11 reseller bosses on the tech they are backing to help clients return to work

Doug Woodburn
clock • 24 min read

From installing social distancing apps and non-touch print technology, to rightsizing licensing, resellers and MSPs are busy helping their clients as they attempt a safe office return. Bosses from Insight, XMA, Jigsaw24, Phoenix Software, SBL, DTP, Total Computers, European Electronique, ASL, Bamboo and Arkphire weigh with their top tips.

Name: Yolanta Gill

Company: European Electronique

Role: CEO

VAR 350 ranking: 80

Talking to your clients, roughly what percentage are currently returning - or looking to return - staff to the office/site?

The vast majority of our customers, between 80 and and 90 per cent are working from home. Some customers are anticipating that remote working will remain in place and in fact some have indicated that this will be the new norm. We have all now got used to using Teams and Zoom and in most cases the work can be done equally well remotely and this trend will continue in the future, long term we will see a paradigm shift. This week however has seen a few more returning to the office, this would also apply to us where we are slowly having people return on a rota system in order to adhere to the social distancing guidelines. Everyone has to re-think their office layouts with regard to spacing desks and restricting gathering in common areas.

In some cases presence on site is necessary and this has been an issue during the lockdown. This question of childcare still poses a challenge and until the schools return in numbers this will have an effect on working parents.

What is the biggest challenge or opportunity for the channel in helping with the transition?

As history teaches us "never let a good crisis go to waste" (Winston Churchill) and as much as the Coronavirus has brought us many challenges it has also presented us with many opportunities. Working from home required secure remote access and the demand for new, reliable devices was huge. Collaboration, including Office365, Teams, Zoom; support services; cloud solutions; managed firewalls are just a few of the opportunities we are seeing. Cyber security is considered a priority for a number of customers, especially universities and some of the larger infrastructure tenders are still progressing, we have seen a few sizeable wins for cyber security and firewalls.

The list of challenges is growing daily and it is difficult to assess the long-term impact. The immediate challenge was the inability to contact customers as they were either furloughed or in the process of adjusting to the new situation setting up remote working. Being unable to access premises for onsite implementation was problematic for a lengthy period of time. Many organisations are reducing the number of offices, and this is creating different challenges with regards to support services. Managed Service providers are now having to modify their approach to customer support to include a home user element. Availability of mobile and broadband business services for the homeworker is crucial and this could also present a challenge. Whilst all organisations have had business continuity and disaster recovery plans, these are rarely invoked for this type of issue and for this length of time. This means that many core-business processes have had to change. Long term with the economic slowdown and the uncertainty of the future no doubt budgets will be affected and many organisations will be reluctant to make large investments, opting instead to rely in their current infrastructure.

What products and services do you expect to be in the hottest demand over the coming months as clients look to reconfigure their offices for social distancing, and are there any new technologies you expect to take off?

Remote working is becoming the new norm, therefore the temporary measures initially put in place to facilitate this needs to be become more permanent. There will no doubt be a greater emphasis on collaborative tools - Microsoft Office365, OneDrive, Teams, SharePoint; Google; LogMeln; Zoom etc. Cloud first, mobile first solutions that aren't restricted by location or device will be more frequently deployed.  With remote working we have seen an unprecedented demand for support for homeworkers. To facilitate this change of work pattern some investment needs to be made to back-end infrastructure and more emphasis will be put on hybrid cloud to ensure smooth and secure access to organisation's recourses.

As an aside to all this we have seen an increase in demand for social distancing stickers, signs, electric hand sanitisers and protective sleeves for key boards and monitors.

Given the rise of remote working and socially distanced offices (or classrooms!), how do you expect the role of resellers or MSPs change over the coming months?

Many organisations will be looking for advice and consultancy as to how to facilitate the new way of working. Cloud solutions and services which enable a mobile approach without location limitations will be more widely used. With that support services and cyber security products will be in great demand.

In addition, customers will be looking to MSPs to advise them on the management of remote workers:

  • How do you monitor time and attendance - there are many products on the market which can be used to achieve this
  • How do you keep staff motivated and monitor productivity? - this can be done through collaborative tools, introducing incentives and rotating staff through the offices
  • Training - users working from home won't be able to rely on traditional support from technical teams, training and support therefore needs to be tailored to the new working environment.

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