While enterprises are moving beyond traditional handsets to more sophisticated communications and collaboration technologies, the UC landscape is—once again—on the move.
Literally. With more remote and mobile workers, more devices and applications, and new technologies to add into the mix, unified communications is in the midst of another transformation.
While we’ve seen movement from UC to UCaaS (unified communications as a service), we’re starting to see further consolidation of communications—from voice-over-IP to video conferencing, instant messaging and team collaboration—into a single unified platform.
“The collaboration software landscape is rapidly changing from point products for meetings, calling and messaging to integrating collaboration capabilities with workflows to improve business processes,” said Irwin Lazar, vice-president and service director with Nemertes Research, in an article for Tech Target.
And this requires a “platform approach to deployment and development expertise to take advantage of collaboration APIs.”
UCaaS will play a part in that. While 36 per cent of companies surveyed by Nemertes Research for its 2019-20 Workplace Collaboration study still rely upon on-premises UC platforms, 43 per cent of those are planning or evaluating a UCaaS migration.
But it’s not just about centralization. In part, this is a response to the changing requirements of users, who need “a broad range of full-fat UC, offering everything from cloud calling, to collaboration service, customer engagement tools and even contact centre solutions,” Rami Houbby, vice-president for cloud sales (EMEA & APAC) at Mitel, told UC Today.
That’s where SIP could help. “SIP-centric offerings with APIs and opportunities for customization are becoming increasingly popular, particularly at a time when companies are struggling to find the comprehensive solution that they need for innovation and growth from a single provider,” he said.
That speaks to trends we’ve been seeing over the past year. Some aren’t exactly new—like the rise of mobility. What’s new, however, is that the ability to work remotely isn’t a ‘perk’ anymore; it’s just part of the job.
And while cloud isn’t new either, we’ve been seeing increased adoption of cloud-based platforms for UC—a trend also driven by mobile and remote workers, as well as Gen Y and Z in the workplace.
But new opportunities are coming our way with AI, 5G and SD-WAN, which could make UC tools even better.
Take artificial intelligence. While VoIP solutions allow you to set up auto attendants and advanced call routing, AI will take this to a new level—like skills-based call routing and digital voice assistants that use sentiment analysis. With intelligent speaker tracking, for example, you’d know exactly who’s speaking during a tele-conference.
“AI and machine learning capabilities can be integrated within the entire UCaaS feature set, offering end-users access to everything from virtual assistants, to intelligent chatbots and predictive analytics,” Mitel’s Houbby said in the UC Today interview.
And through analysis of big data, UC platforms will be able to deliver better insights about those interactions.
At this point, though, only five per cent of companies are using AI to enhance collaboration, according to Nemertes Research—though 43 per cent are evaluating it.
“I expect to see rapid uptake of AI-powered capabilities as they become more widely available in 2020 to improve meeting experiences, enable easier access to relevant information and break down language barriers,” said Lazar in the aforementioned article in Tech Target.
Ultimately, this will make UC more user-friendly—both for employees and for customers. And that’s perhaps the best way to combat shadow IT, security concerns and regulatory compliance.