Ringside: Insider Interview with Harriet Forrest

Harriet Forrest

Welcome back to Ringside. Besides our own leading lights, this series invites insights from business leaders beyond our walls. In partnering with others to help create the future of work, we’re curious to uncover a broader perspective on business communications.

This episode focuses on Harriet Forrest from cloud telephony specialist Fortay Connect. Harriet’s background is in public cloud. Working with Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, Harriet was focused on developing and driving global strategy and programmes to drive revenues for cloud service partners. Harriet is passionate about creating a culture of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and is a business ambassador for Ambitious about Autism. Harriet’s hobbies include a love for Formula One, theatre and CrossFit. 

Harriet, what’s your role at Fortay Connect and what do you love about your job? 

I’m the Alliance and Marketing Director at Fortay Connect, responsible for selecting Fortay’s key technology alliances and developing global partnerships, as well as company communications, go-to-market strategy and programmes. 

The thing I love most about my job is working in such a rapidly changing market.  The telephony and collaboration industry has been through unprecedented change and consolidation over the past five years. In order to deliver for our clients, it’s imperative that Fortay stays at the forefront of this change to continue to provide excellent customer service and to enable our customers to adopt the leading technologies for them to succeed. 

In what ways has business communications changed over your career? 

Both telephony and collaboration technologies have changed almost beyond recognition over the past eight years.  

Telephony has transitioned from on-premises IP Telephony, which of course came with a host of  difficulties for customers. Clunky and expensive hardware, extremely complex topologies and extortionate lines and minutes costs. Now we have true cloud UCaaS, which has completely changed the feature set, delivery model and financial model of telephony services, making it easier than ever for businesses of all sizes to migrate, upgrade and improve their communication solutions without the aforementioned difficulties. 

Over a similar timeframe, video conferencing has transitioned from proprietary boardroom-only niche hardware to a pervasive, browser based, business-critical tool.   

More so, the development of social media has transformed the way customers engage with businesses and their expectations have increased. Businesses are now striving to connect all social channels such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter into their solutions to improve customer relationships, increase revenues and promote customer loyalty. 

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What are your thoughts on the post-pandemic economy and how it affects the workplace? 

The post-pandemic economy is of course having a massive effect on the workplace. Home working adoption has been around in many forms for decades, but it has now made a step forwards for all. 

I don’t see the exclusive adoption of home working policies as the goal, but rather being able to work from any office, or home, as needed in a seamless manner with a common set of tools and service levels. Technology is easily accessible and adoptable; companies can adapt quickly to meet the requirements of the new workplace while keeping productivity high. 

What’s the next stage for a long-term strategic approach? 

A lot of businesses were forced to make do with short-term solutions at the height of the pandemic. Over the past few months our clients have been properly assessing which tools are actually best to delivery flexibility, business continuity and most importantly, seamless collaboration regardless of location. I see this trend continuing as the value of flexible working and robust collaboration tools is now unquestionable.  

I think it will be interesting to the see the medium- to long-term implication on the buying cycle and if it remains normal to make significant investment decisions without the face-to-face relationships which have been the staple of many sectors. 

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to a business wishing to improve its communication? 

Start by looking at how you engage with your customers, how your people work and communicate. Then highlight how you would like to improve that and what you would like to achieve. How would you work if the technology wasn’t an issue?  

Once you have your business drivers, it’s time to review the market and find the best technical solution to deliver on those outcomes. This can be an overwhelming task, so I’d start with reviewing the Gartner Magic Quadrant for UCaaS and engage a communications specialist like Fortay Connect. 

What are the important customer trends you’ve seen over the last six months with app integrations? 

There is an ever-growing list of requested app integrations but the key driver is customers wanting to streamline and consolidate applications wherever possible. Office 365 and G Suite are now at the centre of almost every project. Both provide an excellent productivity suite but do lack enterprise voice capabilities. 

Seamless integrations are available into both G Suite and Office 365, giving businesses access to RingCentral’s global communications platform without users having to leave their native email app. The importance of CRM integrations also remains vital, particularly Salesforce and Dynamics.

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As we thank Harriet for her contribution, here’s a great opportunity for you to learn more about the trends Harriet was just talking about. Join Fortay Connect and RingCentral for Elevate your existing Microsoft and Google investments, a webinar for CIOs to learn how to create a powerful business communications hub. You’ll discover how integrations across the Microsoft and Google ecosystems deliver powerful and truly unified collaboration capabilities into your business. Attendees can also enjoy a one hour virtual coffee and tea tasting master class hosted by an industry Master Roaster.

The webinar takes place on 12th November 2020 at 13:00 GMT. Register online today.

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Michael Frearson

Author

    Michael is RingCentral’s Content Creation Manager for EMEA Marketing. His background broadly comprises several years in recruitment followed by a decade in communications. He has created loads of different content on loads of different subjects, from vegan dining to passenger ferries.

    Michael previously occupied communications planning and creation roles in a variety of industries including travel & tourism, online gaming and internet infrastructure. He has a BA in English, an MA in Creative Writing and an interest in human communication and cooperation.