Coronavirus: Digital outbreak ahead

What did we learn so far from the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the comms channel?

That cloud strategies must be fleshed out, the recurring revenue model will ultimately hold sway, the future of the on-site PBX could hang in the balance, and that the shift to digital will happen far quicker than previously expected – with businesses given a ‘kick up the proverbial’.

Whether the on-site PBX market will nosedive, temporarily at best, into a tailspin has long been a moot question. But the issue is now more pressing than ever, as selling, installing and connecting PBXs will be nigh on impossible for the foreseeable future, and organisations are far more likely to seek a cloud-based DR and VoIP solution following their jolt into home working, and will want to be geared up for similar scenarios in the future. “Covid-19 could well be the final nail in the PBX coffin,” stated Dean Burgin, Partner at Boxx. “It’s certainly going to change things. We all need to have agility in our product mix. Being reliant on one service assumes there’s a one size fits all approach to comms. That’s not realistic.”

That the coronavirus could truly redefine the channel landscape is a given, believes Burgin. “If MS Teams Phone System had a better, more established offering, we could have seen a seismic shift even away from many cloud comms providers,” he added. “That is because this situation doesn’t just play into the hands of CSPs, but also IT MSPs.”
There’s no doubt that sales of on-premise solutions will drop during this period of remote working, believes Chris Morrisey, Managing Director at Lily. “But I don’t think demand for CPE will completely dry up,” he added. “It will take more than this to fundamentally shake the system. Most businesses recognise cloud as a future strategy, but are not in a position to consider a replacement yet due to their investment in CPE.

“However, the pandemic has reinforced the need for business owners to review what they could be doing differently, and have a strategy that is future proofed. What coronavirus has done is bring to the fore that remote working and accessibility to systems needs to be seamless and provide flexibility in working – underlined by the importance of good connectivity to support this.”

Pragma Managing Director Tim Brooks expects to see a higher uptake of cloud services over the coming months, but noted that IP-based PBX systems offer the same flexibility and UC functionality for home working as cloud systems. “A number of our resellers are developing remote installation services where a customer can install a pre-configured system themselves,” he stated. “This should help if site visits are not possible.”

Brooks has observed a steady transition from CPE to cloud in recent years. “It’s possible that the travel restrictions could accelerate that trend,” he said. “Businesses that did not act fast enough to deploy a cloud or IP-based system to support home working will do so as soon as possible afterwards, providing a potential lifeline to the comms channel as we endeavour to get back to normal.”
According to Brooks, the conversation is also about upfront versus recurring revenue, and this generally comes back to leasing. “How finance companies fair in the crisis will be key,” he added. “If leasing becomes less accessible it will impact many resellers, regardless of whether they sell cloud or PBX, as they will be using leasing to generate up front revenue.

“If finance providers pull back, then we would expect to see a stronger shift towards cloud with resellers needing to reset their cost base and finance models to cope without a reliance on one-time revenues, towards a higher degree of recurring revenue. While this will be tough for many, those able to make the shift should emerge as stronger businesses.”

It’s also important to note that the coronavirus will have a big impact on stock levels as the globe tackles the crisis which, in turn, will impact the supply chain, observed Julien Parven (pictured), Marketing Director at Daisy Communications. “The industry is working hard to overcome these challenges and continue supplying the nation,” he added. “It’s a challenging time for all businesses but we’re trying our best to stick together, help customers and keep everyone connected and productive.”

It’s an effort that could ultimately come to define a new way of working, noted Parven. “I strongly believe that most of the changes we’re making and seeing within organisations and their relationships with technology will become permanent,” he added. “It’s a situation which has been forced upon the world, but in a business sense it’s probably given everyone a kick up the proverbial.

“Some businesses were possibly guilty of sleepwalking into the digital revolution, but the coronavirus pandemic has forced the issue of going digital and it can no longer be ignored. People are realising that meetings can be done remotely via a videoconferencing tool, and that their people can be trusted to work remotely without seeing a dip in productivity. I doubt we’ll ever fully go back to the world we knew before.”

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