5 Unified Communications Predictions for 2017

    Note: This article originally appeared in VMblog.com on December 27, 2016.

    As UCaaS, Unified Communications as a Service, continues to expand, both globally and into the enterprise, the technology in maturing and meeting broader business needs.  Some of the changes that I expect to see in 2017 follow.

    1.  The mobile workstyle will dominate in the enterprise. This October, mobile traffic surpassed desktop traffic for the first time. In the workplace, there is no doubt that the employees are becoming increasingly more mobile, and will go to their mobile device first to perform business functions. There is still broader functionality on the desktop, but it is becoming a secondary device to conduct business functions. This behavior is driving technology development and adoption on the mobile device first, followed by desktop and web clients. While the desktop will continue to be an important work tool, workloads will be moved to mobile-based applications more than ever and new functionality will appear mobile first.

    2.  Businesses will start integrating Generation Z. Generation Z will enter the workforce this decade, so businesses need to address the changes in workstyle that this new generation brings. GenZs grew up with a constant communication stream, extensive content sharing and many options for receiving their content. Their expectations are high for tool performance; while patience and loyalty to non-performing technologies are low. GenZs know they have options in productivity tools and will pursue them quickly. Businesses will need to be even more responsive to technological changes, and provide more flexibility and interconnectivity than ever as GenZs drive new services into the workplace at an ever increasing rate.

    3.  Rise of digital assistance and bots in the workplace. We will see more companies taking advantage of bots to create stronger contextual awareness and improve the speed and accuracy of decision making in the workplace. Leveraging the increasing amount of customer data and improved analytical tools, bots can produce tangible value in decision making. Some interesting use cases include Contact Center applications and Sales enablement tools.

    Companies such as Chyme and Kore are developing bot technology specifically for the workplace. For instance, Chyme’s bots help workers in contact centers quickly determine the customer’s problem by identifying patterns of previous customer behavior. Kore’s Smart Bots can help retailers automatically figure out if certain merchandise is in stock, via a simple messaging platform. Bots will continue to infiltrate the workplace enabling businesses to obtain tangible value from evolving big data analytics and machine learning. 

    4.  Increased integration of the collaboration stack. IDC predicts that by 2019, 75 percent of IT spending will be driven by 3rd platform technology: cloud, mobile, analytics and social media based services. This transformational technology shift brings several interesting characteristics to productivity and collaboration tools in the workplace. In the collaboration space, end-users are gaining decision power in the enterprise, placing greater value on ease of use and overall user experience. Hence, best-in-class solutions are giving way to more integrated and holistic solutions that eliminate integration and compatibility issues. We will see growing partnerships and consolidation in the marketplace as vendors shift to focus on creating the best full stack solution rather than a standalone technology. IT spending for integrated collaboration stacks will continue to grow as companies forgo point solutions with integration challenges.

    5.  Greater relevance of global markets for UCaaS. The global unified communications and collaboration market is predicted to top $35B by 2019. UCaaS first emerged in the US as the cloud infrastructure and the technology matured. Regions outside of North America are now starting to take advantage of the technology. Within the UCaaS market, the majority of growth and adoption will spike in markets outside of the United States. In particular, Europe, Asia Pacific and Australia are starting to deploy UCaaS solutions now that the technology has been vetted and the needed infrastructure is in place. We’ll see the entire balance of power shift in the UCaaS market as Europe and Asia Pacific begin to adopt the technology at a faster rate.

    UCaaS technology is starting to live up to its full potential as the technology matures and the worldwide infrastructure fully develops. Adoption for more integrated solutions in increasing in the enterprise as end-users place greater value on user experience and tangible productivity gains. The expanded capabilities of mobile and analytics combined with a more technology friendly workforce will continue to accelerate UCaaS adoption. This is an exciting time for cloud-based collaboration tools!

    Eugenia Corrales is a tech industry veteran with over 25 years of experience in developing innovative products, establishing business development capabilities and building operational excellence. As ShoreTel's senior vice president of solutions, she is responsible for the ShoreTel product roadmap, product management, product development and product quality, as well as the network infrastructure for the ShoreTel hosted solution.

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