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2017: What can we expect from the collaboration industry this year?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock)

The rise of the digital workforce over the last couple of years has resulted in a surge of flexibility and productivity. With an unprecedented range of tools and applications available, we have witnessed an increase in the places, platforms and processes by which employees can do their jobs. Collaboration tools have started to become essential to all business operations. In fact, enabling real-time interactions for dispersed teams and full integration into existing business processes gives companies a significant competitive advantage. 

2016 was a busy year for the collaboration industry to say the least, and we don’t anticipate it slowing down anytime soon. Let’s take a look at what we can expect in the collaboration industry this year: 

1. Enterprise Cloud Conferencing and Collaboration – Finally Within Your Grasp 

Only a couple of years ago, conferencing through the cloud was an early-adopter trend. Today, it’s the cornerstone of collaboration technologies for most businesses. On-premises deployments are dying, and we can thank Microsoft Office 365 for hammering the last nail in the coffin.   

In 2017, as more customers deploy Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Work, desktop applications, such as Skype for Business, will become the main entry point for many customers using enterprise conferencing and collaboration solutions. By adopting cloud-based platforms, customers will be provided with a seamless experience across any media or device and from any location, such as large meeting rooms, huddle rooms or mobile work environments.   

We have seen an explosion in integrated Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) conferencing solutions that are able to deliver easy-to-use services. Many organisations that have adopted this technology see immediate benefits due to an instant ‘on service’ and quick adoption process with users. In 2017, we will continue to see a growing number of companies adopting cloud-based video solutions, as end users gain confidence in the simple, intuitive and flexible ways to access video conferencing from the cloud. 

2. (Actual) Unified Communications   

Audio, web, video, streaming, recording, chat – you name it – will join forces. Companies are spending thousands to keep up with the ever-evolving platforms for collaboration, all of which serve different purposes, but are necessary to meet business needs. In 2017, we will start to see decision makers centralise their systems into a simple, integrated platform that removes the need for multiple applications and passwords, and supports remote workers to share and record information.   

Users can expect to see these technologies converge this year, allowing vendors to offer every person and every conference room a full suite of capabilities right at their fingertips – and at any scale. 

3. Consumer UX in the Office 

Consumer trends have been making waves in the workplace for years, which means meeting technologies will need to start matching consumer standards of BYOD, flexibility and ease of use – and be able to accommodate these elements on a much bigger scale. Whether the user is in a conference room or using a laptop or smartphone, collaboration technologies will have to provide a consistent experience and access to features like streaming and recording.  

Throughout the year, as cloud-based video conferencing solutions continue to become even easier to use, IT professionals will be able to spend their time utilising best practises and helping users get the best out of the tools rather than resolving problems or babysitting meetings, which has been the norm in the past.  

So, what does this mean for the industry?   

First and foremost, we expect to see the cloud-based conferencing market continue to grow. The spend on flagship, boardroom meeting rooms and training facilities will increase. However, customers will now look for simpler and lower-cost solutions for smaller meeting rooms and spaces requiring a collaboration solution.   

As mentioned above, there has been a rapid rise of SaaS conferencing solutions, and this is not going to slow down anytime soon. Whilst many resellers and distributors feel reluctant to give up on the high upfront gross margins of on-premises infrastructure, they will need to get on board and start investing their time in SaaS models. They might not be collecting the same sum up front, but with a SaaS model, they can reach many more customers. That should be a pretty big draw.   

The delivery model and convergence of technologies are also prompting some AV integrators and resellers to question their relevance. We’re willing to place our bets: integrators won’t fade into a distant sunset anytime soon. Customers are still reliant on relationships with their AV integrators and consulting firms. In fact, we believe customers will start to expect more from AV professionals – the post-sale opportunity to provide extra value-added services will be a great source of future revenue and promote longer-term, highly-profitable relationships. Therefore, the channel will still bridge an important gap in the customer experience. 

Through all the change, some things will stay the same. But whether you’re a vendor, end user or channel professional, the collaboration space is in for some whirlwind changes. 

Craig Malloy, CEO, Lifesize 

Image Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

Craig Malloy
Craig Malloy started Lifesize in 2003 and served as CEO until 2012. Drawn back by his unceasing passion for the industry and reinventing video technology, he returned to Lifesize in 2014.