A North West-based tech firm has seen a huge surge in demand for video conferencing technology as offices ready themselves for a gradual return to work in September.
In the last six weeks Everything Tech has had more than 35 requests for video conferencing equipment to be installed as companies prepare themselves for doing business in a Covid-19 world.
Everything Tech, which is based in Manchester’s Hanover House, Charlotte Street, is a Microsoft Gold Partner and helps companies transform their business through the adoption of Microsoft 365 technology.
Founder Lee Wrall, who is the sales and marketing director, said Covid-19 had changed the business sector’s approach towards video conferencing.
“Before the pandemic there was a stigma attached to video conferencing,” he said. “People felt it was clunky and complicated. People were prepared to travel the length and breadth of the country for a 40-minute minute rather than rely on video conferencing.
“They didn’t have confidence in the technology but Covid-19 changed everything and we all went Teams and Zoom crazy. They’re much more familiar with technology and it’s become acceptable.
“Companies aren’t only realising that this technology is good but it could save them a pile of cash.”
Liverpool-based Blends, which manufactures and supplies food flavours and colours, has invested £5,000 on creating a video conferencing meeting room with plans to do two more.
The company has a turnover of £26m and employs 70 people with plans to more than double the workforce.
Operations director Michael Rowark said Covid-19 had changed the way they do aspects of their business.
“Before Covid we didn’t have the facilities to do video conferencing but we had the need,” he said. “We’re dealing with large retail customers and we wanted to professionalise our offer. I’m always looking at how technology can improve our performance and video conferencing does that. It’s helping us win new business.
“When Covid-19 struck and we were working from home we tried Zoom but preferred Microsoft Teams. A lot of our suppliers are in China and South America and the technology makes it easier to contact them.
“By having quality video conferencing it can mean sales staff can avoid travelling in for an hour or two for a 40-minute meeting.
“Don’t get me wrong, face-to-face meetings are still preferable when you’re negotiating but having video conferencing equipment makes it easier to stay in touch with customers, suppliers and anyone working from home.”
Most analysts believe the trickle of workers returning to the workplace will gather pace in September and Wrall said the result is they’ve been flooded with requests from companies looking to upgrade their video conferencing equipment.
“We’re a Microsoft Gold Partner and we’re getting a lot of demand for Polycom and Yealink technology as CEOs and MDs recognise the importance of investing in the technology.
“In the vast majority of cases people will already have a standard TV in their boardroom but what we’re doing is repositioning the TV or adding the conference room equipment, which usually consists of a high specification camera, quality audio equipment and a controller.
“You don’t want four people in a room staring down the webcam of a laptop. You want a real Room Solution with a big TV and excellent microphone to make it a great experience for both parties. It makes your business appear more professional and enables you to get together without physically being together.
“We’ve done around 35 in the last six weeks and it doesn’t have to cost the earth, starting at about £1,600.
“Most businesses will have one meeting room or several meeting rooms. It will range from a little huddle room for five people to the big boardrooms with 18-24 people in.
“What we’re doing is turning those rooms into meeting rooms with embedded technology. You might not be meeting in person but you can bring your customers, clients, suppliers and staff into the room through technology.
“As a result of Covid-19 people at all levels in an organisation are switched on to using technology and don’t want to go back to only having face-to-face meetings. At the very least they want a hybrid approach.
“The technology available now is amazing, especially with Microsoft Teams. You can bring hundreds of people into a conversation and have as many as 49 faces on the TV at any one time.
“There’s some really intelligent software that sits behind it which means the people who are most active in the conversation are brought into focus.”
Everything Tech saw demand for its Microsoft 365 expertise soar during the lockdown, enabling up to 500 people a week to work from home.
Wrall is one of three directors of the business, alongside Anthony Hautin and director Ruth Hall, who was runner-up in the 2006 series of The Apprentice under her marital name of Ruth Badger.
In the last three years Everything Tech has grown its turnover from £675,000 in 2016/17 to £866,000 in 2017/18 to £1.5m last year.