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Managing Through Bumpy Times

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Image: Brain light - Alamy Stock Photo
The global economy is facing a growing number of challenges. High inflation rates around the world, driven by rising energy costs, have increased the cost of doing business and decreased disposable income for consumers. Supply chain disruptions in China and elsewhere as a result of the continuing coronavirus pandemic further add to rising costs. To combat inflation, central banks are raising interest rates to slow economic growth. These conditions have led to many companies in the tech space and the broader economy reducing earnings outlooks for the remainder of 2022, creating wide swings in stock prices as investors look for stability over risk.
IT leaders may feel insulated from these conditions, but not for long. History teaches us that the so-called “bursting of the tech bubble” in the early 2000’s and the recession brought on by the financial crisis of 2007-08 created fundamental changes in the ways organizations invest in and use technology. Here are five ways that IT, and more specifically those responsible for communications and collaboration, should prepare for the road ahead.
1. It’s all about costs: In times of economic uncertainty, many organizations take a hard look at current spending and put the brakes on new spending. For those tech pros responsible for collaboration and communications, this is likely to mean revisiting licenses, software deployments, and utilization to look for opportunities to reduce redundancies, eliminate unnecessary costs, and optimize go-forward spending. Companies using multiple apps for messaging, meetings, and calls are likely to be under pressure to consolidate and will look to do so on solutions that offer the highest value for dollars spent. Cloud services that offer flexible, usage-based pricing are likely to prove even more attractive.
2. You can’t manage what you can’t measure: In Metrigy’s Unified Communications Management and Endpoints: 2021-22 global study of approximately 400 companies, we found that just over half of participants take the time to assess the value of their investments in communications and collaboration technologies. Just under 37% have measured cost savings, 31% have measured how improved communications and collaboration capabilities lead to increased revenue, and 52.3% have documented productivity gains. These numbers need to get much, much higher. If you aren’t evaluating your investments in UC&C by determining business value, you risk having collaboration apps be viewed by senior management as ‘nice to have rather than contributors toward improving organizational efficiency.
3. The future is hybrid: Today, our research shows that just over 20% of companies plan to bring employees back to the office on a full-time basis. Companies are likely to continue support for work-from-home and hybrid work to reduce real estate costs and employee out-of-pocket costs associated with commuting (e.g., gas, parking, mass transit, etc.). This means your communications and collaboration strategy going forward must ensure that employees can effectively work from any location.
4. Outsourcing and contract workers will grow: As part of the push to reduce costs, organizations will be under tremendous pressure to reduce overall staffing costs. One way to do so is to shift from hiring full-time employees to hiring part-time and project-based ones, and to use managed service providers when possible (and cost-effective). From a UC&C perspective this means ensuring that you have the capabilities to provision, and secure access to apps from any location, with appropriate policies in place to control access based on Zero Trust principles. This means effective access controls such as single sign-on, logging, and so on, especially for contractors accessing corporate information through their personal or contractor–owned devices.
5. Employee experience is more critical than ever: Economic uncertainty brings with it tremendous stress. Business and IT leaders must ensure they have the tools in place to measure employee engagement and well-being, and the ability to respond to concerns as they arise. This means adopting approaches such as conducting end-user surveys, while also looking at analytics that measures overall employee engagement. It also means ensuring open communications so that employees understand leadership views, management approaches for mitigating risk, and ways that employees can provide input and feedback. From a collaboration and communications perspective, this means ensuring that information briefings and meetings such as executive town-halls enable interaction so that employee voices are heard.
Nobody knows for sure what the next six months will look like, but past economic downturns led to fundamental changes in the role of enterprise IT. A proactive approach focused on optimizing spending, measuring investment effectiveness, aligning technologies with the shifting ways of work, enabling flexible staffing, and ensuring employee engagement are the pillars of success.
This article was originally published on June 1, 2022. (click here for the original article)