Conferencing Solutions: Work in the Time of Corona

This blog is a continuation of our research on remote work in the Time of Corona. Over the next several weeks, Amalgam Insights will provide guidance on platforms, necessary functionality, and top vendors across a variety of remote work technologies needed to maintain employee productivity.

This four-part blog series on Conferencing Solutions includes the following topics:
Part I: Introduction to Conferencing Solutions
Part II: Defining and Purchasing Conferencing Solutions
Part III: Evaluating Conferencing Solutions
Part IV: Recommendations for Effective Conferencing

Key Stakeholders: Chief Executive Officer, Chief Information Officer, Network Services Directors and Managers, Telecom Directors and Managers, IT Directors and Managers

Why It Matters: In the Time of Corona, Amalgam Insights estimates that the United States workforce working from home has increased from 5% at the end of 2019 to over 30% as of the end of March 2020. In light of this fundamental shift, companies must choose, deploy, and administer conferencing solutions effectively to support remote workers and maintain collaboration-based productivity.

Top Takeaway: Conferencing is a core capability to support teamwork, collaboration, and face-to-face interaction in remote work settings. By understanding the features, pricing, and best practices associated with supporting conferencing solutions at scale, companies can evaluate and implement conferencing solutions at scale to support business continuity and remote teams in the Time of Corona.

The Value of Conferencing Solutions Has Increased in the Time of Corona

The COVID-19 outbreak is spurring businesses across the globe to implement, support, and even promote, remote work. Companies that had previously held out against telecommuting now have little choice but to take the leap as jurisdictions force shutdowns of non-essential businesses and regulate travel and aggregations of people.

There is no guarantee COVID-19 will subside in the next few weeks and global trends indicate that anti-COVID-19 social dispersion tactics require two+ months to be fully effective. As a result, every enterprise that does not require a large on-site contingent must maintain employee productivity as they work from home to keep the global economy afloat. And in all honesty, companies need to have contingency plans for remote work based on the ongoing threat of when the next virus, natural disaster or terrorist attack will come. This novel coronavirus is both a test of current policies and an opportunity to improve remote work responses when the next regional or global emergency occurs. Enterprises are quickly learning the consequences of being late adopters in developing a remote work policy.

Communications technology has evolved quickly over the past decade as features such as text chat, video conferencing, recording, and well-governed centralized administration have become standard capabilities. Organizations undergoing due diligence for products that will optimize work environments will want to start by evaluating and administering these solutions. This first report in a series dedicated to remote work tools explores conferencing, a vital capability that brings colleagues together virtually.

Key Vendors for Enterprise Conferencing

Key Vendors that Amalgam Insights recommends in the Conferencing market include BlueJeans, Cisco WebEx, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, RingCentral, Zoho Meeting and Zoom. Each of these vendors meets Amalgam Insights’ minimum expectations for business-grade administration, governance, breadth of capabilities, and business support to organizations that deploy at scale.

To support work in the time of Corona, each vendor recommended by Amalgam Insights for enterprise conferencing usage has provided resources or enterprise-grade functions to their users as a free or reduced-price offering. These offerings include:

BlueJeans: Free Access for First Responders and NGOs

Cisco WebEx: Upgraded Free Accounts to support 100 users with toll calls and no time restrictions and 90-day business trials

Google Hangouts: Premium GSuite features until July 1, including conferencing to 250 users and recording meetings to Google Drive

GoToMeeting: Emergency Remote Work Kits with 3 months access to GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, remote access, & remote support products

Microsoft Teams: 6 month trials for premium version of Microsoft Teams & free version for all educational institutions

RingCentral: 90 day trial for educators, health-care providers, and non-profits

Zoho Meeting: Zoho is providing its entire Remotely Suite free until July 1, which includes Meeting, documents, webinar, project management, and remote support tools

Zoom: lifted 40-minute limit on free accounts in multiple countries, lifted time limits for schools using free accounts

We hope that these offerings from the top vendors that Amalgam Insights recommends in the conferencing space will be helpful as companies seek solutions to support their remote employees. In the next blog in this series, Part II: Defining and Purchasing Conferencing Solutions, Amalgam Insights will discuss functional capabilities that companies should consider as they start to commit to a conferencing solution and consolidate vendors.

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