Start Planning Now for Better Communication in 2021

Sept. 30, 2020

By Jim Anderson

It’s safe to say we all learned lots of lessons – CEC included! – as we made sudden shifts to keep businesses, schools, and healthcare organizations running amid COVID-19.

We’ve talked to customers who quickly realized that some of their key applications weren’t accessible remotely. Others had invested in communication and collaboration tools only to discover that they didn’t have enough licenses to go around. Some found that their in-office phone systems were a challenge to manage remotely, with mobile apps that lacked features they needed.

How Communication & Collaboration Changed This Year
Prior to the pandemic, much of our internal and external communication took place via email, phone, and/or face-to-face interaction with people in the office.

But, when mid-March rolled around, everyone found out (nearly overnight) that communication can take several different forms: email, text, cellphone, VoIP phone (managed remotely), videoconference, chat, instant messages, channel-based messages, etc. Whether you run a call center, educate young minds, or manufacture dry goods, learning and being prepared for new ways of communicating is something almost everyone struggled with.

On top of COVID-19, many of us in Iowa experienced August’s derecho and discovered what it was like when very few (if any) of these communication methods worked. Damage to internet service provider (ISP) connectivity and cellular sites led to widespread outages. For some, two-way systems were the only reliable form of communication for at least a few days.

The pandemic has spotlighted communication strengths and weaknesses for all organizations, helping us quickly realize what we were ready for – and what we weren’t.

Planning for Communications Technology in 2021
As we head into Q4 2020 and prepare for next year, now’s the time to think about the communication challenges that made us scramble earlier this year. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What were our biggest communication struggles?
  • How were employees choosing to communicate?
  • How were our customers, patients, or students choosing to communicate with us?
  • Which communication methods were abandoned when other options became available?
  • What obstacles stood in our way of communicating the way we wanted?

Answering these questions can help you plan for the technology upgrades or updates you need so you can start the year ahead.

An important point to keep in mind as you plan: For remote workers, most communications systems are ultimately supported by home internet access. You can provide all the technology and collaboration tools they need, but their performance relies on the speed and dependability of their connection.

Many organizations spent days, weeks, or longer troubleshooting with staff to determine why certain tools or applications weren’t working properly – only to discover weak Wi-Fi or slow internet from their ISP at home.

Help your employees be better prepared by sharing useful information about potential connectivity problems they may encounter at home (and what to do about them). Prep your IT staff to be ready to answer common questions from remote workers who struggle with access.

As you plan, the goal is for in-office and remote-office experiences to be the same: seamless, simple, and straightforward. Although no one can predict what 2021 will bring, we can take steps to be better prepared for even the most unusual scenarios.

CEC’s Managed Systems Program is a good example. In an uncertain economy, it can be hard to invest upfront capital in technology. Budgetable monthly payments based on usage can lighten the weight of these purchases, making new technology feasible.

If you want to learn more, or need help planning your technology for 2021, send us a note. We can help you determine which technology priorities to focus on – and how to afford them.

Jim Anderson is the general manager for the AV, IT and structured cabling teams at Communications Engineering Company (CEC).

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