What’s Trending in Unified Communications?

I was asked last week about how Unified Communications (UC) is changing with recent advances in UC technology; the client who was requesting the information was considering how her company might improve their internal processes. I took a few minutes to jot down some of the trends that AOTMP is seeing in the UC market. The complete list of new offerings in the business communications space would be too long for me to write here, not to mention that it seems to be changing daily. But here are a few that might be of interest to you, if your organization is trying to increase efficiency and improve the way that you communicate both internally and with your customers.

“The greatest challenge for an organization is the continued understanding of the evolution of new technology and where it starts. Often times, these new solutions are solving old problems. Staying in tune with these changes allows large enterprises to remain current in their efforts to update systems and deploy solutions that solve current productivity, delivery, and efficiency opportunities for the organization.” Andrew Hartwyk, AOTMP Senior Research Director

Video Communications and one-to-many collaboration: We can all agree that technologies like 5G, VR and AR have pushed the focus today on how a user experiences technology and the User Interface (UI) is being adapted for that interaction. Newer cost-effective hardware components, coupled with better IP connectivity and advances in Cloud support, we see video emerging as a primary technology that can and will drive improvements in business communication and collaboration, not just for enterprises but also for the SMB space. For Vendors, that allows video to become a leading new revenue stream for resellers and service providers in 2018 and beyond. With the continuing growth of the remote workforces, AOTMP Research shows that conference calls now represent almost half of all voice traffic in business settings. Clearly, the future of modern employee interactions will utilize some form of group collaboration solution, and we are seeing rapid adoption of team messaging and collaboration solutions such as Microsoft Teams, Cisco Spark and Slack.

Voice Assistants: As consumers, we are all becoming intimate with using AI assistants like Siri, Cortana and Alexa in our daily lives. By extension, the use of AI and bots to boost the customer experience is something every business is either using or contemplating at this point. AOTMP has already reported that AI and bots are radically changing the operational processes in many customer service and call centers, increasing efficiency by using bots to provide frequently requested information or support functions. AI’s ability to parse data is also working to give instant situational analysis to their human counterparts. This trend will continue to grow, fueled by advancements in machine learning, voice recognition technology and cloud utilization. However, in true business process applications, voice assistants face specific hurdles like how to put specific requests into business context or how to complete intricate or advanced level situational problems. While seemingly simple tasks like “Find final contracts for the project and mark the calendar with dates for expiration” would take a human very little time or thought to complete, a machine would find this task to be extremely complex and would require deep knowledge of the variables of each component of the instructions. But, voice assistants in an office setting could use UCaaS and potential integration with collaboration tools to become a valuable part of the team serving administrative functions like recording important calls based on pre-determined rules, sending follow-up meeting requests to participants or finding required information on request during a collaboration. If there is the use of neural networks or advanced machine learning, it would be possible for the bot to learn enough over the course of a project to remember the interactions and offer advice on similar projects at future times. There really is no limit to how virtual assistants could be utilized in coming years and how much they will improve efficiency by taking on normal, operational tasks which will allow humans to spend their time problem-solving and innovating.

Digital Transformation: Fast-becoming a ubiquitous term for changes to current business processes and evolving business cultures that will ultimately support new and diverse technology solutions, digital transformation is basically the integration of digital technology into every area of business. This shift in how companies manage their processes will ultimately lead to the difficult growing pains of altering legacy systems and processes as corporate leadership are forced to experiment with fresh ideas and accept the potential for failure. As organizations move forward with testing and eventually implementing these exciting new concepts, it will be incumbent on CIOs and their teams to ensure that UC services supporting digital transformation initiatives are able to handle things like high demand cloud services, will have reliable network infrastructures to sustain them, and ultimately deliver QoS to internal and external partners.

Microservices: This emerging architecture involves breaking down large, complex IT systems into smaller, more easily manageable elements that specifically deal with specific business requirements. Imagine them to be independent, manipulatable, self-contained software modules that can perform minute operational functions. This is done by addressing the applications at their functional component level and re-configuring them into the ideal combinations required for a business process using APIs. At the most basic level, microservice endeavors to take the cloud computing model and overlay it onto more traditional telecom infrastructure by building software that can run on standard, commercial hardware and deliver reliable virtual network functions for a fraction of the cost of making vast changes to existing systems. While this is not really an original concept, as it pertains to UC it will allow adoption of UC on a large scale moving forward to give business users more flexible options, faster speed to installation and better ROI. The potential to use this open application system exploiting the vast expanse of APIs already available, will give emerging technology like machine learning and human machine interface the capability of impacting multiple industry verticals at every level without incurring prohibitive cost.

Call Recording: As the global business world becomes more fully integrated, the need in certain enterprise verticals for adherence to strict compliance for call recording must be factored into a UC solution. While the majority of current regulations remain focused on recording traditional call interactions, non-voice call and data interactions are quickly outpacing voice as a means to communicate with customers. The application of new UC technology in this case, means that these types of interactions will fall under regulatory compliance and should integrate chat/IM, email, SMS, video and mobile communication into one system for greater ease of use and efficiency. Also, when considering GDPR, the latest UC call recording solutions can ensure that companies are keeping data safe and for the required retention periods by using technology like: unique configurations that only record interactions upon express consent of the customer, advanced security encryption features, and hierarchical and justification rules that provide date-specific storage for essential data.

Keep an eye on some additional players moving into the UC space: With the recent acquisition of Broadsoft (a world leader in UCaaS and CCaaS) by Cisco, there is a new major player in the UC space that can provide the highest levels of service and solutions to their customers. We have also seen some exciting additional UC offerings from companies like Microsoft/Skype for Business, Unify/Circuit, 8×8, Amazon/Chime, NEC/Univerge and Ringcentral. As the use case for UC is finally becoming a business requirement instead of a luxury, we will continue to see some of these larger players pushing their way into expanding enterprise markets and moving into more diverse locations across the globe. The expanding offerings for UC and its application in business environments will continue to fuel innovation in business process efficiency and customer interaction.

Learn more about managing your telecom environment from our AOTMP Experts at https://aotmp.com/blog/

Author(s)

  • As Director of Training and Development, Christine is responsible for the development of AOTMP University training, eLearning and the Telecom Management Tools database. She has 10+ years of mobility and telecom experience. She serves as an AOTMP subject matter expert in the categories of emerging technology, CDM, UC and cloud. Prior to joining AOTMP, she held a sales management position at Ingram Micro Mobility.