2021: The Year of the Cloud

The start of a new year always brings with it the promise of a brighter future. Looking back at 2020, it’s easy to imagine that better days must be ahead. From a work perspective, to say that the past year was incredibly surprising and frustrating would be an understatement. The pandemic threw a sizable wrench into everything everywhere. And you don’t have to go farther than your daily news feed to see that many businesses are still struggling with the adjustments they need to make to continue working in the current environment.

If you’re like most business managers working through those adjustments, you’ve probably had it up to your eyeballs with the phrase “the new normal.” Afterall, at which point does a daily work routine lose its newness and become just plain normal? Obviously, the way we work has changed and it may never be as it was again. So, moving into 2021, we have two options: We can lament the loss of the past or we can embrace the promise of the future.

If you’re an optimist, the adjustments we have all had to make to enable remote working can be seen as the precursors of the brighter future that the new year promises. And 2021 can be the year that you truly leverage the cloud to enable a more efficient and productive operation.

The Need For Business Continuity Drives Change

When business historians look back on 2020, they’ll note that the pandemic created the need for a change to the way we work. And they will probably point out that the adjustments to daily work processes that were needed to maintain business continuity created a paradigm shift to a cloud-first mindset.

The abrupt change from centralized to decentralized work-from-home operations created an urgent demand for technologies that would allow employees to continue to compute, connect, communicate and collaborate from anywhere. While no new technology was invented, cloud-based unified communication and video collaboration technologies that were considered nice-to-have novelties were suddenly in great demand. Enterprises that made the transition were able to do so quickly because companies like Mitel have been promoting the business benefits of the cloud for years, and the systems and solutions needed to enable the shift to the cloud were already available.

Sales and usage skyrocketed. The number of first-time users of video collaboration applications, for example, rose 26.2% in just six months, and the use of mobile apps increased 35% over the same time period. With these and other cloud-based technologies, enterprises maintained business continuity by enabling employees to seamlessly interact with colleagues, partners, suppliers and customers from anywhere.

During that same six months, the cloud became the economic enabler it was always meant to be with increased usage reported for a variety of cloud-based applications:

  • 28.2% jump in first-time use of telemedicine
  • 20.6% increase in first-time use of kiosks
  • 27.5% rise in use of mobile ordering applications
  • 18.4% increase in use of mobile payment applications
  • 22.7% jump in use of alternative payment applications

Moving Forward In The Cloud

Now that the use cases have proven the reliability of the cloud, the adoption of cloud-based technologies by consumers and businesses will continue to increase. At the enterprise level, CIOs and CEOs are already pointing to the path forward.

A global study conducted in 2020 revealed that 95% of companies around the world will continue to keep at least 5% of their workforce home. Meanwhile, IDG Research reports that 48% of enterprise CIOs say that optimizing employee digital experiences is now one of their key priorities. And 37% say that their CEOs have indicated that enabling digital transformation should be a focus as they work through the current disruption.

As enterprises focus on digital transformation, cloud-based communication capabilities that were suddenly in great demand at the start of 2020 will become table stakes in 2021. Therefore, a cloud-first mindset should be the foundation of any enterprise communications strategy. Enterprise managers developing business continuity plans that will see them through any future disruptions should be considering how to integrate cloud-based communications solutions into their operations. With the cloud, enterprises can empower employees to be more connected, efficient and productive wherever they work. Employees can access any feature from anywhere on any device, and the need to go to a physical office will be virtually eliminated.

Beyond these obvious benefits, cloud-based options tick all the boxes on the value chart of what enterprises need from a 21st century communications solution:

  • Agility: Cloud-delivered services can be rolled out as fast as an organization needs them. This enables rapid innovation and reduces time to market with new offerings that meet market demand.
  • Cost efficiency: Enterprises can provision what they need today and then add new features and applications when they need them.
  • Instant access: Employees can use new features as soon as they are available instead of having to wait months or even years to go through testing and refresh processes.
  • Advanced features: By leveraging the virtually limitless processing power and reach of cloud-based systems, new features that harness the potential of AI, IoT, facial recognition and feature-rich video collaboration technologies can be added easily.

Taking The Right Steps

Of course, every enterprise will have a different path to the cloud. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and all enterprises will make the transition at their own pace. Timing should be determined by business need and all requirements should be understood before a migration plan is developed and the first step is taken.

To make the process smoother, make an effort to understand the communications needs of your employees and your customers. Both groups can provide valuable insights based on first-hand experience with your existing communication infrastructure and where it can be improved to meet their needs. By building a culture of partnership and understanding, there is a better chance that the cloud solution you implement will deliver the productivity, efficiency and customer service benefits your business needs.

Likewise, as you embrace the promise of a cloud-based future, take a hard look at all your cloud options. The word “cloud” is a very broad term with multiple definitions and not all cloud-based communications solutions are created equal. Understanding the difference between a public cloud that provides software as a service (SaaS), a private cloud dedicated to your organization and a hybrid cloud that mixes on-premises and private cloud resources is critical. With that understanding, you’ll be better equipped to map out a cloud strategy and define a normal business communications environment that is tailored to your unique operation and business continuity requirements.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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