The next generation of unified communications & collaboration – what we can expect

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Since the first IP-based networks were created almost three decades ago, the rate of development and innovation has increased exponentially around the world. Possibly the most successful and fundamentally important results of this technological advancement has been the widespread adoption of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) in global enterprise. Harnessing previously siloed technologies such as Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony along with email, webinars, and instant messaging (IM), UC&C has underpinned the transition to agile, smarter working that is finally becoming standard practice in business.

While there are two million businesses in the UK that are already reaping the benefits of utilising UC&C technology, by 2020 it’s predicted that 50 per cent of businesses will have adopted hosted solutions. It’s undeniable that the next few years will see the next generation of UC&C become the norm across all workplaces. From improving security while remote working to enabling more diverse content to be transferred over network, a new wave of Digital Service Providers (DSPs) will come to the fore to provide business leaders and workers with the technology needed to support agile working.

Security will become priority no.1

Perhaps surprisingly, security has not always topped of the priorities list for business leaders, with bottom line and reducing overheads often taking pole position. However, with cyberattacks on the rise and becoming increasingly more sophisticated and damaging, cybersecurity has taken its rightful place as a top priority for business leaders. Moreover, as the new GDPR regulations come into effect in May 2018, it is essential that both businesses and DSPs have clarity on where their data is stored and, more importantly, by whom.

For every traditional call or video conference that takes place and is recorded, the data is stored either on a cloud server or physical mainframe – in some cases in both places. Traditionally, dial-through fraud due to poor security on IP extensions has been a serious problem for UC technology. This saw criminals targeting phone systems to make calls to premium or international numbers. Unfortunately, companies that are victims of this crime are often liable for the fraudulent transactions and there have been cases where this crime has caused both significant financial damage and bankruptcy.

Today’s UC&C solutions have fraud protection capped, which ensures that all parties, including customers, data storage companies and the DSPs themselves are compliant with data protection regulations. While there are existing security measures in place, over the coming years we will see even greater emphasis placed on the security of all data.

Video will move to first place

The vast majority of businesses today are seeking tools that will enable their staff to work in an agile and smarter way, and the next generation of UC&C will be driven by the aim to provide these tools. Thanks to cultural and economical changes over the last few decades, there has been a paradigm shift away from the traditional hierarchical working structure of 9 to 5 towards a more fluid and human-centric focused way of working.

This shift is clearly seen in the fact that over the last 10 years DSPs have started to provide more high-quality video-first tools for customers – both large global enterprises and SMEs. As digital natives, the latest generation of workers entering the workforce see using video as second nature and expect to use it as a standard part of how they communicate with colleagues; however, for previous generations this was certainly not the case. DSPs have started to answer this cultural shift, and we will see more high-quality video tools come to the market as this new way of working becomes standard.

Recruitment was one of the first industries to adopt this video-first approach as a way to streamline the hiring process and ensure quality candidates were placed in the right positions. It’s now very rare to meet a recruiter in person for an initial meeting. The standard practice now is to have a video conference via Skype or iMeet, which speeds up the process and enables recruiters to meet candidates regardless of where they are both located. The move to video has also shifted the focus towards the candidate’s talent instead of whether they can reach a certain city.

As well as recruitment, the new wave of UC&C technology will be tailored for global organisations. With teams working on projects together spread across time zones and continents, and perhaps never able to meet in person, many global enterprises are turning to video webinars to ensure that communication remains open. In these increasingly common scenarios, it’s essential to ensure there is a community within the team and that all members of the project can discuss important issues and find solutions together in as near real-time as possible. More than ever before, senior business leaders are looking for holistic solutions that can support and enable the communication and collaboration their staff need, and we will see DSPs begin to provide end-to-end 360 UCaaS suits to service this growing request.

UC&C will support project-based agile working

As new generations have entered the workforce the traditional barriers between departments have started to blur. No longer are projects completed in silo, it is increasingly becoming the norm that the right people with the required skills are pulled from multiple departments to create the ‘ultimate team’ which has all the expertise needed to create a successful project. Logistically, this requires the ability to work across different sites and offices for the length of the project, to then return to working where the ‘home department’ is based once completed.

The success of this working model relies on having flexible technological infrastructure that remains secure while staff move from location to location. Team members need to be able to move both their physical handset and softphone with them and be able to login to contribute to the project without causing disruption to either teams. As more business leaders choose to implement this way of working, the next generation of DSPs will work hard to ensure their UC&C solutions are not only simple to implement and use but fundamentally support agile working.

The next generation of UC&C will ultimately be driven by the need to provide businesses, both in global enterprise and SMEs, with the tools needed to support flexible, agile working. Security will have to be placed as a significant priority, and DSPs will need to ensure that their holistic solutions are secure while providing the service their customers are asking for.

Jon Loftin, Head of Unified Communications, Powwownow
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