Thanks to the mad rush to enable work-from-home over the past year, UCaaS is on its way up. Interest in unified-communications-as-a-service surged by 86 per cent at the start of the pandemic, according to one survey of 500 U.S. enterprise organizations.
Research firm Metrigy estimates that about 47 per cent of businesses globally are using UCaaS solutions right now — the highest level since 2016. And Metrigy predicts that figure could hit 70 per cent in the next two years.
Lest we forget about 5G, it’s also making inroads across North America (finally). In a recent online presentation, analyst Dave Michels explored five ways 5G will change UCaaS. It’s a timely topic, given that both 5G and UCaaS could play key roles in the post-pandemic hybrid work strategies of many organizations.
1. Connectivity will trump the device
Remember when everything was about the mobile device and all the cool features and functions it had? As apps and data move from devices into the cloud, connectivity has become more important than hardware. The WFH trend during the pandemic has only hastened that shift, said Michels, principal analyst and founder at TalkingPointz.
“When all your data and all your conversations and all your digital assets are based in the cloud, always being connected is a requirement. It’s a necessity,” said Michels.
While UCaaS provides the cloud part, 5G provides the constant, consistently reliable connectivity, he said.
2. WFH will become WFA(nywhere)
UCaaS has enabled a lot of WFH during the pandemic but the enhanced connectivity of 5G will truly transform that into work-from-anywhere, Michels predicted.
Although many a WFH setup has been plagued by bad Wi-Fi, 5G will provide good connectivity from almost anywhere, allowing people to work almost anywhere without any Wi-Fi headaches.
“For the last several years, UCaaS has always been about working anywhere, anytime. But that has largely had a little asterisk next to it that you had to have good Wi-Fi,” said Michels. “I think that’s what 5G is really going to change: work in a taxi while you’re in the back seat, work pretty much anywhere you need to be as the (5G) network gets built out.”
Michels believes UCaaS vendors will introduce more “communications-enabled applications and rich APIs” as 5G availability increases.
3. 5G will improve collaboration
After the past year, a lot of people are suffering from virtual meeting burnout and can’t wait to collaborate in-person again at the office. Right?
Maybe not. Michels expects to see an upswing in virtual collaboration after the pandemic fades. Why? He theorizes that once we actually get back to the office, we’ll start to miss all the benefits of virtual collaboration.
In a virtual meeting, he said, “everybody has a front row seat. Everybody has volume control, everybody has access to all their content, everybody has access to seeing what’s being shared.”
As people return to in-person office meetings, however, he predicts they may find that, “oh, I got the crappy chair. I can’t hear what you’re saying. I can’t see what’s on the board. I wish I had better quality audio. I wish there was someone transcribing this so I could’ve captured what was just said.”
Michels may be onto something. About 65 per cent of people doing WFH during the pandemic say collaborating virtually has actually been better or about the same as collaborating at the office in-person.
As UCaaS vendors expand their collaboration offerings to cater to this sentiment, 5G will provide the constant connectivity that workers need to use them anywhere, Michels said.
4. 5G will accelerate transformation
Michels told a story about how two of his customer service transactions (renting a car and a hotel room) made him see how much the pandemic has upended business processes. Both can now be done completely remotely and contactless, from booking the car to picking it up and returning it, as well as keyless check-in, entry and check-out at a hotel.
Michels’ point is that the pandemic forced these industries to digitize as many parts of their operations as possible, and he thinks 5G will only speed up that trend further.
“How long have we had car keys? As long as we’ve had cars. How long have we had front desks? As long as we’ve had hotels. So we really have to re-imagine and rethink these opportunities that an always-connected world will create for digital transformation,” he said.
5. 5G will obliterate the 9-to-5 workday
The pandemic has chipped away at workers’ eagerness to return to the historical model of working 9-to-5, five days per week. According to a global survey conducted this spring of 2,181 people working remotely during the pandemic:
- 46% worry that returning to the office will give them less work flexibility than working remotely
- 43% worry about having less work/life balance if they return to the office full-time
Employees’ desire for more flexible working conditions (coupled with their bosses realizing they’ve stayed productive while working remotely) will lead to the demise of the 9-to-5 model, Michels said.
“I think the traditional workday is going to disappear, particularly if we have distributed teams and they’re in different time zones. I think it becomes much more important to have a work schedule that works for you. And that requires connectivity wherever you may be, which brings us back to 5G,” Michels said.
“It’s a matter of making sure our workflows and our processes are able to be done anytime, anywhere, any place.”