Survey: Many UK organisations leave their collaboration tools vulnerable

Despite work-from-home initiatives that force employees to collaborate remotely, most UK businesses don’t have a backup platform in place should their tool of choice go down.

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More than half of UK employers would struggle to operate for longer than an hour if their collaboration platform went offline, according to research from videoconferencing and collaboration software company StarLeaf.

A recent survey of 2,000 UK-based employers found that 97% of organisations said real-time communication tools  such as Zoom, WebEx, or Microsoft Teams, are now “absolutely essential” to carrying out their operations. But only 32% of CIOs, CISOs, CSOs, and CTOs have an effective fallback option in place should their primary collaboration platform experience an outage.

Furthermore, around 20% of respondents said productivity for remote workers would fall by 100%, as they simply wouldn’t be able to work. In particular, call centre operators and salespeople reported they would be unable to operate without access to communications and collaboration tools.

More widely, respondents are also concerned about the impact of an incident on corporate reputation. Nearly 50% believe that a real-time outage would negatively affect their company because of the inability to communicate with customers, stakeholders, employees, and the outside world.

Kevin Bernitz, chief product officer of StarLeaf, said that the company was surprised by the findings of its survey, especially as remote working has gone from a rarity in some industries to a necessity in just about all. Additionally, he said it was noteworthy that some of the world’s biggest companies still haven’t adjusted to the new normal yet and protected themselves better — particularly since many of those firms boast about how agile and digital-first they are.

Kevin Bernitz, StarLeaf StarLeaf

StarLeaf's chief product officer, Kevin Bernitz.

"The impact of a real-time comms drop off would be very pronounced in sectors such as manufacturing," Bernitz said, with as many as 20% of all traditionally "face-to-face" industries essentially needing to shut down.

“That means you’re looking at manufacturers in the UK, which run on platforms like Slack and Teams, having to halt production in some cases — and considering the global supply-chain issues we’ve been dealing with over the past 18 months, the results of that could be catastrophic," Bernitz said.

Raul Castanon, senior analyst for workforce productivity and collaboration at S&P Global Market Intelligence, said the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital communications – including UCaaS, cloud-based collaboration apps, and digital channels for customer and employee engagement. Despite an major uptick in spending on collaboration tools, most organisations have failed to take steps to mitigate potential issues such as downtime.

“The top priority for organisations in the early days of the pandemic was business continuity; as expected, business communications and collaboration emerged as a critical component,” Castanon said.

Even with the downturn in IT spending that occured in the first half of 2020, collaboration remained a strong category before, during, and after the outbreak, he said.

Post-pandemic spending priorities

A collaboration platform falling offline can hamper more than just a company’s ability to communication internally. Losing contact with customers, especially in an outage goes on for an extended period, could be "devastating for businesses when it comes to revenue and future operations,” Bernitz said.

He acknowledged that many employees might prefer to have fewer communication platforms in their lives, but the reality is that there’s no single leader in the field. Some companies, like Microsoft of Google, offer an entire suite of tools and apps. Others, like Slack and Zoom, are more targeted toward communication channels or video, respectively. And many companies perfer to mix and match, depending on the needs of individual departments or teams.

Even having more than one tool is not always an answer, said Bernitz.

“Having multiple communications platforms does not mean that you are covered in the case of an outage or unavailability, because with potentially thousands of meetings scheduled on, say, [Microsoft] Teams, how is an organisation going to reschedule those meetings, especially if there is no access to their calendar and directory,” he said.

While many companies may not a backup communications platform in place, that doesn’t mean questions of organisational and operational resiliency aren’t top of mind for IT decision-makers.

The S&P Global Market Intelligence’s VoTE: Digital Pulse, Business Reinvention & Transformation 2021 survey found that the factors most often identified as more important to enterprise decision-making now include information security, employee productivity, agility, business continuity, and efficiency.

Additionally, when it comes to post-pandemic spending, Castanon said priorities have started to shift. According to the S&P Global Market Intelligence survey, nearly all enterprises surveyed reported their ways of working have been at least slightly transformed since the beginning of 2020, with 42% indicating a significant change in how they do business.

“Among those, most expect to be fundamentally different going forward, in that they are significantly more reliant on remote work, significantly more reliant on technology for internal collaboration, and significantly less reliant on business travel,” Castanon said.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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