UCaaS Trends 2020 Round Table: What’s Next for UCaaS?
Lately, it seems like change is the only constant in the world of unified communications.
The rise of new technology, spreading all the way from cloud-based connectivity to artificial intelligence and IoT, has caused the UC landscape to change drastically.
There’s more to communication than picking up a phone or speaking to someone in person. Every day, we’re discovering new, more effective ways to strengthen the connections we have with colleagues and customers.
Now that the end of the year is almost insight, the team here at UC Today decided that it was once again time to reach out to some of the leaders of the UCaaS marketplace, for insights into what we can expect in 2020.
Here’s what we learned when speaking to experts from Prgama, Fuze, Nectar, VanillaIP, and Voxbone.
Which did Workplace Trends help to Shape 2019?
It has been an exciting year for UCaaS, with innovations and pioneering new technologies appearing all over the world. Perhaps one of the main driving factors behind the rise of UCaaS this year has been the changing state of the workplace. After all, now more than ever, the everyday worker is spending more time outside of the office, relying on dependable communication tools to maintain their link with their employer.
How has this changing workplace shaped UCaaS in 2019?
Bradlee Allen, Product Evangelist for Fuze:
Bradlee Allen told us that one of the biggest trends of 2019 has been the increase of flexible working practices. “This year, the perception of flexible working has entirely changed. From being a last resort for workers who couldn’t be in the office, to the ability to work flexibly becoming a defining feature of modern workplace cultures.”
Allen noted that research conducted by Fuze supports the idea of a new, remote workforce, stating that 79% of the workforce will happily make sacrifices going forward to obtain the flexibility they need. For instance, today’s employees will give up other company benefits and take on more work if it means that they get to work flexibly. Over half of the respondents in Fuze’s study said that they would switch jobs for greater flexibility too.
"The freedom to work flexibly is no longer considered a ‘perk of the job,’ it’s a default expectation among workers of all generations”
Tim Armstrong, VP of Product Marketing for Nectar:
According to Tim Armstrong, the most significant UC and contact centre trends that shaped the last year revolve around the accelerated adoption of cloud platforms – even among larger enterprises. Armstrong also drew attention to the growing popularity of persistent chat-based platforms for collaboration like Teams and Slack.
“Driving both of those trends are three macro, long-term trends impacting all of IT: globalisation, mobility/remote worker, and an increasing influence of younger generations (i.e., Millennials, Gen Z) in the workplace”
Though Tim acknowledged that cloud itself isn’t a new trend, he believes that the enterprise adoption of cloud-based tools, enterprise voice and contact centre solutions is really making a difference to the industry.
Iain Sinnott, Sales and Marketing Director for VanillaIP:
Iain Sinnott told us that the demand for feature-appropriate extensions for UC solutions has increased over the last year. He believes that the demand for extensible applications is growing as businesses begin to understand the changing core requirements of their teams, and the diverse needs of each individual.” Addressing specific users like a classroom teacher with a low-cost, low feature solution has opened that vertical to cloud resellers offering a sophisticated solution to the admin, mobile and senior team users.”
Sinnott also told us that this experience is also appearing in the small and mid-sized business space, where smaller call and contact centres are being deployed with a focus on driving enhanced customer experiences support by analytics and call recording for training.
“Newer and smaller players are likely to start the journey with Hunt Group enhancements like Akixi. MIS and package flexibility are increasingly part of the desired deal”
Mehmet Hussein, Senior Solutions Architect for Voxbone:
Mehmet Hussein told us that one of the main trends he saw shaping workplaces in 2019 was the rise of dark IT. When employees typically start working at a company, they usually get a work phone, but they don’t always get the tools they need to simplify collaboration. “It’s no surprise that employees default to communications apps like WhatsApp, that they know and like.”
Given the rise of new regulations such as GDPR and the increasing panic that’s associated with issues like data breaches in the IT industry, all aspects of IT management need to react to the potential of dark IT. Particularly in the communications industry, Voxbone sees employers shifting their strategies to counteract new risks.
“Given that the workforce is more IT savvy these days, it’s unrealistic to try and “force” employees into using a poor comms experience – they will just ignore it”
“Employers have responded by embracing tools that give their employees the best possible platforms that enable them to communicate without having to resort to riskier alternatives.”
Will Morey, Sales and Marketing Director for Pragma:
According to Will Morey, the growing demand for flexible working and a greater willingness to embrace the cloud are two of the main components at the heart of UCaaS in 2019.
“Many businesses demonstrated a relaxed approach to mobile working. As a result, there was notable growth in the use of unified communication and collaboration tools across the board. With cloud technology becoming a part of their everyday lives, key decision-makers of businesses were aware of the potential benefits of migrating their communications to the cloud and were more willing to invest in cloud-based technology.”
