The term Unified Communications (UC) encompasses a large scope of solutions. From instant messaging platforms, video conferencing, and file sharing programs, to mobile applications. The common denominator of UC solutions for the enterprise is the platform’s ability to increase productivity, flexibility, and collaboration in the workplace. The increased collaboration includes internal team collaboration− between marketing and the call center, for example, − as well as communication with external audiences such as partners, supply chain companies, vendors, and customers.
The UC industry continues to evolve with a number of marketplace consolidations. Chris Wilder from Moor Insights and Strategy, cites consolidation in the space, such as the merger between Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent in addition to Cisco Systems’ numerous acquisitions, as part of this trend. He believes marketplace consolidation will continue to be a transformative force in the UC market (Source: Forbes). Moving beyond traditional unified communications solutions like Microsoft’s Skype, Slack, and Google Hangouts, UC technologies will continue to expand particularly into the mobile space. Here are some other important trends to keep in mind if you’re considering re-invigorating your UC strategy.
- Moving beyond the hype! Real benefits of Web Real-Time Communications (WebRTC)- WebRTC technology makes it possible to extend features like voice and video into any desktop or mobile web browser. It allows for peer to peer, encrypted communications in the browser. What does that actually mean? In a nutshell, WebRTC lets users streamline voice and video calls and tie into screen sharing and multi-media instant messaging tools all at once. It is an open source alternative to a proprietary technology used by traditional UC vendor applications. It can run on top browsers, including Chrome and Firefox and soon Safari (if the rumors are true!). The fact that Slack and even Facebook messenger are now supporting WebRTC technology points to the fact that it’s gaining traction as a viable alternative protocol for new communication and collaboration apps.
- Consider mobile device management- With the proliferation of consumer video and voice applications (Youtube, Facetime, Skype) it’s no wonder employees expect the same high-quality experience from all applications at all times− whether they are using a tablet at home, in a client office, or they are on the corporate network. A user could even be a laptop on free WIFI at the airport; regardless, they want a seamless experience. Individuals want a unified and intuitive user experience, where mobile devices and smartphones are reliable and the primary means of business communications.
This brings a new set of challenges, including ensuring communications are secure and real-time application performance is high, even when it’s out of the control of the IT department (public WIFI). Many companies are turning towards cloud-based hosted Mobile Device Management Solutions (MDM) for help. Not only are these providers delivering the networks and bandwidth to run these applications, they are taking it a step further to ensure the end-user experience is high. Providers can help set up a secure platform that allows users to exchange sensitive corporate information on mobile devices and through UC platforms seamlessly.
- Embedded UC into more applications− The emerging WebRTC standard and standard session initiation protocol (SIP), makes it easy to see the massive productivity potential of UC-enabled apps. For instance, what would happen if you were able to integrate secure, instant messaging capabilities into your CRM system like SalesForce? Or, if you could allow VoIP calls to be made directly from those applications after double-clicking on a contact (even ones accessed on a mobile device)? In this same example, imagine if a customer support manager could make a call to a customer directly from SalesForce. And then, they could record and archive that interaction by linking that CRM record to an enterprise DropBox account. What would that do for productivity? The potential synergies with UC and the applications that employees use most are exponential.
With application performance, Quality of Service (QoS) and security challenges that come with enterprise communication, many believe that Unified Communications-as-a-Service (UCaaS) will also continue to be an area for expansion. It’s easy to make the case, considering employees are becoming more dispersed and workforces are becoming more mobile and global every day. A cloud and hybrid service model looks promising in helping to deliver the performance, security, and scalability required for competitive enterprises.