Enterprise UCC is Giving Way to Conversational Experiences and Engagement

13 Feb 2017

We are at a pivotal time in enterprise communications and collaboration. The rise of mobile team messaging and collaboration applications such as Slack, Zinc, HipChat, Workplace by Facebook and the response from incumbents such as Cisco, Microsoft and Unify with Spark, Microsoft Teams and Circuit respectively, signify a shift in focus towards creating better conversational experiences as the driver for collaboration and productivity. What we're seeing is a move towards contextual collaboration. At the heart of this is a targeted focus on the external customer, partners and internal employee interaction continuum. There is a collaboration continuum that includes content, plus people inside and outside of the organization in a contextual web, that captures and keeps the data of all collaborative interactions.

The Shift to Conversational Experiences

Where the primary focus of traditional UC and UCC was on internal communications, the shift towards conversational interfaces and experiences places stronger emphasis on open lines of communications with customers, employees and partners in the ecosystem. The rise of enterprise chatbots denote this growing trend. The recent emergence of chatbots in messaging applications is driven by a need to enable collaborative business processes and improve customer engagement by simplifying communications.

I believe people are expecting more intuitive user experiences and simple-to-use interfaces. This is about more than chatbots per se, but about enabling conversational interfaces that are more natural for users to access services. While chatbots should be a part of a company's app and mobile strategy, planners should not get caught up in technology for technology's sake. Focus your communications and collaboration strategy on enhancing your customer experience, streamlining operations and processes and measureable business outcomes.

On to Conversational Enterprises

Ultimately we are moving towards conversational enterprises where B2B, B2C and B2E delineations blur and give way to a secure people-to-people communications and collaboration continuum. The aim of early and continued efforts in UC federation services by companies like NextPlane was to solve the inter-company connectedness issue caused by separate proprietary vendor islands of UC platforms. It was driven by the need to build inter-company collaborative ecosystems. We'll see this continue through the current focus on chatbots and building conversational interfaces.

Important in this will be growing investments in AI, specifically in machine learning, deep learning and natural language processing (NLP) to develop intelligent conversational interfaces. These interfaces will then become an aggregator of content and data about people, their behaviors and work patterns, that will enable them to become smarter over time about how people work. In so doing, they will become personalized to users' behaviors and help people get their jobs done collaboratively from an enterprise worker perspective.

Final Thoughts

I believe we'll see UCC vendors across the board evolve to become platforms to build intelligent conversational interfaces to support conversational experiences for employees, partners and customers. The infusion of AI and machine learning algorithms into the mix of communications and collaboration will further push vendors towards focusing on support for intelligent conversational experiences that will in turn provide enterprises with a treasure trove of user data they can leverage for competitive advantage. This is where early focus on intelligent chatbots have centered around customer service and support in contact center-related applications and scenarios. Emerging enterprise use cases will see internal employee processes in HR and IT operations and with business partners be impacted.

The focus of vendors will have to shift from just supporting a communications session, to enabling persistent contextual conversations, where communications and collaboration capabilities are embedded directly into business applications and processes. Trends in communications platform as a service (CPaaS) and APIs signify the beginning of this shift.


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