Navigating The Global Pandemic Bridging Technology and Human Communications

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By Shrey Fadia, Analyst and Consultant, Artin Arts

Nearly every category in the world of software and hardware solutions, including cloud communications, virtual working, visual computing, IoT and more is actively working on ways to control and combat the Coronavirus, which continues to threaten the health and lives of millions of people around the world.

The transformation of traditional voice, data, video and messaging applications to the cloud has been accelerated by requirements for people to stay in place, working from home, or to comply with new social distancing and sanitization protocols when going into a physical workplace, taking public transportation or even enjoying dinner out at a favorite restaurant.

Every aspect of our lives has been impacted, and as part of our mission at Pandemic Tech News, we are sharing the success stories of companies who have stepped up to help their customers and others navigate the complex issues associated with COVID-19, and to ensure their employees are safe and still productive.

We caught up with Bita Milanian, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing at Ribbon Communications, a large, publicly traded enterprise (Nasdaq: RBBN), which recently merged with ECI Telecom Group and delivers global communications software and packet and optical transport solutions to service providers, enterprises, and critical infrastructure sectors. Ribbon’s end-to-end solutions portfolio delivers scale, performance, and agility, and includes packet and optical networking, core to edge IP solutions, UCaaS/CPaaS cloud offers, and leading-edge software security and analytics tools.

Bita Milanian, Ribbon Communications

She shared Ribbon’s experience during this extraordinary year.

“We’ve deeply felt the impact of COVID-19 as more customers turn to cloud-based infrastructure for real time communications, and we’ve rallied to support those customers with tangible offerings that have enabled them to continue their business operations while protecting their teams,” Milanian said. “We immediately created and rolled out offerings, including some free services, to help businesses and organizations stay connected through the Internet and cloud with reliable and secure communications, including large service providers and enterprises we support. While we were, ourselves, adapting to the important stay at home orders, every person in our company was also rising up to meet new demands during this chaotic and stressful time, and I am very proud of how Ribbon rallied and made sure every one of our customers were taken care of. I am also proud of how the Ribbon team used our own collaboration tools to work efficiently from home, and how kind and compassionate our culture was in the process.”

In addition to leading her team of global marketing professionals at Ribbon, Milanian is also a highly respected humanitarian and long-time human rights activist, so is especially tuned into how COVID-19 is impacting countries all over the world, including Iran, where she was born, but fled to Germany during the Iran-Iraq war.

“Especially at times like these, it is important for us to keep people connected, keep factual information flowing, and support science and guidelines that can mean the difference between life or death, prosperity or economic collapse.”

Bita Milanian, SVP Global marketing, Ribbon Communications

“On the marketing front,” Milanian said, “there were so many inspiring stories so it was very meaningful to promote not just the power of our offerings, but genuinely solve hard problems with our mix of great technology and connected systems, and our talented and super committed crew.”

Milanian explained that, like every other marketing team inside large enterprises, she and her team and colleagues had to immediately adapt, as in person events were cancelled, and virtual events became extremely popular. “We have participated by providing expert speakers to the organizers and have also had great success with our own webinars. Given the new challenges, webinars and virtual meetings have been growing rapidly as our customers and partners are all challenged to figure out new ways to meet and work.”

Ribbon adapted quickly to the pandemic, including adjusting solutions to accommodate higher usage, and making sure all employees can safely work from home, including Milanian and her group.

“My team has always been great – they are super positive, productive professionals who love a good challenge. It has been challenging to not be able to all be together – we love a good workshop and fun dinner and drinks afterward! We have been very close for many years and, in some cases, decades, and we simply miss seeing each other and being able to brainstorm in person,” Milanian said. “When it comes to external communications with partners and customers, we have been doing more of that than ever, supporting all our sales and corporate initiatives. We have a very advanced marketing and sales technology platform, so the software has made it easier, and since we have been actively using this platform for the last several years, we were in an excellent position to be able to use it for distribution and to get data on engagement.”

Milanian has been a pioneer in martech throughout her career, and especially in the last few years, and she says those real time communications tools became a deep advantage over the last several months.

“I never thought when we began to build this digital platform when I joined Ribbon six years ago, that we would be using it to navigate through the worst global health crisis imaginable. I am very grateful we were in that position as it allowed us to stay connected with all our constituents, in real time!”

When asked if she anticipated a return to pre-COVID times in the telecom and technology worlds, Milanian said firmly, “The industry has been changing so fast, and Ribbon has been, as usual, on the ‘disruptive’ front end of the curve, and our culture and energy enabled us to go with the flow. No industry is immune from the impact of COVID-19, and I envision a better new normal when we make the right choices and invest in better technologies, like cloud-based communications, so we can beat this virus, and be prepared for the next crisis.”

Milanian shared the same advice as she has given her team, saying:

  • Stay alert and don’t “shut down” when things get tough; marketing can be the heartbeat during times like these and it is incredibly important to stay focused, productive and positive.
  • Watch what is happening in every region you serve – they are all experiencing the pandemic differently, and it is important to be aware and communicate with exactly the right level of service and style.
  • Rest up – with extra-long days and a ton of uncertainty, things can be very stressful, but if people are tired, things WILL get more stressful. Work in shifts.

“The most astonishing impact has been how amazing our customers have been! Our customers were ready to adapt quickly – speeding up not slowing down their digital transformations. Since our offerings were built for simplicity and cost efficiency, we are seeing customers wanting to completely switch to our virtualized, next-gen cloud solutions.”

Milanian has also seen a huge demand for cybersecurity across their real time communications offerings, as well as mass interest in 5G capabilities. “5G means work from home and work from anywhere can happen with super high-speed networking which we also secure. By speeding up, our customers are getting advantages that are sustainable and future-proof – we don’t see any customer going backwards, only forwards.”

Milanian gave guidance when it comes to how individuals can process and grow during this uncertain time. “Help your community locally, whether it is recognizing first responders, creating campaigns to help families in need, bringing food to hospital workers, supporting local small businesses  – whatever it is your community needs – step in and step up.”

Do not expect to be rewarded for doing good work, but know that when you help people, they never forget you and that could lead to opportunities as a marketer you have never dreamed of.

“No matter how hard things get, seize the day,” she concluded. “Find ways to help, small ways and big ways. To quote Ghandi, be the change in the world you wish to see. Success will follow from there!”

About the author:  Shrey Fadia is an engineer, analyst, consultant and writer covering the most disruptive fields in technology today including AI, IoT, Blockchain, Cybersecurity, Communications Platforms as a Service and more, with a special interest in innovations that improve lives. While working towards his Master of Science degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton, NY, Fadia has published numerous articles on advances in software-based solutions in several industry publications. 

While working towards his undergraduate degree in engineering in India, Fadia and a team of other students developed a Smart Wheelchair leveraging sensors and affordable features including retrofitting existing equipment to make mobility possible using gesture mechanisms and obstacle avoidance. Their innovation was featured at an IoT Evolution World Expo in 2017. Fadia is currently a Graduate Teaching Assistant at State University of New York (SUNY) at Binghamton, NY while consulting for companies as a Senior Analyst for strategic tech communications firm Artin Arts, based in NYC.