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The Channel's Pivotal Role in Enabling Hybrid Working

It's time to rethink service offerings. Respond to customers' desire for flexibility.

May 3, 2021

5 Min Read
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By Mike Hallam

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Mike Hallam

The way we work is about to change. Thanks to the vaccine rollout, we will soon shift from a mass work-from-home model toward a hybrid framework.

Employees will be free to split their time between their homes, the office or customer sites, depending on what suits them and their employers best. The Civil Service, PWC and Nationwide are just a few of the many major organisations that have committed to giving their people more power to choose where and how they work.

This could have a major economic impact. Flexible working could drive efficiency gains that will contribute to a £232 billion boost to UK GDP by 2040, according to our study with the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).

Digital transformation, which has accelerated over the last year as end-customers have invested in cloud applications to survive and stabilise, will enable this transition.

But to support new ways of working, there is a need to consider whether networks are fit for purpose. Some 77% felt their Covid-19 response was hindered by the state of their networking infrastructure, according to our research into 500 senior IT managers at large organisations.

So, there is an opportunity for the connectivity channel to get closer to end-customers and help them as they look to implement hybrid working in a way that empowers organisations and improves productivity.

Making the Case for Connectivity

A global product lead at Bloomberg noted in an April article that “data accessibility is the future of work.”

With more employees collaborating from different locations, the success of an organisation will increasingly depend on the speed at which workers can access information and communicate with their colleagues.

End-customers recognise this and are growing concerned that their connectivity infrastructure isn’t able to withstand such large volumes of data.

Some 38% told us that their networks haven’t provided them with the agility needed to support remote working since the pandemic struck. And exactly the same proportion are looking to their channel supplier to guide them toward more flexible solutions.

This creates an opportunity for channel partners to make the case for advanced connectivity technologies.

One example is National High Capacity Services, point-to-point services that provide superfast speeds at low latency, and can help end-customers meet the demands of an “Operate from Anywhere” model.

The product can move massive amounts of data quickly and securely between sites in national and local settings. Better yet, it’s relatively easy to install and integrate into customers’ existing networks, minimising the possibility of further disruption, something organisations can ill afford after a year of pandemic restrictions.

Another advantage is that it provides businesses with added resilience. As a point-to-point service across a private network, it’s difficult to intercept and is inherently secure.

This is particularly important at a time when UK businesses are facing around 2,000 new cyber-attacks every day, according to Beaming, which is a significant increase from 2020.

With awareness of these technologies relatively low, and end customers wanting strategic consultancy on how best to support flexible working, there is a clear opportunity for the channel to …

… share their expertise and argue for their adoption.

Less Transactional, More Strategic

To help businesses implement hybrid working and capitalise on its benefits, the connectivity channel should aim to get closer to them.

This is necessary to deepen its understanding of the challenges each customer faces, which differ enormously between industries.

But the conversations we had with senior IT managers suggest we aren’t doing enough right now. Some 31% of potential end customers say their relationship with their partner is too transactional. And 33% say that they’d like their supplier to give them more knowledge and expertise to help them overcome challenges.

Changing these perceptions is about supporting end customers in achieving long-term gains rather than looking for quick fixes. It is about the channel thinking of itself as a consultant as opposed to a supplier.

By investing in relationships over the long term and becoming more strategic in our approach, the channel can build solutions that succeed operationally, technically and commercially, and set end customers up for a work from anywhere model and the Covid-19 rebound.

Flexible Models for Flexible Working

With working patterns changing so dramatically, it is worth considering the channel’s approach not just to technology, but to the way it delivers services to customers.

It’s not just the products that need to provide flexibility. The service itself should be flexible as well – for example, providing customers with on-demand, portal applications which enable people to log on at any time and get the service they need.

This is important because, in a hybrid working model, businesses may wish to scale bandwidth up and down at any given time.

To strengthen their relationships with customers, it would be worth channel partners rethinking service offerings and responding to this appetite for flexibility.

A New Working Day

It’s clear the wholesale connectivity ecosystem has a pivotal role to play in ushering in the new working day, where employees are free to work how they want, and customers achieve increases in efficiency and output. As well as helping end-customers deliver flexible working more effectively for their employees, the channel can strengthen commercial relationships and contribute to the broader £232 billion economic opportunity.

Mike Hallam is executive managing director of wholesale for Virgin Media Business. Previously he worked at Olive Communications, Wish Communications, Caudwell Group and GE. You may follow him on LinkedIn or @vmbusiness on Twitter.

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