Morey told us that the flexibility and scalability of cloud-based platforms is aligning perfectly with the mobility goals of businesses, helping to shape the need for UCaaS in 2019. 2018 saw Pragma’s cloud partners recording a growth of over 114%, and that trend has continued through 2019 too.
Which Technologies Are Creating the Biggest Opportunities for the Industry?
The UCaaS industry is one of the most exciting areas in the communication landscape today. As a strategy built on top of the flexible and diverse world of cloud, UCaaS has the power to update and improve almost constantly. This year, we’ve seen a rise in everything from next-level applications and APIs in the UCaaS space, to the arrival of state-of-the-art reporting and analytics.
We asked our leading market experts to share their thoughts on which technologies might be leading to the biggest opportunities for growth and success in the world of tomorrow.
The product evangelist for Fuze, Bradlee Allen told us that the technologies driving the best opportunities for solution providers and partners today are the ones that are supporting the rise of the “future of work.” According to Allen, today’s companies want applications and tools that will power more meaningful communication and allow employees to achieve better work/life balance.
“Through platforms like Fuze, workers no longer need to be in the office to be productive—they have the freedom to carry out their jobs from any location. UCaaS technologies allow people to work from any location, while bringing consistency and enterprise-grade communications to the business.”
Allen also told us that calling, and voice communication continues to be a business-critical consideration. This means that technologies such as VoIP are still offering big opportunities for the UC environment. What’s more, “Demand for multiparty video conferencing and huddle rooms is also growing, as businesses look to create productive collaboration spaces that emulate the face-to-face experience. Using Fuze Rooms, workers can easily connect, present, chat, and share meeting notes, from any location.”
VP of Product Marketing at Nectar, Tim Armstrong believes that the biggest opportunities in the UC spaces are going to be driven by a rise in analytical tools and reporting options. “First, the combination of technologies that enable data-driven decisions and high-value business insights around collaboration present a great opportunity for everyone in this industry. The new frontier here are the increasingly intelligent headset and conference room systems along with API enabled platforms.”
With new technologies available, Nectar believes that the UC industry will be uniquely positioned to help companies gain more control over their employee experience strategy. This means that organisations will be able to attract and compete for talent more effectively.
“Second, analytics continue to create great opportunities for organisations that are positioned to help use data insights to improve security and compliance efforts. Here, technologies around voice recognition and AI will open up new worlds – but they both require powerful big-data analytics.”
Ian Sinnott from VanillaIP said that he thinks the appeal of new services and applications are growing at different rates in unique verticals and regions. For instance, fashion and functionality are beginning to combine to drive the adoption of new collaboration tools. This has a knock-on effect on the way companies choose devices.
“The mobile phone started life as a toy for the Yuppie Elite, so collaboration has been largely seen as a corporate plaything or perhaps the exclusive preserve of the Shoreditch huddle room set. As the fear of new technology and working practices dissipates, through involvement via 3rd parties, the power of collaborative working is spreading and perhaps liberating more people from the traditional workplace.”
According to Sinnott, it’s the management of today’s leading solutions and the ability to deliver a true on-demand cloud-based experience that will encourage the greatest gains for service providers, resellers, and individual services consumed on-demand and added to the billing process.”
Voxbone’s Senior Solutions Architect, Mehmet Hussein, told us that opportunities for growth in the current UCaaS landscape are dependent on open-source applications and transparent standards, delivered alongside rich stacks of API technology. “Service Providers should avoid trying to be all things to all users, as there’s no such thing as a one size fits all XaaS product right now. There’s a real opportunity for organizations to start embracing the benefits of open platforms in order to make way for best inbreed combined solutions.”
According to Hussein, there’s a real opportunity available today for organisations to start embracing all the benefits that open platforms have to offer, in order to make way for a best-in-breed combined solution. Approaches like “Bring Your Own Carrier” also mean that companies can bring their carrier of choice to whichever services they prefer.
“As businesses see the true value of a BYOC approach, we’ve seen a 300% organic growth in BYOC uptake.”
Pragma’s Will Morey told us that many of the opportunities available going forward would carry on from the trends that we’ve seen in 2019. Collaboration tools, unified communications, and the cloud will all continue to be huge opportunities for comms resellers in the years to come.
“While we cannot discount the opportunities 5G, IoT, and SD-WAN will bring, UC&C and cloud remain the key drivers”
“Factors such as the ISDN switch off, mounting call costs, the need for greater regulatory compliance, scalability and the need for greater collaboration and mobility will see consumers moving towards UCaaS solutions.”
