Coronavirus Will Change Tech Landscape In A ‘Radical’ Way, Solution Providers Say

'People are afraid of change and don't want to disrupt their environment. Well, people are disrupted now and they are learning,' says one solution provider who believes that the coronavirus is forcing digital transformation.


Intrado Enterprise Collaboration, an Omaha, Neb.-based solution provider, is busy helping customers that weren't prepared to move most or all their staff to a home working environment in the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, said Rob Bellmar, co-president of Intrado.

The company has been rapidly expanding the number of Cisco Webex videoconferencing and collaboration licenses its existing customers typically require—in some cases jumping from 100 licenses to accommodating 5,000 users that all must now work remotely, Bellmar said.

"Some health-care companies were already thinking ahead and talking to us in January because they knew they were going to be on the front lines. Other industries were a little later to the dance because they were hoping this would just go away," he said.

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But the unprecedented pandemic will likely push any customer that was change-avoidant—or those that simply thought they could wait on certain technologies—over the edge, Bellmar said.

"Many people are afraid of change and don't want to disrupt their environment. Well, people are disrupted now, and they are learning," he said. "People are realizing how productive they can be outside of the office and I think it's going to change things in a pretty radical way when the dust settles."

At the moment, solution providers have their hands full just helping customers stay up and running, but the outbreak is forcing long-term digital transformation, according to solution providers.

[Related: 7 Free Collaboration Software And Videoconferencing Tools For Working Remotely]

The coronavirus has dramatically changed the day-to-day routines for most individuals and businesses across the country, in some cases, overnight. As of this writing, at least 200 million people across 21 states, 47 counties and 14 cities in the U.S. have been given the directive to stay at home, according to The New York Times.

Businesses are suddenly grappling with a remote workforce as their employees work from home to help slow the spread of the virus. But teams still need to access critical business applications from remote locations securely, and they need to collaborate and communicate with one another.

Intrado's Bellmar said that because many employees had to begin working from home with very little notice and because many people are not full-time remote workers, their home office setups leave a lot to be desired. Many are making do by working on a kitchen table or are retreating to a quiet space in their home, such as a basement or sunroom, to avoid their partner who may also need to work from home or their children doing remote learning. This experience, Bellmar said, will make equipping home offices a priority for more employees, which will create an opportunity for the channel.

"I think you'll see a lot more interest in video hardware for home offices, like little desktop units, because this might move to a new normal," he said. "People like CEOs and executives, all the way down, will want to be better prepared to work from home."

Canada last week closed its borders to noncitizens, and several Canadian provinces this week ordered that all nonessential businesses close. Long View Systems, a solution provider based in Calgary, Alberta, is seeing a "phenomenal" uptick in solutions such as Citrix remote desktop licenses and demand for Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex for remote collaboration, said Kent MacDonald, senior vice president of strategic alliances for Long View Systems.

"We're having lot of conversations around business continuity. It's a balance between wanting to be there for our customers, but not being an ambulance-chaser and taking advantage of the situation," MacDonald said.

A "new norm" will emerge on the other side of the coronavirus, MacDonald said. “An outcome of this could be that we need to expect everyone to have mobile access versus a portion of the workforce, and the mindset that you’re only working when you’re in the office will disappear. Just like cloud has become a reality, I think mobile access will be standard—not an option.”

Network Solutions Provider based in Manhattan Beach, Calif., has been inundated with password requests from users trying to access their company's VPN remotely, and usage for the cloud-based voice offering within Microsoft Teams "went through the roof" once companies starting working from home, said Phillip Walker, customer advocate CEO for Network Solutions Provider.

But despite the thirst right now for collaboration and remote connectivity solutions, Walker believes that many businesses will default back to what they were doing before the virus from a technology perspective.

"Once the fire is over, no one wants the water anymore, and that's the challenge,” Walker said.

It's true that solution providers have been beating the cloud drum in particular for years with their customers and highlighting business continuity as a selling point. Some customers have listened. TanChes Global Management, a Sugar Land, Texas-based solution provider, has spent nearly two decades pushing disaster recovery and business continuity solutions, but under very different circumstances.

"Many disasters are one-time things, like a fire. But when you have something as different as the situation today where there is no clear end date, businesses and people have to evolve," said Tanaz Choudhury, president of TanChes Global Management.

The blindsided businesses that emerge from the coronavirus crisis will be much more receptive to IT conversations that they may have put on the back burner, which means that partners will play an even more critical on the other side of the pandemic, Choudhury said.

"Technology is going to be taken a bit more seriously," she added.