10 Unified Communications Future Trends To Look Out For
The unified communications market is forever changing. For continuous growth and to stay on top of things, it’s important to gaze into the crystal ball once in a while.
In this post, we’ve done exactly that with a little help from top industry analysts and by inspecting what leading vendors are up to.
1 - Cost cutting and rationalization
Sounds like a boring place to start but it’s reality. With an uncertain economy at the best of times, recent events will play a big part in the immediate future of unified communications.
Metrigy Principal Analyst, Irwin Lazar, says, “2023 will be defined by cost cutting and rationalization along with growing collaboration security and compliance concerns.”
This doesn’t (and can’t) mean it becomes a race to the bottom on price, though. Vendors must continue to innovate and provide as much value in their services as possible.
At the same time, they must remain flexible in licensing scalability as customers flex up and down during peak periods and during their own times when money is tight.
The business case for unified comms will become a trickier proposition. Vendors must make clear the tangible benefits more so than any other point.
2 - Security and compliance will tighten up
During the coronavirus pandemic, some unified communications platforms had vulnerabilities exposed.
Learning from this unexpected scale has, however, been a good thing. Vendors once targeted at consumers as much as businesses have been forced to undergo stringent testing and validation to meet enterprise security requirements.
While not every unified comms leader is there yet, businesses demanding consumer-style functionality with enterprise-grade security is commonplace among procurements.
Andy Wood, Senior Strategy Leader at Vodafone, says, “Vendors will stick to fundamentals and get security and regulatory compliance nailed in the eye of a recession. We could see innovation through partnership as opposed to research and development.”
With several vendors announcing layoffs towards the back end of 2022, security innovation through partnership sounds like a sensible idea.
3 - Better meeting scheduling
When you want to set up a meeting with lots of people, how hard is it to get everyone together?
The common answer is: harder than it should be. And that must change.
Blair Pleasant, Principal Analyst at COMMfusion, says, “I’d love to see real meeting scheduling capabilities that take into account everyone’s schedule, time zone, etc. And I need it now!”
And she can’t be alone. For hybrid work to be successful, the experience inside and outside the office must be seamless as a minimum requirement.
In the office, you could ask everybody when they are available and arrange a meeting.
With the technology available, unified comms tools must be able to provide a solution that doesn’t need us to check with everyone on a one-to-one basis.
4 - Fewer logins across applications
Logging into apps is too time-consuming.
Okay, logging into a single app only takes a matter of seconds (for the most part). But what about all those other apps?
Then multiply that by the number of people in your business.
Then multiply that by the number of times per week they do this.
It’s a lot.
Ronnie LaNasa, a sales leader at Zoom, says, “The CAPEX to execute a single global platform of services through unique silo functionality is overwhelming. How many logins does it take to get to features of the sales & marketing umbrella? Logins are the UCaaS TCO killer.”
Like switching between apps, calendars, and devices, there must be consolidation among logins. A single sign-on to access your entire work stack might not be too far away.
5 - Email and calendars built into unified comms apps
Zoom has made the first move by announcing its mail and calendar app will be built into its chat and meetings interface.
The obvious next vendors to do something like this are Microsoft and Google. Both of these have email platforms as well as unified comms tools in their stack. Though merging the two will prove a large task.
Vendors like Spike are already providing “chat-style” email inboxes. As email usage remains high, yet we crave a more productive experience, expect to see a middleground emerge.
6 - Contact centers will embrace the metaverse
It’s probably the most talked about meetings component that has yet to see any genuine use among the everyday business. But one day, maybe not particularly soon, we might see the metaverse in use in contact centers.
It may not become clear for some time but with video vendors like Microsoft, Zoom, and Cisco moving into the cloud contact center market, there is sure to be the addition of future video components like the metaverse.
Ronak Agarwal, Global Pre-Sales Lead at HCL Technologies, says, “As brick and mortar reduces, customers still want someone to talk to. The metaverse can bring that possibility for contact centers. Managing interactions in the Metaverse will be interesting as users will do more than just hear hold music.”
Perhaps for self or peer-style service, we might see customers and partners in a metaverse environment on hand to help each other out with common problems. Customer advisory boards without the need to attend an in-person meeting already exist. Why not take it to the next level?
The social network for customers could be one full of avatars and virtual reality.
7 - AI knows its play in contact centers too
We’ve been making predictions about what AI will do to unified comms and contact center tools for over a decade.
In the future, we’ll see a clear use case and accelerated adoption. Exactly what they look like, we can’t be sure.
But some forward-thinking and fast-to-adopt companies are using AI in their contact center today.
Natural language processing
Identity and verification authentication
Training triggers through listening and monitoring
Identifying upsell opportunities through sentiment analysis
These are all just touching the surface of what is possible with AI. But we may have to be patient for mainstream adoption.
8 - Adoption skyrockets
Thanks to both a human focus and help from intelligent productivity tools, adoption across unified comms and contact center applications will become higher than ever.
Microsoft attempted to introduce Productivity Score in 2021 then rebranded it as Adoption Score in 2022. Expect other (and smarter) analytics packages to appear to help people use their unified comms apps for the right reasons.
Rather than score people simply on use and time spent in these apps, intelligent reporting and a sprinkle of AI will make these types of tools a key enabler of adoption.
If your business is only using its unified comms app for meetings, this can be flagged. If you’re only using it for chat then firing up another app for calls, there’s an obvious productivity win to be gained.
With user behavior tracked on the back end, we just need something intelligent to translate that to genuine adoption metrics in the future.
9 - Continued market consolidation
That’s not to say the market will shrink. Far from it. But with Gartner recognizing more “Leaders” in its 2022 Magic Quadrant for UCaaS than ever before, industry commentators are speculating about what must happen for continued innovation and growth.
On release of the 2022 Magic Quadrant, Tom Arbuthnot, Founder of Empowering.Cloud said, “I wonder what the ratio is where you can't really call everyone a leader, as that is just the new baseline.”
This triggered a raft of responses suggesting consolidation was needed. At the time of writing, there are rumors that someone, and quite possibly RingCentral, have bid to acquire 8x8—both Magic Quadrant leaders.
With all those leaders, where will the growth come from and will we get a shake-out? #UCaaS— tbanting (@tbanting) November 29, 2022
10 - Vendor product consolidation
Within its collaboration and productivity suite, you’ve got apps like:
While all these serve different purposes, there is a big argument that Microsoft could be doing more to make these more integrative.
Employees need as few apps as possible to remain productive and refrain from constant context switching.
#MSIgnite anyone noticed what's happened to Yammer. No sorry- Teams Communities. No - wait, Viva Engage?— tbanting (@tbanting) October 12, 2022
When Microsoft launched Teams as its Skype for Business replacement, it was anticipated that Teams would become the place to get work done in the Microsoft world. Yet, through acquisitions and new product launches, Microsoft users have more apps than ever.
Webex has already taken steps to unify its meetings and chat platforms into a single unified app. Slack has been preaching it’s the place to work while integrating 2,300+ third-party apps.
As the focus on productivity and concentration heightens, expect internal product consolidation from vendors with multiple apps.
And there we have it! 10 future unified communications trends that we’re looking forward to seeing one day.
How about some shorter-term predictions?
Read Next: 10 Unified Communications Industry Trends That WIll Happen In 2023