2021 In a Nutshell – Our Top 10 Highlights

2021 has been packed full of change, adaptation and innovation. While they’re all things we’re used to after 2020, it has still felt like a bit of a whirlwind. With the year drawing to a close, what better time to be looking back at our highlights from over the past 12 months. We have enjoyed it immensely – and all thanks to our amazing customers, partners, community and team.

1. Transition management in 2021

2020 presented some serious challenges – and highlighted existing ones – when it comes to transition and transformation. As they packed several years’ worth of transformation into a matter of months or even weeks, organizations realized just how much they had been putting off, but also why they might have been doing so.

Adapting to new requirements, processes and technology while meeting cost, margin and timing objectives is no mean feat. That’s why we started 2021 by launching our Transition Management Office (TMO). The all-encompassing solution allows us to enhance every aspect of your transformation project to optimize workflows, eliminate duplication, automate repetitive tasks and improve project timeframes overall.

2. The new world of UC

It’s no coincidence that so many enterprises are tackling the transition above at a similar time. In February, we talked about the current turning point from the old world to the new world of unified communications. Out are what many call the legacy vendors like Avaya, Mitel and Cisco. In is Microsoft Teams.

To cater to this shift, providers need to adapt too. We outlined how Aura has become one of the new global managed service providers (MSPs), which are fast, effective, knowledgeable and able to deliver anywhere. As we call it, ‘MSP 2.0’.

3. Vendors 2.0

The final puzzle piece in the transition? Vendors. In the past, a direct sales model has been the most effective option for big name technology vendors. But as time goes on, we’re seeing a clear shift to ‘vendors 2.0’ – a channel-focussed marketplace.

This was examined by our CEO, Tony Parish, drawing on his experience with both Genesis and Aura. The overriding message was simple – embrace channel, trust channel, and they will deliver the epic growth you want. Some vendors (1.0) still haven’t learnt that if you screw your channel, you will turn your company into a rapidly dwindling version of its former self!

4. Overcoming your fear of video

By March, it had become clear that remote working was here to stay. Some of the world’s biggest companies had embraced hybrid working on a permanent basis. But that wasn’t the best news for those who prefer to avoid video calls. The anxiety, self-awareness or just the need to get your hair sorted was enough to make many employees dread the invitation to a weekly meeting.

All that said, video calling has a number of huge benefits for employees and organizations, from cost cutting and productivity to engagement and morale. To make things easier, we provided eight simple tips to overcome bugbears and make the most of video calling:

  1. Practice makes perfect – the more you take part in video calls, the easier they become.
  2. Take breaks between calls – try to schedule calls so they’re mixed in with other duties.
  3. Add screen breaks – 5 minutes every hour is recommended.
  4. Establish ground rules – things like muting microphones on busy calls can be a godsend.
  5. Use break-out groups – breaking large calls into smaller groups makes active participation less daunting.
  6. Provide training – getting people familiar with video calling tools and layout is a huge step.
  7. Upgrade technology – make sure your image quality, sound quality and connectivity are up to scratch.
  8. Always get dressed – a remote working essential that takes some of the pressure off video calls.

5. Embracing flexibility

By spring 2021, normality had all but returned and it was time for those transformation plans to start taking place. Two of the biggest hurdles that organizations faced were equipment and support. More specifically, how do you move to new technology and processes while still managing the ever-changing requirements of your day-to-day operations?

To tackle this, we launched Device as a Service and Global Smart Hands. These two vital services provide on-demand hardware and feet-on-the-street IT support, respectively, wherever and whenever it’s needed. Both allow a more rapid response to changing business needs without the need for a long-term commitment or significant up-front investment.

6. Remote working tips

Now to help with the other side of transformation – namely, remote working. In July, we put together a comprehensive list of 40 tips covering everything from self-care and productivity to technology and management. Some of our favourites include:

  • Maintain a routine – find out what working pattern works best for you and get into a routine that gives you the maximum benefit of flexible working.
  • Find your colleagues’ go-to choice for communication – From video calls to instant messaging, getting to know what option everyone prefers will hold you in good stead.
  • Work in sprints – You need small breaks through-out the day to refresh and recover. One solution is to work in sprints of no more than an hour at a time.
  • Maintain a strong company culture – Keep up with workplace traditions, from virtual coffee breaks together to celebrating birthdays.

7. The “forbidden words” challenge

September 2021 marked 18 months since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic. During that time, it’s fair to say we’d all become a little too accustomed to hearing the words “COVID-19” and “lockdown” on a daily or even hourly basis.

At the same time, charities across the globe had seen a downtown in donations because of the resulting recession. In an aim to tackle both issues, we took part in a “forbidden words” challenge. Whenever anyone slipped up by saying either of the two words mentioned above, they would make a contribution to Dementia UK.

We collected £543 by the end of the challenge, which went towards funding specialist dementia nurses.

8. Commsverse 2021

September was also a landmark month because of Commsverse – the first live event many people had attended since the pandemic began. The dedicated Microsoft event was held both in-person and online, although the “in-person” keynote was actually pre-recorded and delivered over Teams!

The first day was all about collaboration, before a second day focussed on configuration. Both days were jam packed with valuable insights, stories from Microsoft users and discussions with our own customers.

That was all topped off with a virtual session from our very own Jack Condron, ‘Put Voice in Microsoft Teams Globally’. Joined by over 50 attendees in the live session, and many more on demand, Jack discussed how Aura Connect puts enterprise-grade voice into Teams – a flexible, global solution that allows users to maximize their Teams experience.

9. Back to the office?

After 18 months of lockdowns, restrictions and uncertainty, most organizations had adapted to the new way of working pretty well. That’s why it was such a surprise to see UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak telling people to go back to the office if they want to get on with their career.

In October, we responded to his bold claim with a discussion of whether offices have become redundant. With the rapid growth of video, we begged the question, are offices still essential?

This certainly proved a hot topic, with our poll revealing that although video calls were taking over, many people still preferred to stick with the office.

10. Avaya Aura 8 End of Sale

The final months of 2021 have been all about Avaya’s recent announcement that Avaya Aura 8 will no longer be available for new orders. While additional licenses for version 8 will be available until December 2022, current perpetual licenses with SA/UA maintenance will move to subscription models.

In November, we aimed to put minds at ease by outlining the three main options and how we can support you in every scenario:

  • Upgrading to Avaya Aura 10 – our migration and support services will ensure you upgrade with confidence.
  • Taking the opportunity to move to a new platform – we’ll support your Avaya platform until it becomes redundant while coordinating your move to Microsoft Teams.
  • Sticking with Avaya Aura 8 – we can continue to provide the support Avaya can’t, while you decide what’s right for your organization.

A year of overcoming challenges

2021 has been a year like no other, with organizations across the globe adapting to the new normal and kicking on with digital transformation. At Aura, we’ve relished the opportunity to help our customers overcome their own challenges – and we can’t wait to do the same in 2022 and beyond.

If you would like to talk about your transformation plans for the coming year, please don’t hesitate to contact us for a chat.

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