The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way people work and forced organizations to find new ways to stay competitive while maintaining employee productivity. At the same time, remote work became more popular out of necessity, spurring on a long-lasting shift to a work-from-anywhere work model. Always a part of doing business, unified communications and collaboration has found new life as organizations turned to its set of communication and collaboration tools to host meetings and conferences as well as to increase workforce productivity.
Enterprises’ renewed embrace of UCC underscores the value of its dynamic functionality, allowing instant access to information, facilitating multimedia collaboration across departments and teams while also reducing operating costs. According to Statista, the global UCC market grew by more than 29 percent in 2020 compared to 2019 and reached a size of 47.2 billion U.S. dollars in 2020. The UCC market is set to further grow over the next few years to almost 50 billion U.S. dollars. Here are seven trends shaping UCC today.
7 Ways UCC Continues to Be Impactful
UCC is undergoing a transformation as the pandemic continues to highlight its benefits in improving business operations.
Home is the office
More employees are working from home than ever before and they’re finding new ways to stay connected. With increasing numbers of enterprise workers remotely accessing corporate systems, services, and platforms every day, IT teams have had to revamp their approach to managing workplace communications.
To make it easier for remote users to connect with coworkers and communicate across devices, businesses are increasingly adopting tools that enable real-time collaboration: instant messaging (IM), voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), video calling, and social networking. These technologies help them share information quickly and efficiently — and offer a lot more flexibility than older solutions like email alone. What’s more, in today’s hyper connected workforce, these communication channels aren’t just complimentary, they overlap in ways that enhance communication.
UCC in hybrid work
In addition to encouraging employees to work from home as often as possible, many organizations are moving towards a hybrid workplace where some staff members work from home or remotely, while others come into a central office to do their work. This switch is partly driven by a desire for greater employee happiness and productivity, but it also helps companies save money on operational costs. After all, there’s no reason to maintain an expensive office if most of your team can be productive from anywhere with a laptop and high-speed internet access.
To achieve unified communications in a hybrid work setting, companies need solutions that seamlessly integrate multiple devices including smartphones, computers, and tablets — both for face-to-face team collaboration sessions via video call and persistent connections that allow multiple users to exchange information over a longer period.
UCaaS to the rescue
In a nutshell, unified communication as a service (UCaaS) means that communications services will come from a cloud-based platform. There are many reasons behind its popularity including cost reduction, but users also appreciate being able to manage their communications via a single portal instead of a cluster of separate applications. Best of all, because UCaaS runs from a hosted environment, IT has increased levels of control over security without having to install or maintain costly equipment or software.
The versatility of UCaaS solutions makes them ideal for organizations that require tight integration between various tools and software. As business processes change and technologies emerge, companies that utilize UCaaS gain access to scalable and customizable platforms that don’t require an upgrade every few years. Cloud-based UC services are gaining traction for several reasons, including security, cost savings, and mobility. But they’re also user-friendly, easy to deploy, and flexible enough to fit into a business environment without consuming a lot of resources.
More cloud solutions
As UCC continues to rise in popularity, so too are cloud-based solutions. While these aren’t necessarily new, their usage has increased dramatically over recent years. One study by IDC found that 50% of organizations will transition all new UC services to some type of cloud architecture. Since unified communications typically involve multistep processes, opting for online tools can be very useful, since it saves time and energy you might otherwise spend trying to find manual workarounds for problems related to individual applications.
Artificial intelligence’s growing influence
AI is poised to transform enterprise UCC as we know it today. AI is influencing every aspect of enterprise communications, from employee virtual assistants like Cortana to next-generation UC platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Google’s version of Slack, Hangouts Chat. Bots make interactions with colleagues faster and easier by retrieving information and facilitating process automation. As far as unified communications trends go, AI has all of that and more; less time spent searching for information or manually completing tasks means more time collaborating face-to-face with colleagues, more productivity across teams in your company, better coordination across multiple workgroups working toward a common goal.
With BYOD in full swing, businesses are realizing that their mobile workforce needs UCC solutions that give them access to everything they need wherever they are. As they adopt these solutions, one key trend in enterprise UCC is that users will be able to stay connected to both corporate and personal networks seamlessly.
End users will also expect complete mobility support for all devices and applications, increasing employee productivity and further blurring what used to be distinct boundaries between work and personal life. Connecting workers from anywhere on any device or network can improve business agility by allowing teams to collaborate from different locations more easily while reducing costs associated with travel and time away from home. In some cases, remote workers may even perform more tasks than on-site employees because of reduced office distractions.
Businesses that want to take advantage of UCC need to know that no matter how many tools they use, all team members must be able to seamlessly collaborate across phones, tablets, and computers. In particular, BYOD (bring your own device) presents several challenges for business owners, but there are ways around them. For example, businesses can buy smartphones from vendors such as Apple, which natively supports a wide range of UC tools. As a result, workers can be productive anywhere, while companies enjoy reduced hardware and software costs. If employees choose their device instead of being issued one by their company, businesses have another option — virtual desktops or apps allow employees to securely access enterprise apps from their own devices over a standard internet connection rather than dedicated enterprise Wi-Fi. This way, everyone stays connected and data is never compromised.
Virtualization is also playing an increasingly important role in UCC, allowing IT departments to create custom networks out of whatever components they wish; either hosted in a cloud environment or on-premises. Being able to build their private cloud enables companies to cut costs even further and takes care of any mobility issues because employees can get on board with whatever systems suit them best. Of course, any system needs core features such as instant messaging capabilities, screen sharing, desktop sharing, audio conferencing, file sharing, storage, transfer, video conferencing, and presence awareness.
Why Should Enterprise Adopt UCC?
UCC tools used to be nice-to-have for enterprises prior to COVID-19. They have since become a need-to-have for enterprises looking to boost productivity, enhanced customer service, and increased employee satisfaction and collaboration among team members.