As the year draws to a close, we sit down with our U.K Sales Director, Ed House, to discuss trends over the last year, and look towards another busy year in the UC industry.
What are the most significant trends you’ve seen in 2021 and do you see these trends continuing into 2022?
“To the second part of that question, yes, I do see the trends accelerating.
For a lot of businesses video has always been on the edge of the cliff in terms of whether it was a critical business tool or a nice to have within a company.
Obviously, the pandemic pushed it over the cliff and now it is firmly seen as a business tool and a necessity to have some sort of video communication. The leaders of that change have been the likes of Microsoft Teams, Zoom and some of the other Cloud players. That’s quite important to mention that it is Cloud because another trend that I’ve seen is that Cloud adoption and usage has been massive.
What I’ve seen, and the behaviour from IT Directors and companies, is that they are now looking at contingency and fall-back measures as a top tier priority.
And I don’t see that going away as we move into 2022. I see that just accelerating and I see people spending a lot of money on the right tools.
A lot of partners have gone and got what they’ve needed to. Now they’re consolidating. I think we’re now at the tail end of that.
The next challenge that we’ve had is chipsets. If we, as a supplier, can’t get hold of a product, we need another route to market so that we can still supply alternative holistic video solutions.
Before, I saw a lot of companies having their preferred supplier, and that is the one they lead with. I’m now seeing a trend in partners actually thinking “well chipset shortages mean that I can’t get any video sound bars so I need an alternative”. So, what they’re looking at now, as part of their contingency program, is to carry more than one key logo so that if one manufacturer supplier suffers from a shortage, they’re still able to supply their customers and their end users with product.”
Do you see those challenges continuing into 2022, or do you have any other challenges that you can see resellers facing in 2022?
“I definitely think the chipset shortage is far from over. As a result, there’s millions and millions of pounds and probably millions of units in a backlog that people are still waiting for on back order within the industry as a whole. I think this issue will stay with us for a little while yet. I also think people will have to be resourceful and adapt and utilise some of the different solutions and different ways of working to combat that.
We – Nuvias UC – have understood that there are also requirements for things like onboarding and different ways of training people; every company has had to adapt.
Remote onboarding can be challenging for some roles. A video call potentially doesn’t lend itself to remote training as efficiently as being in-person, so there’s opportunities there for different services and solutions that can come to market now.
We’ve also seen an interesting trend in people asking about working from home contracts; there’s been a real shift in expectations and what companies can cater for. We still think there is huge value in the office setting, but this expectation from workers now shouldn’t be overlooked. With the uncertainty and restrictions surrounding different virus variants, partners have got to have a contingency program.
When lockdown was lifted and people started to go back into the office, we started to see a trend of people buying more video room systems because they were used to certain platforms when working remotely. They’re then going back into the office, and they want to be able to have that same experience.
But again, things can change quickly and that’s where the contingency planning comes in. I think people and companies are spending a lot more money now based on what could happen. Whereas a lot of people got caught very cold with the last lock down and the pandemic in general. So, I think now it’s integral to make sure their workforces can work just as efficiently remotely as they can in the office.”
What role have Cloud technologies played this year and what are some of the benefits?
“I’d probably say the speed of delivery of Cloud services has been massive and the activation of those services.
With WebRTC you can just get a download license, click a link, type in a few details. You then send a link to the required attendees, and you can all be talking straight away. Those services have really benefited businesses, and luckily Nuvias UC had the technology at the time to be able to offer to workforces when we had to go into lockdown.
We’re also focusing on how those Cloud contracts are consumed. Some have required that you have to buy a year up front, whereas what we’ve got now is a different consumption model.
So, you can buy direct routing as a service from Nuvias UC. You can then buy an SBC as-a-service which are security firewall transversal products, or services allowing you to conduct audio conferencing or video calls over the internet securely and then pay for those monthly.
Now you don’t get tied to having to buy it for a year. Because of the pandemic, there’s so much uncertainty. This also offers opportunities to scale according to your needs. You can scale it down rather than just being held to an annual contract that’s then in situ and ‘locked in’. And sometimes it can be difficult to outlay a lot of cash, whereas if you suddenly defer that over 12 months, yes, there’s a finance charge, but it means that you’ve potentially got more money in the bank if suddenly there is an eventuality where you have to shell out on something else.”
“The speed of delivery of Cloud services has been massive [this year].”
You mentioned how the perception of video has changed over time. So how has the role of video changed over the last two years?
“I’ve been in the video industry now coming on nearly 15 years. For the majority of that time video was not being viewed as a ‘must have’; you could always rely solely on audio communication to get on with business. I think Microsoft has played a massive part in the rise of video adoption over recent years, especially with the acquisition of Skype.
But also, what has happened over the last two years is not just the advancement in video technology, but the perception of video as a work tool.
We’ve now proved that you can work from home and video is a viable tool and a solution to help employees keep working when they are so remote and dispersed across the U.K.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a key advocate of the office. I think you do get an increase in productivity when people come together in an office, but what the pandemic has done for video communication is shown that we have an infrastructure to be able to support it and it did prove to people that you can have office quality ‘tools’ when working from home.”
How important is automating the sales and ordering process, especially in the current climate?
“I think it’s paramount. It’s in our day-to-day lives anyway.
If you look at some of these e-commerce platforms, how do you buy something and get it delivered the next day? I go into my Amazon Prime account, I click on what I want, and after a few more steps the purchasing process is complete. It doesn’t have lots of people inputting POs or sending emails; it’s simple.
Automation is massive and that’s just a great example of how easy the ordering process could be in the UC distribution space.
Nuvias UC‘s drive towards automation is a massive focus for us, and the emphasis towards our applications and webstore, such as Hub, are so important.
Not just to make sure we’re more efficient, but also to make sure every part of the procurement chain is sufficient and that we have the ability to expose our portal to an end user.
What we allow our channel to be able to do is to equally utilise the benefits of that efficiency. So, if somebody wants to buy a headset, they log into Hub.
We can build it with the reseller’s brand, give the end user access to that portal so we can say to the IT Director, rather than people coming to you all the time, you can use ‘this’ code to go and buy a headset from Hub, which will then flow all the way through Nuvias UC with the headset arriving there the next business day. It won’t need to touch the IT Director; it won’t need to touch any of the purchasing teams or anybody within our customer or sales and support teams. It will go straight down to our warehouse to be processed.
This means that users of Hub benefit from reduced errors.
It’s also quite a lot of heavy lifting to do for just a few headsets, so we’re giving partners the option to automate as much of it as possible.
Ultimately, it’s just a better user experience for that end user as well. Once they place an order, they’ll get an automated response, and it will come straight down to our warehouse.
As I said, it’s also what people are used to in the consumer space. Internet shopping has been a mainstay long before the pandemic.
And again, with our ambitions of growth, if we want to grow at the same rate, using more manual ordering processes, we’d have to double the staff in our support teams. That’s just not viable.
Linking back to my contingency measures, what happens if suddenly we get an outbreak of Covid and all of those people are off? We then can’t process orders.
We have to automate as much as possible to make sure that we’re resilient and can tackle any further challenges the pandemic may bring.”
“Nuvias UC’s drive towards automation is a massive focus for us, and the emphasis towards our applications and webstore, such as Hub, are so important.”