Nearly a year into this remote work experiment and organizations are still trying to figure out just how exactly IT should manage their remote and hybrid workforce.
A myriad of unified communication and collaboration apps, VPNs, employee experience tools and internet service providers are all in play as IT works to ensure a consistent user experience and keep productivity levels high.
We spoke to Ray Krug, director of product marketing at NETSCOUT, about these challenges and what IT can do to keep remote workers connected and keep shadow IT to a minimum.
What has NETSCOUT identified as the main challenges that IT faces in keeping remote employees connected?
When it comes to Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C), there are many deployment architectures that our customers use. Increasingly they are moving from solely on-premises deployments to cloud and Software as a Service, and more often than not, a hybrid. Either way, the challenges of managing the user experience are essential. UC&C is a mission-critical application, and with these diverse deployments, it is more complex to manage.
Modern techniques have changed how remote users are connected. VPNs connect through the internet to data centers and colocation facilities that relay to UC or cloud UC services. As a result, it is vital to manage VPN concentrator performance and internet pipe capacity to data centers.
Continuous visibility of the user experience is critical in adapting to constant change. Even when it comes to cloud-serviced UC, you can’t just leave it up to [SaaS] providers to make sure your users have a great experience. After all, it is your business at stake.
Communication with your remote workforce – and your customers – needs to have a consistent, premium quality to receive benefit from collaboration tools and service your business and your customers. When UC crosses IT’s management domain, it’s critical to know if it is your IT issue and in your enterprise data centers (i.e., somewhere in your control so that you can fix it) or if it’s a provider problem that requires escalation.
IT needs to quickly escalate issues to the right teams and provide the evidence to the team, or [SaaS] provider, to help them solve problems quickly and get your business back on track.
As we move forward into a more hybrid work environment, what challenges can we anticipate?
It boils down to constant change. As users move from being remote to being back in the office, traffic profiles change, and therefore, demands on the infrastructure change. Continuous visibility of the user experience in UC services allows IT to adapt quickly to the changing patterns of UC demand as people move between office and home environments.
What are some common challenges employees have with UC&C apps?
Switching on the mics! Or more precisely, switching between different UC platforms often causes a problem for the users and the PC. Switching between platforms generates complexity instead of ensuring ease-of-use.
How have IT departments responded to those challenges?
Some organizations have changed their platform; others have adopted the multi-vendor approach. What’s necessary for UC vendors is to attach themselves to a standards-based approach to voice and video transported over the network. RTP and SIP have been long-adopted standards to transport voice, video, and signaling.
If UC vendors adhere to standards as much as possible, the interoperability will be cleaner, ease-of-use will benefit, and of course, performance can improve. Standards pave the way for a holistic approach to monitoring service quality across the different enterprise network architecture domains.
These approaches are critical to UC quality, user experience, and managing the service quality of the platforms.
What are some of the issues the IT community has yet to resolve about remote work?
Bandwidth contention for users at home, as well as internet performance, and internet service provider profiling. While some of these are out of IT’s control, if they did have visibility into which ISPs are in play, from which locations, they may determine how to improve the performance of the work-from-home experience.
There are tons of collaboration apps on the marketplace these days, but how many should an organization use? How many are too many?
Supporting multiple platforms is difficult for IT to keep up. Tool consolidation has always been a goal for IT. However, this effort is thwarted by shadow IT practices, especially by users going their way if current IT platforms don’t deliver. Other reasons are, of course, mergers and acquisitions – you inherit more platforms.
IT needs to strive towards adopting standards-based platforms, making things easier to deploy and look after. They can more easily move with the times and adopt new innovative UC&C technologies to be more competitive and operate a better workplace.
What does the IT department need to do to keep employees connected during remote/hybrid work?
Keeping people connected is one thing, but it’s not just about connection – it’s about the quality of the UC experience. If that suffers, then the business suffers: either the remote workers can’t communicate efficiently with each other, reducing collaboration effectiveness as well as potentially leading to reduced uptake of the UC platform, or even the diversion to other technologies (such as picking up the mobile phone), leading to insecure, or ‘un-recorded,’ activities.
Or, of course, and perhaps more importantly, if you’re operating remote contact center operations from home, then ineffective communication with your customers can lead to customer frustration as well as possible churn.
So, IT needs the visibility to ensure the quality of the UC services they deliver to their users and ultimately the effectiveness of the collaboration tools they are providing to keep the business running.
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