As we look back on a year of upheaval and turmoil, the world of unified communications and collaboration (UCC) has undergone drastic changes which will transform the way organizations operate forever.
We’ve seen businesses undergo a rapidly accelerated digital transformation. It’s been the year of cloud collaboration, the emergence of new technology and vendors, and an increase in UCC complexity and multi-vendor/multi-platform hybrid cloud environments.
The future of UCC lies in ensuring seamless collaboration. Regardless of whether the modern workplace returns to the way it was, remains remote – or becomes a combination of both – we now know that collaboration tools are vital to business continuity.
Let’s take a look at the key trends that have shaped the year that was – and are now firmly entrenched in the future success of UCC.
Watch – 2021 UCC Outlook: Key Trends to Watch
Collaboration tools are mission critical
Due to changing workforce dynamics, and an increase of Unified Communication-as-a-Service (UCaaS) implementations, the global UC market is forecasted to reach USD 167.1 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research Inc.
Any working environment requires collaboration. Employees need to meet, share files, deliver presentations, share ideas and dialogue. Without team collaboration tools, businesses couldn’t communicate. More and more collaboration software is being developed, while existing tools are improving their features and functionality. From meetings to messaging, to phone, the right integration of tools will drive innovation. Organizations have embraced communication platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Cisco WebEx, Slack, Asana and many others as part of their UC environment.
Multi-vendor, multi-solution will be the norm
A multi/hybrid UC approach is the way forward. Most organizations today are not on a single, unified communications platform. They’re on disparate platforms from any number of UC vendors – Cisco, Avaya, Genesys, Microsoft, and others. According to Wainhouse Research, more than 75% of IT leaders would choose to implement a range of best of breed solutions from a variety of vendors to meet their UC requirements. This has all been made possible by the use of cloud services. With previous generation on-premise/server based technology, the scale of communication now required by larger organizations wouldn’t be possible.
Moving to the cloud 2021 – the year of hybrid
Many organizations have been on the hybrid path for more than a decade, undecided as to which part of their UCC ecosystems to host on premises or in the cloud. For many organizations, the change in workplace dynamics has accelerated the use of cloud-based video communication platforms. This means they’ve had no choice but to accelerate these plans and turn to cloud collaboration tools.
Businesses across a spectrum of industries have moved toward hybrid solutions to reduce costs and strain on local resources, as well as accessing a higher level of flexibility, efficiency and scalability.
“The drive towards moving to the cloud is undeniable as more businesses seek to capitalise on the flexibilities and associated management and cost benefits.” Ian Guest, Pure IP
But even though cloud migration is inevitable, many organizations still need to retain some aspects of their existing on-premises UCC systems and infrastructure. The ongoing need for multi-vendor, multi-location management then amplifies UCC complexity. IT managers need to consider compatibility with existing hardware systems and architecture as well as costs, user adoption and security.
Blended work environments are here to stay
‘Blended working’ is another term that has emerged from the year that was. It encompasses a future where many businesses will retain a central office design but perhaps on a smaller scale. It could see some people based in an office environment, and others working remotely, or choosing their own pattern of a combined office-based and remote working week.
Remote working has been a positive experience for many workers. It’s enabled them to save money by ditching the expensive commute, work more efficiently and find a better work/life balance. Perhaps single people and younger workers may be keen to re-enter the traditional workplace, while others will not.
Remote working positives that will carry into 2021 and beyond
- Upskilling. Employees and businesses have been forced to learn fast how to use new tools to keep up with digital innovation. This will improve adaptability and resilience.
- Work/life balance and productivity. McKinsey research reveals that 80% of people they surveyed reported that they enjoyed working from home, and 41% claimed to be more productive than before.
- Disaster readiness. Measures put in place to maintain business continuity have made businesses much more prepared to deal with unforeseen events.
Remote working challenges
- Burnout. The flipside of being more productive working from home is the blurred line between work and home, where switching off becomes more difficult. ‘Zoom fatigue’, for example, has become a concern for many.
- Maintaining workplace culture and morale. Clear communication, flexibility and understanding of expectation between employees and employers is a challenge now even more than before.
- IT capacity. IT teams have been the backbone of most organizations during this crisis. Now they are stretched to the limit with increasing complexity in UC infrastructures, and the need to support employees remotely.
User expectations – delivering a quality user experience matters
Delivering a quality user experience is crucial for employees, partners, customers, prospects, or anyone interacting with your organization.
From an employee and partner perspective, research has shown that proactive management of user experience creates a 60% increase in user satisfaction. This is partly due to a decrease in service outages, and faster incident resolution – leading to a 31% gain in employee productivity, with clearer calls, meetings starting on time and running well.
For customers and prospects, poor user experience can have a huge impact on your organization. In fact, research reveals that 89% of consumers will move to a competitor if they encounter a consistently poor interaction with your brand. Conversely, a positive encounter can increase customer spending by up to 140%. Additionally, 86% of customers say they are willing to pay more for a better experience.
With all these digital interactions, it’s vital that all your omni-channel touchpoints are optimized for peak performance. This ensures a seamless, frictionless experience – and a positive impact on your organization’s bottom line.
The growth of UCC optimization and management services
We now live in a collaborative work environment, where everyone involved with an organization needs to communicate effectively. We’ve talked about the rapid increase and continued acceleration of digital transformation in the workplace, and this will continue well into the future.
There are many components that make up your UC infrastructure, so what happens when one or more of these components aren’t functioning properly? Downtime, outages, poor quality audio and video, shaky or non-connectivity are just some of the problems that can occur within your UC environment.
With multi-vendor/multi-platform systems, remote working, cloud transition and user experience to consider, UC architecture needs to include performance management tools. Without them, your organization is trying to drive a car without a steering wheel.
The need for high uptime, quality sound and video, troubleshooting and root-cause detection, along with detailed analytics, has become even more vital. This is all driven by the need to improve user experience for both employees and customers.
There are a host of benefits to implementing the right management software for your UC stack.
- Efficient provisioning for new and remote team members
- Tracking and analytics for UC assets and applications
- Voice and video monitoring, troubleshooting and management
- Historical real-time reporting
- Connectivity and communication diagnostics
- Remote device management.
In our digital era, companies need a UC environment that can interoperate horizontally across different vendors and platforms, and vertically up and down the technology stack. They need the ability to interoperate between their internal communication systems intended for employees and their external communication systems intended for customers.
To survive in in this new digital age and to thrive in 2021 and beyond, organizations need a single end-to-end monitoring and performance management solution that truly can do it all.