What is Unified Communications (UC)? Over the years, I’ve heard all kinds of definitions – especially as technological advancements continue to introduce new ways of communicating in the workplace. No longer just for the largest enterprises, Unified Communications solutions have penetrated their way into education, healthcare as well as small and medium business markets (SMB).
With the proliferation of internet and bandwidth, coupled with powerful free applications such as Skype and Google Hangouts that allow for high quality, real-time communication, the bar for paid Unified Communications services is set pretty high.
On the surface it may seem that competing with “free” is a tough endeavor. But when you consider security, flexibility, unique business requirements and interoperability, the enterprise UC market is still growing and positioned to continue to grow rapidly.
The leaders in the UC space know they must continue to push the envelope for what they deliver to their clients. They understand the significant need and opportunity for those clients who currently have systems that they’re seeking to improve and those that are looking at hanging up their old PBX or Key System to move into a next generation Unified Communications solution.
But when it comes to pushing the envelope, what does that mean?
It means being ahead of the curve – building tools and applications to extend UC services beyond traditional Voice, Video, Instant Message and Presence. It means spotting the trends and implementing them into your organization’s suite of products and systems.
With technology moving so quickly, trends can seem to come and go. But right now, there are five significant trends that are shaping the Unified Communications space. This includes Web Real Time Collaboration (WebRTC), Mobility, Bring your Own Device (BYOD), Hosted (Cloud UC) and Social Integration.
Here’s a rundown of these game-changing technologies.
- Web Real Time Collaboration (WebRTC): The ability to move from a call to a collaboration session has never been truly seamless. Services like WebEx and GoToMeeting have existed for some time and their service capabilities have not evolved as quickly as the collaboration industry. These older technologies require the creation of a meeting, an email to the invitees and a login to the service – which leads to extra steps and extra time for collaboration to take place.
Now this is all starting to change.
UC providers are building the capabilities for group chats in a desktop; the client is able to launch a web collaboration meeting or a screen share right out of the browser – giving them instantaneous capabilities to collaborate. This allows companies to collaborate faster than ever before – and all seamlessly within their UC environment.
- Mobility: Being connected anytime, anywhere is increasingly the goal for business communication. While a cell phone, more or less, provides this ability, the requirement to be fully connected to the office requires more than a disparate device on a wireless network.
Whether you are riding on a train on your way to the office or sitting on a beach in Florida, you can be fully connected as long as you have access to the Internet. While perhaps the most mature of the five trends, mobility still has room to grow because it hasn’t fully been embraced among Unified Communication platforms.
Starting with applications that ride on the mobile device, such as Meeting on the Move® from Sensory Technologies®, companies are giving the mobile device instant connection to contacts, communication tools and services that are typically available when logged in from the office.
- BYOD: This may be the most discussed trend in workspaces. The ability for users to integrate their personal tools into the business environment is an exciting, yet controversial, subject as IT leaders and business leaders feud over the ups and downs of BYOD. The bottom line is that these IT leaders’ battles will likely be futile because CEOs are among those seeking to bring their tablets to the office. The one thing that is for sure is that this trend will continue to evolve. More and more personal devices will enter the workplace, with companies having little impact on restricting their use. For UC providers, the goal is to make this trending service useful and accessible.
- Hosted (Cloud): Cloud was long viewed by IT departments as less secure and less reliable. With equipment being hosted elsewhere, the lack of control for many IT leaders was unacceptable. But with top down pushes for cost cutting, increased security protocols and the growth of cloud as a viable business model, resistance has been dwindling. For UC, the cloud now offers everything on-premise solutions can offer, and more. For instance, scalability with cloud is rarely an issue as the only requirement on the user side is bandwidth and QOS on the switch. Those are items you would need whether on or off premise, so their cost becomes a non-factor. The great thing about cloud for UC is that upgrades and growth are often included and don’t require much in the way of technical resources on the user side. The technology provider or integrator takes care of those things so businesses can focus on their business rather than technology.
- Social Integration: Of the five trends, this is the one that still has the longest way to go, but companies are more intertwined with their social media than ever before. Early on, the distraction associated with social media in the workplace was seen as a reason to keep employees at arms-length from social sites. However, with customers’ pervasive use of social networks, businesses can no longer opt to divorce social media interaction from their communications strategy. In fact, they need to be integrated now more than ever.
We’re currently seeing social integration into CRM. Tools like Salesforce, Nimble, Batchbook, Sprout and Microsoft Social Listening have fully aligned social and traditional CRM together.
With UC plugins for CRM apps becoming more widely available, the logical next step is to allow instant communication through UC applications to social sites. This is a trend to keep an eye on. The company that leads in this area may see rapid growth in adoption since social communication is widely being used within organizations of all sizes.
Sensory Technologies specializes in the design, implementation and support of Unified Communications. www.sensorytechnologies.com, Contact us at 800-48-video or email firstname.lastname@example.org learn more.