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Zeus Kerravala
March 21, 2017

What to Expect When You’re Expecting: An Enterprise Connect 2017 Preview

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I’ve been covering the unified communications (UC) market as an analyst for the better part of 20 years. The market has gone through several waves of innovation. It started as VoIP, then evolved into unified messaging and other telephony centric apps, merged with video, moved to the desktop and then to the cloud. The one thing that has been consistent with UC since its inception is constant innovation, as people want better and faster ways of communicating.

Enterprise Connect has always been about innovation and pushing the collaboration industry to boldly go where it has never been before. The 2017 version of the show will be no different, but I am expecting the following over-arching themes.

The evolution of the cloud

Cloud and communications have gone hand in hand like Kirk and Spock (yes, I’m a Trekkie) for almost a decade now. To date though, the value proposition of the cloud has been about delivering business communications faster, cheaper, and more efficiently than on-premises solutions can. However, it’s my belief that the cloud sits on the precipice of significant change, as it will deliver communications that is more predictive and contextual, changing the way we work.

The enablers of this new type of cloud are data, analytics, and machine learning, all of which are coming into their own now. I’ll be discussing this topic during my panel, Cloud Communications 2020: Will Enterprises Go to UCaaS—and Beyond. Hope to see you there.

The rise of the API economy

People want the ability to do things faster and more efficiently from any application. Communications can be cumbersome, as users need to switch between mobile apps and the different communication tools. For example, if I’m in an airline app and want to send a message, why do I need to leave the app and go to different one? Application programming interfaces (APIs) make that much simpler as developers can drop UC modules, such as chat, SMS, click-to-call, and others into apps. Over the past few years, the communications platform as a service (CPaaS) market has come alive and offers customers a way of buying “modules” of communications from the cloud.

More video in more places

The maturation of WebRTC has made it possible to build plug-in-free, real-time video into almost any application on any device. There’s no question that video meetings are more effective than audio only, but the technology was too difficult to get up and running to make it worth most workers’ time to try and use. Now that the ease-of-use barrier has fallen, expect to see the use of video explode.

However, as with everything in life, for every yin it seems there must be a yang, as there is a downside to all this innovation and that’s “UC tool sprawl.” The vision of “unified” communications has been largely a myth, as workers need to deal with multiple non-unified UC applications. I’ve talked to some workers that are trying to manage half a dozen or more specialty applications for chat, file sharing, voice, video white boarding, and almost any other collaborative function you can think of, which makes the worker the integration point for all this technology. The impact of this problem is wasted time. My research has found that 15 minutes of every meeting is wasted trying to just set up the technology. Also, workers wasted hours of time daily managing these disparate platforms. It’s clear that UC as it’s currently formed is not working.

Luckily, and I’ll quote the philosopher and song writer, Bob Dylan to make my point, the times they are a changin’. I recently authored a report titled The Rise Of Collaborative Communications, which highlights the problem and introduces “workstream communications and collaboration” (WCC). The early vendors in this market focused almost exclusively on persistent messaging, but recently the market has seen mainstream UC vendors, such as RingCentral, throw their hats into the WCC ring and broaden their scope to include real-time functions like voice and video as well as content sharing, white boarding, and other collaborative functions. WCC fulfills on that original vision of UC by being a single application that can meet all of a worker’s needs.

The feedback on WCC from early adopters has been more than positive. It’s common for users to report that they get back at least one hour a week—sometimes up to three or four. Also, the use of WCC can significantly cut down on email, and there’s no one I’ve ever talked to that wishes they got more email.

I’m expecting WCC to have a significant presence at Enterprise Connect as the technology is set to go mainstream because of the increased functionality. If you’re heading to the show, I encourage you to download and read the report so you can have a better understanding of the value WCC provides.