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How to upskill your workforce at speed - here's what our data says

Raju Vegesna Profile picture for user Raju Vegesna June 11, 2020
Research into how its customers worldwide have responded to the pandemic shows remote access and virtual training topped video and chat, writes Zoho's Raju Vegesna

Remote access to manage laptop via internet connection © Andrey Suslov - shutterstock
(© Andrey Suslov - shutterstock)

What types of tools are businesses relying on most during the COVID-19 pandemic? Surprise, surprise, it's not just chat and conferencing software. We've looked at data across Zoho's 50 million users and discovered that the little engine enabling remote work is not what you might think. Because Zoho offers software that spans nearly every business category, we can gain unique insight into which applications are being deployed and used and at what volume. From that data, we can extrapolate some intriguing findings about how businesses across the globe are adapting to the 'new abnormal'.

Our internal review of usage across our product portfolio reveals some interesting trends as well as some obvious ones. Our collaboration software, as you would expect, has seen increased usage since the beginning of the pandemic, particularly the eleven applications included in our Remotely platform.

We launched Remotely in early March to businesses of any size (not just Zoho customers) for free. Since then, Remotely has nearly 25,000 new global businesses actively using the platform, which consists of Zoho Meeting, Cliq, ShowTime, WorkDrive, Project, Sprints, Lens, Assist, Writer, Sheet, and Show. Among these, our product-management application, Zoho Sprints, saw a nearly 120% increase in active organizations using the product between January and April 2020.

Remote access beats video and chat

We conducted a survey of Remotely users to see which products in the bundle they use most and why. Not surprisingly, Zoho Meeting and Cliq were high on the list, but what is interesting is that far and away the most used application was our remote access software Zoho Assist (twice as popular as Meeting, in fact). As Rick Tudor, Director of Operations as C.A.R.S. Protection Plus and a Zoho customer, told us:

Zoho Assist has been invaluable to the continuation of our operations through the Covid-19 crisis. We successfully deployed 58 employees to work from home — employees who had always worked in the office and some of whom had never used a laptop. Remote configuration of their softphones, installation of local printers, applying multiple monitors... none of this could have happened as quickly as it did without Zoho Assist.

Internal data across Zoho's entire platform reveals that it's not only Zoho Assist that has seen a spike in organizations using the application. We've also seen a usage surge for Zoho ShowTime, our online training platform, and Zoho Lens, the company's augmented reality assist app, which allows businesses to access a user's smartphone camera at a remote location. (An example use case is a data-center technician troubleshooting with an off-site engineer or system administrator.)

Between June 2019 and March 2020, Zoho Assist saw a 38% increase in active organizations using the product. Zoho ShowTime saw a 214% increase along the same metric. In just one month, between February and March of this year, the number of businesses using Zoho Lens jumped 277%.

How businesses have adapted to the pandemic

What these adoption numbers say to us is that businesses working remotely are leaning heavily on remote access software and online training tools to both troubleshoot and instruct employees on new tools. Broadly speaking, many businesses were blindsided by the pandemic, and not prepared to take their entire workforce remote so rapidly. What's encouraging is that businesses are adapting. They are relying on remote assist and training software to upskill their workforce on collaboration software and other necessary applications to meet a new standard of work.

As the saying goes, "A tool is only as good as its user." Remote assistance software or virtual training enables businesses to get the most out of their tools — and the employees relying on them. It is safe to assume that if Zoho Assist is gaining this kind of traction among Zoho's 50 million users, the same is true of other vendors and other remote access tools. Data provides us, and other software providers, critical insight into business pain-points so that we can better align our products and services to those companies and employees relying on them.

Some of these trends are here to stay

It's not only remote working tools that have seen usage pick up. As businesses open up, and what is needed today might not be mission-critical for them in the future. For example, we anticipated a drop in usage and adoption of our marketing software during the pandemic. It seems we were wrong. Likely as a result of businesses lightening their outdoor advertising spend (people are at home) and upping their digital-campaign spend, our marketing application Zoho Campaign saw a 9% increase in organizations using the app between January and March 2020. This jump may soften as the world lifts stay-at-home orders and businesses cut back their marketing efforts. Nevertheless, I am confident that businesses are not investing in remote-work software and strategies just to pack it all up when things settle down.

Zoho Lens' numbers are a tribute to this idea. Via its AR remote worker assistance, Lens can be seen as a hybrid tool, bridging the gap between an on-site worker who cannot WFH and a remote team or user who can. This shows that just because a worker needs to be on-site, doesn't mean they aren't interacting with remote work tools. I imagine there will be a spike in usage and adoption of field service technology as a result.

Businesses today have many tools to support themselves. There are, for example, low-code development tools to build custom solutions and fully integrated collaboration platforms. Right now, a lot of businesses are using certain tools out of necessity. What will be interesting to see is whether the behavior of businesses today will continue to influence technology in the coming years. Regardless, businesses around the world have seen the benefits of a dispersed workforce and remote-working tools, and these trends will continue long after COVID-19.

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