Many people have discovered many things since shifting to work-from-home (WFH) mode, including the importance of locking the door during virtual meetings and how to avoid that unflattering up-the-nose angle during video chats.
In short, people fortunate enough to be able to work from home during this pandemic have discovered remote technologies as a lifeline to keep their businesses and organizations going.
The rush to work remotely has dramatically boosted the use of cloud-based conferencing and collaboration apps. According to Forrester analyst Jay McBain, during the first 11 days of March, Microsoft gained 12 million new Teams users and Cisco’s Webex racked up 5.5 billion meeting minutes.
Although his Forrester colleagues predict global IT spending will slow to just two per cent growth this year, McBain himself wrote in a recent research note that “the only positive notes would be continued growth in demand for cloud infrastructure services and potential increases in spending on specialized software, communications equipment, and telecom services for remote work and education, as firms encourage workers to work from home and schools move to online courses.”
IDC concurs. Although its overall forecast is more dire than Forrester’s—IDC expects global ICT spending to actually decline by 2.7 per cent this year—IDC VP Stephen Minton suggested in an updated outlook “there will be pockets of opportunity for software and related services during the next six months as organizations create response measures focused around increased remote work and collaboration.”
The gazillion-dollar question is: will this upswing in UCaaS uptake last?
Post-pandemic UCaaS outlook
Will enterprises start seeking more robust, multi-feature UCaaS solutions so they can make WFH a bigger part of their disaster contingency playbook, even beyond the current pandemic?
Gartner’s Craig Roth isn’t so sure.
While he predicts “a short-term bump in revenues” for vendors of web conferencing and virtual collaboration solutions, he believes those gains will be offset by an overall downturn in IT spending and massive layoffs that will see companies slash SaaS subscriptions to cut costs.
“The total available market is expected to shrink at the same time” as the demand for UCaaS spikes, Roth pointed out in a recent note. “These products tend to be licensed month-to-month as SaaS, so spending can be cut rapidly in response to poor economic conditions,” wrote Roth, a Gartner research VP who focuses on cloud-based office suites, collaboration tools and content management solutions.
Veteran UCaaS watcher Irwin Lazar agrees that the current growth will be tempered by less favourable conditions over the longer term.
“(UCaaS demand) went from 30 miles an hour to 200 miles per hour in the last month. The market is growing and that’s the positive side,” Lazar, VP and service director at Nemertes Research, told us in an interview from his home office in Virginia.
“The flip side is their customers running into problems with paying their bills or having to cancel their services. We’re feeding off the caffeine high now of enabling working from home but there is going to be a significant economic slowdown,” Lazar said.
Lazar does, however, believe the pandemic-based rush to work from home will hasten a trend that was already underway: the shift from on-premise UC&C to cloud-based UCaaS. He also said the surge in WFH has “accelerated interest in moving enterprise phone systems into the cloud as well, which is usually the holdout” on the long list of IT budget priorities at many organizations.
COVID-19 and China’s IT outlook
Since China is two or three months ahead of the rest of the world in dealing with COVID-19, a look at how the virus is affecting Chinese IT spending could be prescient for the rest of the global enterprise community.
IDC surveyed 133 C-level execs in 10 different industries across China during multiple weeks in February, when the coronavirus outbreak was at or near its peak in that country.
The virus obviously had overwhelmingly negative effects on sectors throughout China, with execs ranking the top three harmful business impacts this way:
- inability to visit customers
- significant decline in sales performance
- inability to resume production
Yet the survey also hints that COVID-19 could result in a more positive trend for IT adoption at Chinese businesses over the long term:
- 65 per cent of surveyed enterprises in China say they now plan to implement WFH technologies
- 76 per cent now plan to adopt enterprise collaboration platforms
- since the coronavirus crisis, the top focus for digital transformation at Chinese enterprises has become “creating new telecommuting and enterprise collaboration systems”
“The outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic fully showcases the value of IT systems,” IDC researchers stated in their Chinese survey findings. The virus, they concluded, has resulted in “wide recognition of the value of digital transformation and information technology among all employees.”
This unprecedented situation has made us all realize how many things we took for granted, like being able to walk freely outside, give someone a hug—or gather with our work colleagues to talk, joke and share our ideas while sitting together in one room.
Whether your team members are holding seamless virtual meetings across the globe or still figuring out why their video screen is stuck in sideways mode, we’re discovering or rediscovering the power of technologies that are keeping us productive—and connected.