By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA

The rampaging Covid19 pandemic has drastically changed the face of doing business around the world, with many business concerns and individuals turning to messaging conferencing apps for survival, Business Hallmark findings have revealed.

According to the findings, messaging, audio, video conferencing have exploded over the last five months and especially in the current situation. Adoption has been rapid, with many bodies keen to embrace the conferencing culture to keep remote teams connected. From office work to school, parties, religious programmes as well as social meetings, the new world order has emerged in the face of teleconferencing. And it is growing by the day.

It would be recalled that the coronavirus pandemic which broke out in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, brought several hiccups and challenges with it, forcing a new way of life among many people and organisations. For safety reasons, many establishments, including schools, churches, media houses, courts as well as several government agencies have suspended their usual physical meetings for virtual meetings.

For example, BH findings revealed that all the Annual General Meetings (AGMs) conducted in the country since March were all virtual. While companies’ boards converge at a single location to direct proceedings, proxies appointed by shareholders hooked in from different locations to participate in the meeting.

Some of the companies that have held virtual AGMs include May and Baker, Zenith Bank, GTBank, UBA, Lafarge Africa and Dangote Cement, among several others. Also, many companies, including media houses now conduct scheduled meetings, such as editorial and general meetings virtually. While several personality interviews are done online.

Not left behind are religious bodies, especially churches. Many churches with the technology have been transmitting live broadcasts to their viewing congregations through several cable and online platforms. Notable among them are the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), The Latter Rain Assembly, The Apostolic Church Nigeria (TACN), Mountain of Fire and Miracles, Catholic Church, Daystar International Church and others.

The General Overseer of the RCCG International, Pastor Enoch Adejare Adeboye, transmits live to Redeemed faithful between 8.30 and 10.30 am through the Dove Television and Facebook every Sunday morning. With the continued closure of religious houses, more churches are expected to join the wagon.

Also on board are schools, particularly private institutions that engage their students through various online platforms including Edmondo, WhatsApp, Free Conference call, Google Hangouts, Google Classroom, Cisco and Zoom.

In the same vein, government bodies and agencies have been holding statutory meetings through online platforms. For instance, the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meetings in the last two months have been held virtually. While President Muhammadu Buhari converges at the State House Abuja with principal government officials such as his Chief of staff and the vice president, other participating ministers hooked in from their respective ministries.

The judiciary is also not left out as most courts in the country still sit virtually, owing to the ban on interstate movements.

While many Nigerians are daily embracing online platforms to ensure social distancing, the firms deploying the applications are daily smiling to the banks. Those that have seen their businesses recorded boom in recent times include Zoom, Cisco, WhatsApp, Google Classroom, Google Hangouts,  Skype, Free Conference Calls, Yahoo Messenger, Vskit, Edmondo and others.

Checks revealed that while Zoom, Cisco and Vskit are the favourites of business concerns such as financial institutions, i.e. banks, insurance firms and others, WhatsApp, Edmondo and Google Classroom, among many others are preferred by educational institutions. On the other hand, media houses, including broadcasts and print prefer Skype and Zoom to conduct meetings and interviews.

Meanwhile, Zoom and Microsoft-owned Skype and Google Hangouts are dominant players, with the three accounting for over fifty per cent of the Nigerian and global market. Checks show that people continue to use Zoom, Skype, Google Meets/Hangouts because they are easy and largely free. But their competitors are making moves to catch up.

Being valued at an incredible amount of $35billion by Forbes, as at April 2020, Zoom is a brand with a reputation in the market place. It presently has over 30,000 corporate clients including blue chips Samsung, Uber, Walmart, and Capital One.

It offers a combination of features, from audio and video conferencing at the click of a button, to webinars and hardware room systems. Zoom’s main advantage is how easy it is to use. With Zoom, a user can connect with countless internal and external employees, without having to download any software. Users can also add some fun to their Zoom Meetings with things like virtual video backgrounds.

Aside from that another of its products Zoom Phone is rapidly gaining popularity, by allowing companies to have all their VoIP, collaboration and connectivity tools in the same place. There is also Zoom Chat, ideal for instant messaging, emoji reactions and more.

Another dominant player in the messaging /voice/video industry is Cisco. One of the best-known companies in the communication landscape, it is not surprising that it is doing well in the video conferencing arena. Since the acquisition of Webex, Cisco has developed a robust collaboration environment, complete with meetings, file sharing, and video.

Webex’s VCaaS options come as either Cisco Webex Meetings as a standalone product or embedded within the collaboration client. Features such as content sharing, meeting recording, among others, all come as standard.

Also doing well is Microsoft-owned Skype Business Online. With functionality like screen sharing, video and calendaring as standard, additional bolt-ons like meeting recording and whiteboards made Skype for Business the go-to video product for enterprises.

As the collaboration market evolved and matured, Microsoft started to move away from Skype for Business and into “Teams” instead. Offering an upgraded and enhanced version of Skype, Microsoft Teams now has more than 44 million daily active users.

Teams offer sensational security, screen sharing, and video collaboration, within an environment that’s deeply embedded into the Microsoft ecosystem.  A user can meet with anyone, anywhere, through his Microsoft apps, or even on his smartphone. To cap it up, there is artificial intelligence built into various aspects of the Teams experience today too, allowing for smarter conversations.

Users can rely on Microsoft Teams for everything from video conferencing with background blurring, to video conversations that include real-time inline transcription.

Google’s flagship product, Google Hangouts Meet, is another dominant player in the VCaaS sector. The solution works alongside Google Hangouts Chat – the tool available; for an instant, messaging in the G-Suite. As Google strives to make the G Suite more appealing to enterprise users, Meet and Chat have grown rapidly in popularity during the pandemic.

The meet is fully integrated with G Suite, so users can join meetings directly from a Google Calendar event or email invite. Event details are carried forward, whether users are joining from a laptop, phone or the conference room. G Suite’s enterprise edition also creates a dial-in phone number for each meeting so users without access to WiFi can join with ease.

Another benefit is that teams using Skype for Business or meeting systems based on SIP and H.323 standards like Polycom and Cisco can seamlessly join a Hangouts Meet meeting via the Pexip Infinity Platform. Hangouts Meet hardware connects any meeting room or huddle space to a video meeting with a single click.

In an email response to BH’s inquiry, Zoom said: The coronavirus has changed how we work, play and learn: Schools are closed, sporting activities have been cancelled, and many people have been asked to work from home.

“Overnight, Zoom has become a primarily social platform for millions of people, a lot of the high school and college students, as those institutions move to online learning.

“Zoom is where we now work, go to school and party. It affords less computer-literate people to learn how to successfully navigate the online world”, the company stated.