Morey noted that the more recent technological advancements like AI, 5G, and IoT will provide today’s manufacturers with a new range of opportunities that they can use to strengthen their UCaaS offerings while growing demand for digital transformation and mobility in the enterprise will help UCaaS to grow even further.
What Kind of Trends Will We See in 2020?
With a strong understanding of the things that have supported the growth of UCaaS in 2019 and an insight into the opportunities that today’s companies can take advantage of in the years to come, we can begin to speculate on the future. Now that the cloud is becoming increasingly popular as a way to access modern technology and digital transformation, it’s certain that UCaaS’s growth will continue to skyrocket.
Tim Armstrong of Nectar thinks that a lot of the trends that we’ll see in 2020 will be similar to the market-moving factors of 2019. For instance, on the enterprise side, he believes that 2020 will see an increased focus on the shift to contextual collaboration patterns established and enabled by Slack, Microsoft Teams, and similar offerings. He also expects to see a rise of trends like cloud-hosted platforms driving the growth of UC, enterprise voice and contact centre tools.
On the other hand, from a vendor perspective, Nectar expects to see a continued drive on every front to enable more automation capabilities and AI technology. “Also, look for Poly, Jabra, Logitech, etc to all drive towards advanced endpoint telemetry as a way of differentiating, avoiding commoditisation, and enabling their sales teams to move upstream to higher level business and technology decision makers.”
According to Ian Sinnott of VanillaIP, productivity will be the main driver in 2020, and it will start to fight back against the apathy common among business companies. The demand for better productivity will also fight the active resistance of companies committed to the old PBX channel. “Should one of the big brands in the PBX world fail, I expect to see a rapid drive to the cloud by the incumbent suppliers.”
Leading service providers and cloud resellers will be focusing on the smoothness and simplicity that they can deliver with onboarding and provisioning in the months to come, according to Sinnott. Additionally, these companies will be reviewing the actual adoption of service strategies by the customer, jointly supporting the ongoing management of on-demand principles in the cloud, and KPI tracking.
“Sales will be made based on positive business outcomes and the highest ARPU; longest relationships and greatest margin will belong to the patient players who are prepared to earn the right to constantly add to the customers consumed service list through marketing and account management.”
We asked our market leaders what kind of trends they think we’re set to see in 2020 as this year ends.
Fuze’s Bradlee Allen said that one of the biggest trends he sees in the pipeline for 2020 is the growing demand for and use of artificial intelligence. He believes that AI will help to improve communication processes and streamline productivity.
“AI helps organisations understand which channels a worker prefers, how to automate tasks like scheduling or setting up conference calls, or proactively add tasks to a to-do list. An AI-powered assistant within UC can help work to flow effortlessly, giving workers more time to focus on the creative and collaborative aspects of their jobs.”
According to Allen, the analysis of meetings and calls across the UC platform can help to deliver more detailed insights to companies about things like peak productivity times and engagement levels. Additionally, these insights help to inform the approach that companies take to communication, so that brands can optimise the value in their interactions. Allen also referenced the global Productivity @ Work report conducted by Fuze, highlighting the importance of analytics in the current landscape.
Mehmet Hussein of Voxbone thinks that a number of trends will appear in 2020, starting with unbundled communication packages. Like other parts of the IT industry, it’s likely that the UC environment will move towards an age where we expect less of a one-size-fits-all approach.
“We expect to see an unbundling of communications, where companies choose the best in breed with these platforms/applications speaking together with APIs. Just like in the rest of the IT industry, the market will demand the best possible capabilities and experience in every aspect of their comms stack. Satisfying basic functionality without the burden of physical server maintenance is no longer sufficient – features often seen as nice-to-haves, are now being recognised as powerful productivity game changers, with each vendor having a speciality.”
Excessive choice in the marketplace means that the stack needs to become increasingly unbundled, so that companies can pick and choose the solution that’s right for them, complete with Bring Your Own Carrier strategies.
Will Morey of Pragma told us that the wider adoption of cloud technology happening in all environments today means that it’s only a matter of time before customers and end-users will start looking for a change in the industry. People will expect the same simplicity and functionality that they get from personal devices in the business environment. According to Morey, there will be a much greater demand for user-friendliness and simplicity in UC tools.
“As more businesses turn towards enterprise mobility, there will be a greater need for mobile applications that are as capable as their desktop counterparts. Users will need to be presented with seamless experiences through one application as opposed to the myriad of tools they use currently.”
Morey also told us that as UCaaS penetration hits an all-time-high, providers will be searching for other avenues that allow them to differentiate their offerings and stand out in the current marketplace. Providers will begin to extend their focus into offering new kinds of value to users. “Most SPs will concentrate on introducing additional attachments to address these needs and increase their average revenue per user.”
Industry: Unified Communications
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