “the commutes are ridiculous,” Hoffman said.
“If you could get two days at home a week, that would help your employee satisfaction rate. Your employees’ personal work-life balance would be better,” he said. “The company benefits because of the cost of additional office space for a company that is growing. You don’t need to increase desk space. You just need to make sure that you are utilizing what you have in a hoteling way.”
Partners must ask the question: Do I view this shift to remote work as a temporary disruption? Or is it a final nudge in a wave of digital transformation that was already long due?
We would humbly suggest the latter.
“The rate of change is constantly accelerating, and this epidemic will only contribute to that momentum. Once government mandates to stay at home are over, we’ll see this new rhythm of remote work live on,” Lydecker said. “Enterprises [that] leaned into the challenge of fortifying their cloud-based virtual communities will, undoubtedly, be better for it.”
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