As we come up to the end of the year, I find it a time for reflection, to look back and take stock of all that has happened in the year just gone, and to look forward to what may come in the next.
This time last year, no one could have imagined what the year 2020 was going to deliver, the restrictions we have had to endure and the challenges we’ve all had to face.
On a business level, those of us in IT have been fortunate, in that it is our solutions and services that have been key to helping businesses adjust to the restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The need for flexible and remote working has seen the acceleration of the demand for digital transformation and adoption of some of the technologies highlighted in my 2020 predictions blog.
So, supporting customers with solutions and services to ensure ‘secure, flexible and remote working’ is going to continue to be a key focus in 2021. Here are 10 key areas that I believe will provide big opportunities to help customers adapt to the new way of working.
Secure, flexible remote working
Providing secure, flexible access solutions through modern cloud-based services will be key to helping businesses adapt and be able to continue to provide services to their own customers. For me, central to this is Microsoft 365 for both individual and team productivity, and I believe we will see a lot of innovation from Microsoft and other ISVs in building solutions that help better engage and support remote workers.
IT Security remains top of the buying agenda for most businesses, and providing security solutions for users working outside the office is a major opportunity for IT providers – whether through delivering:
- effective identity management systems
- end-user education to spot suspect activity
- comprehensive cyber protection for devices and content
- protection from malware and the ever-increasing number of phishing attacks that look to take advantage of fears arising from COVID-19.
End-user education is about much more than just security awareness training. It is also about advising on how to use and be productive with the new tools that enable flexible remote working. Building a ‘would you like training with that’ offering will help increase both higher margin services revenue and help customers gain value more quickly from their new IT systems.
Microsoft Teams has seen explosive growth, with the number of active daily users having increased from 20m to over 115m in the space of a year.
Teams is not only a platform for communication and remote collaboration, but a platform for streamlining business processes. The combination of PowerApps, Power Automate and the new Dataverse for Teams service, creates the opportunity to help customers implement new automated streamlined processes, to reduce cost and create new experiences for their own customers.
Enabling employees to speak with customers was one of the biggest challenges facing businesses during lockdown, where legacy on-premises PBXs couldn’t follow workers home. The restrictions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic along with the impending 2025 shut-down of ISDN will continue to see the demand for cloud telephony take centre stage in the next few years.
Modern IT infrastructure
The ability to access internal systems whilst away from the office has become critical, and while the move to cloud productivity with services such as Office 365 and Microsoft 365 has been taking place for years, the move of on-premises servers and applications has lagged behind.
Migrating on-premises servers and the associate business applications to Microsoft Azure or to equivalent SaaS offerings, presents a bigger opportunity for providers than that of moving users’ productivity needs to Microsoft 365. Solutions such as Windows Virtual Desktop, for example, can provide remote users with a consistent working experience whether at home, at the coffee shop, or in the office.
Delivering a cost optimisation service for new cloud services is central to the successful move of customers to the public cloud, and continuing to monitor and manage the optimisation of these solutions critical to helping customers keep services as efficient and costs as low as possible.
Supporting users in multiple locations is what we in the IT channel have been doing effectively for years, and so as the workforce disperses to their homes and other remote locations, more and more businesses I believe will need help in supporting those users effectively through new outsourced managed services, with a particular opportunity around managed security for users’ identities, their devices, applications and data.
The events of 2020 and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have turned the notion of traditional IT managed services on its head. Looking after end-users and on-premises servers can no longer be delivered by going ‘on-site’.
Modern cloud-based solutions that support users and services wherever they are, need to become the norm. Microsoft has been investing to make this easier for partners and the introduction of Lighthouse for Microsoft 365, joining Azure Lighthouse, is an important management platform that providers need to understand and take advantage of.
Company culture, staff engagement and skills development
We all know that “culture eats strategy for breakfast” (management consultant and writer Peter Drucker), and keeping the culture of the business strong when teams aren’t all together in the office will continue to be a significant challenge.
I expect to see a lot of innovation and experimentation as businesses seek to keep their teams engaged, around the development of strong inter-personal relationships and promotion of a common purpose. This will be particularly needed when workers aren’t only recruited from the local area, but potentially from anywhere in the world.
Continuing to invest in employee training and development, both in personal and technical skills, will need to be central to any business planning, to help close the skills gap - which exists in organisations across industry - and keep everyone motivated.
Perhaps one of the key lessons to take from the events of 2020 when looking forward, is to recognise that life - and the world of business - can change overnight, and that IT providers need to be supporting customers to be able to face challenges with as little disruption as possible, whatever happens.
At Vuzion, we believe that cloud is the way forward for every business, providing the solutions and services they need, and that enable our partners to develop and grow their business.
If you’re not yet a Vuzion partner, and would like to know more about the solutions and services we can help you deliver, call any of the Vuzion team (0333 009 5939) - or send us an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas and fantastic 2021.