Remote working has lift off

Will the virus outbreak bring about a permanent shift in working practices towards home working - boosting tools such as MS Teams, Slack, Zoom and others? Can these tools cope with the sudden boom in demand?

As coronavirus lockdown policies effectively place much of the world's population under house arrest, cloud-based collaborative working and conferencing apps such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams are becoming indispensable tools of the global economy. 

The sudden shift to working from home in response to the pandemic has given the distributed work movement an unexpected boost. Promoters of these tools have long talked about a mass shift to home working. The next few months will be a test run for the collaboration tools. If they operate smoothly without glitches and serious cyberattacks, organisations may start to shift permanently to more devolved ways of working.

"I think this will create more confidence in people that this can be done over a sustained period," says Jimit Arora, a partner at research company Everest Group.  

"Obviously, everyone's hoping that this is this is a temporary phenomenon and we can go back to how things were. I believe that when it comes to things like virtual desktops and remote working tools, people will have more confidence coming out of this crisis and some of our concerns about needing to be a in firewalled environment and having access to secure applications - some of those emotional restrictions we are placing on ourselves will go away as people look at the data," he says.

But much will depend on how seamless the shift to home working is perceived to be.  With workers having to look after children during the lockdown, productivity of home working will be tested to the limit. Meanwhile, much could go wrong with the great work-from-home experiment.

"What would be really bad is if there are a series of security breaches that end up happening because of this. And that might just put us put us further back. I think we need to see which way it plays out," adds Arora.

This lockdown environment could shape the collaborative app market for years to come. Arora thinks Microsoft Teams is dominating the large enterprise market as it allows staff to use other Microsoft software such as Office 365 alongside it. Zoom video conferencing is having greater take up with smaller businesses, he believes, while Slack, the original collaborative work tool was originally used by IT departments and is seen as a more specialist app for digital businesses. Cisco's WebEx, the video conferencing tool for enterprises, reported that in the first 11 days of March, there was a "surge" to 5.5 billion minutes of virtual meetings being held via the app. 

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