Fri, Sep 22, 2023
Innovate and Collaborate to Thrive

In this second part of the SmartCom Summit Spring 2021 plenary talk show, Charles Groenhuijsen and Rob Kurver (Founding Partner at The Next Cloud) discuss customer satisfaction, going back to the old normal, the need to innovate, and changing ecosystems with our guests Patrick George (SVP Product and Business Development at iBasis), Vicky Bunyard (CTO at IBM) and Remco de Kramer (Product Marketing Manager Modern Work at Microsoft).

Customer Satisfaction

In this new online era keeping customers happy can be a serious challenge. With so many of us working from home and not travelling, the lack of physical contact and meetings makes the technology from companies like iBasis, IBM and Microsoft even more important to make the connections and create the customer intimacy everybody craves. Patrick explains: “In our wholesale business, we miss the physical interaction. We do business differently in various parts of the world. Formal interaction works, but the informal is very difficult now, and that is the part that really makes the difference.”

Going through this transformation, we’re trying to invent new ways of working together, connecting us as human beings in new ways. Many of us are happy we can be 80% effective, doing some tasks better but struggling with others where closer proximity or creativity are crucial. In that sense, we’re merely surviving now, but we’re starting to see the opportunity to go beyond 100%, making the new workplace work for everybody, and really come out thriving.

Going back to the office is not the answer

So why don’t we just all stop the next normal nonsense and go back to the office once everybody is vaccinated and we have herd immunity? Remco doesn’t think that’s going to be possible any more: “Microsoft research shows that 80% of companies have work from home policies now, and 70% of managers expect their employees to use those policies. People do not want to go back to the office 5 days a week, people think they now have the right to work from home a few days per week, and employees give them the right to do that.”

Vicky adds: “People are embracing the change, balancing family life and work. Sometimes you want to be in an office, with a whiteboard, having arguments and discussions. And sometimes you need to concentrate and work, and that is easier from home.” Most people don’t want to go back to the old normal, but they do want to go back to the office part of the time. The trick is to be able to choose the place for the type of work we want to do and be most productive. Developing new habits and creating a better system takes time but has huge advantages.

Innovate or die

Our poll during the live talk show shows that 64% of respondents think we’ll have to deal with managing a handful of tools, and 29% even think there will be many. Obviously, the challenge then becomes to make all these tools work together in a smart way, all contributing to the bigger picture.

Patrick: “iBasis is serving telecom professionals. We help them with the difficult spots for them and complement their offering with what we do best. Today we work to help Microsoft Teams to be connected to traditional phone-based communication, that way, we add our telco brick to a fantastic solution to make it even more easy to use.” The challenge in the next normal is to try and find the pain point of customers and add what we’re good at to make a total solution together. Vicky adds: “IBM has continuously evolved due to a learning culture. As an organisation, you have to understand you need to evolve because if you don’t, you die.”

Clubhouse or Workplace

All of our guests agree that the office of the future will be very different. Instead of the place people go to in order to get work done, it will become a place for connecting, for team building, for learning, and for fun. For deep problem solving, where you need to look each other in the eyes, to have discussions and solve problems together. Online collaboration platforms will continue to evolve to provide similar functions, but the energy and productivity of a physical meeting, discussion or workshop will never be the same.

And for many people, the home will be the place people go to continue those projects. Vicky explains: “brainstorming together, then going home to work it out.” And Patrick warns: “you need all the components to work together. Internet connection is still an issue in some countries”. Building and providing the basic infrastructure is an essential prerequisite for the next normal.


With the Corona pandemic changing the way we live and work, we are all trying to find the best new balance in our next normal. We will all need to work together to create the optimal setup for everybody, make sure nobody is left behind, and all talent is used to the max. The companies and communities best able to adapt and attract the smartest talent will come out thriving!

About the author

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Over the past 30 years Rob (co-)founded various tech companies, including one of the leading Dutch hosted voice providers (before hosted voice became the new normal). Today, he works with telcos/CSPs and some of the world’s leading technology providers on innovation and growth, especially in the rapidly changing world of cloud communications and CPaaS. Rob has this crazy belief that the strengths of corporates and innovators should be combined in new ecosystems to create optimal customer experience, new business models and solutions for some of today’s big problems.

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