2019 was an exciting year for the Unified Communications (UC) industry. Throughout the marketplace, we’ve seen the rise of new and disruptive technology, like artificial intelligence tools, IoT, and machine learning. As businesses continue to accelerate toward the cloud, vendors and service providers from across the industry are also beginning to consolidate and collaborate with other companies to ensure that they can offer the most extensive selection of features available in 2020. Below is our list of five big predictions or what we anticipate in the world of unified communication in 2020.
1. UC Internet of Things (IoT)
The UC industry has largely been driven by the need to make interpersonal communications better, and IoT is machines talking to machines. UC-IoT enables people to talk to machines and vice versa. IoT is now mainstream, and businesses are connecting devices at a furious pace. Enterprises that integrate IoT with UC systems will have the ability to streamline workflows through voice interfaces, automated messaging and other communications enabled processes. UC-IoT can be a game-changer for smart cities, smart buildings, manufacturing, and healthcare as critical information can be analyzed and disseminated to the people that need it quickly. Some major providers have big IoT businesses but have done very little to bring UC and IoT together. Expect to see that change in 2020 as UC-IoT becomes real.
2. Return of Endpoint Hardware
The communications industry, like all markets, tends to see trends ebb and flow. A few years ago, talking about endpoint hardware may have felt a bit old fashioned as phones, cameras, and other devices were largely considered a commodity, and “good enough” was considered just that. In 2019, the pendulum has started to swing back towards hardware mattering, as endpoint manufacturers are loading these devices up with features to differentiate. The choice of hardware does matter, and that will become apparent in 2020. Good enough is no longer good enough.
3. Hybrid Clouds
Many in our industry have been awaiting the next episode in the cloud communications story to be released in 2020: hybrid clouds. The adoption of cloud communications has been dominated by small and mid-market customers with a preference for a SaaS model. Now that larger enterprises are jumping on the cloud bandwagon; the preference will be towards private and hybrid clouds. Eventually, hybrid will be the norm where the call control and data are local and advanced functions such as AI are done in the cloud. Companies want cloud, so the question is which cloud? It’s not always SaaS.
4. Sales, Marketing, & CCaaS Combine
It’s widely believed that customer experience (CX) is now the top brand differentiator, and competitive advantages often start first in the contact center. However, contact centers alone don’t often provide a complete view of CX, as customers also deal with sales and marketing departments of their favorite brands directly. Outbound interactions with sales and marketing are typically done via an automation platform, and inbound is done via a contact center. If these organizations aren’t in alignment, it can create a negative experience. For example, consider the case where a customer has a negative experience with a hotel chain and calls the contact center to complain and is left dissatisfied. If the sales organization is unaware of this and contacts an unhappy customer to sell them a vacation package, this may further aggravate the customer. If the salesperson knows, an entirely different approach can be taken where the interaction starts with an apology, and the vacation package offered at a discount.
5. Web Conferencing Popularity Grows
It’s often said that doing a video call is almost as good as being in person, and that’s been true of late as the quality of video systems is now so high. In 2020, we will see new AI features built into video that make doing a video call better than being in person. Consider the case of in-person meetings, everyone introduces themselves, and the meeting gets going. Since everyone is always multi-tasking, no one can ever remember people’s names, titles, or why they are even in the meeting, which can cause some embarrassing situations. Most of the video vendors are working on AI-based systems that superimpose each participants' name and other relevant information onto the screen. Any many of the meeting solutions are integrating transcription, meeting minutes, translation capabilities, and other features that improve virtual meetings. This will create an interesting dynamic as people will join video calls even when sitting across the table from someone.