Communications In 2016 - Doing More "Business," Not Just "Work"
I was unable to join my colleagues in their recent podcast forecasting major changes in business communications expected in 2016. However, I reviewed their comments and would like fill in a few missing pieces as "icing on the cake," but give it a listen first.
What was Covered in the Podcast
First, let me reinforce the key communications technology changes highlighted in the podcast that we should expect to see increase rapidly in 2016:
- Moving away from the voice PSTN to multimodal Web connections
- Moving away from premise-based hardware and software systems, e.g., PBXs, desktop phones, messaging systems, etc., to cloud-based, hosted/managed UC services (UCaaS). This applies to any size organization.
- Shifting away from starting person-to-person, real-time connections with "blind" phone calls towards various forms of realtime (IM) and asynchronous messaging and then escalating to realtime voice or video connections
- Integrating all forms of person-to-person communications within business process applications, using the likes of WebRTC and ORTC
- Simplifying team collaboration within and across organizations through UC flexiblity and mobile devices
- "Mobile First" will dominate multimodal business communications and interactions
- As a result of these major changes, the business communications industry will undergo major consolidation, especially when it comes to moving to cloud-based services
- These changes will also require outside assistance, since internal IT and Telecom staff have little or no experience with the new technologies involved. This will provide increased business opportunities for the channels to help organizations transition gracfully to the future of business communications.
Some Key Changes That I Expect to See Start Seeing in 2016
Most of the UC Experts who participated in the podcast are also consultants who have to support their clients' immediate needs with what is avalable today, which means doing a lot of things the old way. As a result, there is still an emphasis on contacts that are initiated by a person to a person. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on some changes that will become more visible in 2016:
- Mobility has opened the door to practical ways for automated business processes to proactively contact and interact with people (CEBP). This not only reduces costs by minimizing human involvement and maximizing productivity, but also speeds up business processes where timeliness is of the essence. With mobile smart phones and tablets, people are more accessible, anywhere, any time, any how. So, it's not just the old person-to-person contacts that are important for business communications, but the new automated ones as well. (This will require more personalized access controls for end users, as discussed next.)
- More control can now be given to contact recipients rather than just to contact initiators, who decide how and when they want to communicate. This kind of control has already shown up with the use of presence management within organizations, as well as across organizations through federated services. This allows recipients to manage their time and priorities for accessibility by other people or by any automated application. As more business activities move into clouds,"intercloud communications" will increase, both between apps and between apps and people.
- Even though we do not (yet) have standards for WebRTC, it is obviously necessary for interoperability across services, organizations, applications, and end user BYOD devices. As highlighted by Phil Edholm during the podcast, 2016 should see more progress in this direction especially as the "big guys" (Microsoft, Cisco, Mobile Carriers) get more involved.
- Consumer mobility will drive increases in the use of online mobile apps for self-service access, as well as for the aforementioned proactive contacts initiated by automated business processes. Both types of interactions will benefit from being able to offer flexible options of "click-for-live assistance," using WebRTC. This will completely change the role of call/contact centers for customer service, as I discussed in a previous post.
- It should be noted that as increased demand for mobile self-service increases, there will be a greater need for developing UC-enabled mobile apps for different vertical markets. This is where the channel partners can play a strategic role in helping organizations design, develop, integrate, and manage such apps in public and private clouds.
There will be a lot of changes, some small, some big, along the way to the future of "business communications" that will connect and affect all types of end users - company employees, business partners, and consumer/customers. The industry consolidation that was emphasized during the podcast will help bring all these changes together into cloud-based services, IMHO. That migration from premise-based communications to mobile UCaaS will certainly take time and will require industry leadership to make it happen. So, stay tuned to see who does what!
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