The COVID-19 pandemic has created such rapid and widespread hardship and disruption for so many people, it’s hard to imagine life returning to some level of normal.  But given that Americans have survived and thrived in spite of two world wars, and a great depression – not to mention numerous natural disasters —  we’re confident “this too shall pass”.  When it does, what will the telecom landscape look like? How will it have changed?

We don’t have a crystal ball, but we think it’s safe to assume one of the biggest changes with implications for the telecom industry will be far greater use of remote working (aka work from home or telecommuting).   In many areas of the country, and in many industries, businesses are not only allowing employees and contractors to work remotely – they’re requiring it for anyone who can. Of course, for some, when the worst is over, they will go back to their offices — for productivity reasons and for the social support that comes from working with others.

But even before COVID-19 came to dominate the headlines, remote working has been gaining traction.  According to industry surveys, the number of Americans working from home or on the road has risen by about 9% per year in the last decade.  And for a whopping 74% of new workers, the ability to work remotely at least some of the time is seen as an important employment perk.  Now that millions more Americans are suddenly learning to work remotely — and employers are learning to manage remotely, enterprise IT organizations are facing a new and challenging environment.

A New Challenge for Enterprise Telecom Management

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerates this trend.  We believe “work from home” will go from a good business practice that has perks for the company and its employees, to a required part of many businesses’ corporate infrastructure and operating model.  Just as how laptops went from a nice perk for frequent travelers to the standard computing hardware for virtually all employees, this change is here to stay.

As a result, in the next phase of remote working, the impacts won’t be “tactical”, but a transformation of enterprise IT and telecom operations. This transformation should not be taken lightly. If companies are not set up to operate remotely, they will be at a disadvantage.

So how can enterprises tackle this? One useful paradigm has been popularized by Marcus Lemonis of NBC’s “The Profit”. Marcus argues that successful companies excel at 3 Ps: Product – Process – People.   Enterprise IT and telecom managers can design their work from home strategy around these 3 P’s.

Product.  This is the easiest to start with.  Telecom and technology vendors have already started to market their solutions as work from home friendly.  Enterprise buyers will need a trusted advisor like a channel partner or MSP to navigate this new product landscape.

Process. Enterprises can’t just buy remote-friendly products.  They have to structure their operating model to be work from home friendly. New processes are needed not only to select and purchase these solutions, but to manage their deployment, their use, and their support.  Enterprises don’t want to be so focused on buying technology, that they forget how to track and manage the costs.  We’ve all seen situations where a company goes from “let’s get XYZ software solution for everyone -hooray!” to “How many licenses do we have?  How much does it cost? Are people using it?”

People: We believe one of the biggest risks in the shift to remote working is that companies will focus on product and process but overlook the people aspect.  Companies will need to “train” their staff to operate in a WFH world. Managers will need to lead teams that are working remotely.  They will need to find ways to maintain a positive company culture and morale even if people no longer physically work in the same location.  As a great report from GitLab points out, they will need to debunk remote work myths.

The Opportunity for MSPs and Channel Partners

In short, in the new work from the home era, the challenges facing enterprises and the MSPs, and channel partners that serve them aren’t purely technological.  With the rollout of 5G wireless and fiber to curb connectivity, getting a high-speed internet connection will be relatively easy.  There are plenty of VPN tools, web conferencing, cybersecurity, collaborative work applications, and remote access solutions available.  The challenge will be setting up and managing business processes – the network management side or “back-office” of telecom.

Does this create a new opportunity for MSPs and Channel Partners? We think so. Many enterprises will look to MSPs and channel partners who can provide a total solution that helps them with the “product-process-people” journey of this transformation.  In order to capture this opportunity, MSPs and channel partners need make sure they have the back-office processes and systems in place to support their customers while they are on this journey.  We’ll soon find out.  In the meantime, stay well!