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Well, it’s prediction season again and since it only comes around once every 12 months, we wanted to make the most of it. This time last year, we asked our analyst friends in the enterprise communication market to make predictions on what they thought would happen in 2023. For this year, in addition to asking our panel to make a bold prognostication for 2024, we also asked them to look back at their prediction from last year to see how they did. 

2023 was all about AI in enterprise communications and 2024 looks to be more of the same. But how will AI progress? Will it deliver more tangible, demonstrated value? Better targeted use cases? Greater AI Governance? Greater risk minimization from bias through greater governance? How about all of the above?

Let’s see what the experts have to say.

Blair Pleasant, COMMfusion 

2024 prediction: “AI vendors who provide viable AI use cases will rise to the top.”

In 2023, Blair said she was expecting to see more focus on the best ways to deploy various AI capabilities that would ensure a good user experience.

Blair: “I think I jumped the gun in my prediction for 2023, as most businesses are still figuring out their AI strategies and haven’t done as much deployment and implementations as expected, so it was too soon for best practices to emerge.” she said. “When it comes to AI, I expect that 2024 will be a year of waiting to see where the dust settles in terms of which vendors (especially the LLM vendors) will rise to the top, which use cases make the most sense and provide a viable ROI, and so on. Organizations will look to see which AI capabilities and use cases can provide incremental value – whether that’s in time savings, increased productivity, or increased revenue, and will initially deploy one or two use cases at a time. Those who’ve already deployed AI will look to expand to other use cases, going beyond ‘the low hanging fruit.'”

Sheila McGee-Smith, McGee-Smith Analytics

2024 prediction: “In 2024 I predict use cases to support agents and supervisors will become as important as self-service.”

This time last year, Sheila predicted the automation of customer care – using digital channels and conversational intelligence – would progress from innovators to early adopters but not replace the voice channel. 

Sheila: “Self-service automation has been high on the list of “must haves” in 2023, fulfilling the spirit of my 2023 prediction. Interest was made even higher by the explosion in awareness of the use of artificial intelligence in customer experience as a result of the announcement of OpenAI. Specifically, large language models (LLMs) made the deployment of intelligent voice agents (IVAs) faster and less expensive by easily creating a list of the universe of ways customer requests can be made. For example, “I want to cancel,” can be said in hundreds of ways.

Keeping with the theme of use of artificial intelligence in the contact center, in 2024 I predict use cases to support agents and supervisors will become as important as self-service. Solutions like contact summarization, agent assist, and agent coaching. Like IVAs, these solutions were available before the widespread adoption of LLMs but were more expensive and time consuming for vendors to build and for companies to deploy.”

Denise Lund, IDC

2024 prediction: “With AI, the value of unified communications at the customer edge and in the enterprise workflows will deliver better and better ROIs for organizations.”

In 2023, Denise anticipated seeing a few UCaaS providers break out of the pack with a host of integrations that put UC&C- and the data it creates – where people are working. Denise was far from wrong here. IDC reported that the full worldwide UC&C market grew 6.9% in the 2nd quarter of 2023 whereas worldwide revenues in the CPaaS market grew 13.2% year over year.

“What a difference a year makes! One year ago we were still in a place where UCaaS platforms were rarely differentiated from each other, leaving organizations the peculiar task of choosing one platform from many similar ones. As we predicted for 2023, integrations between UCaaS platforms elevated the value of these platforms and allowed for unique differentiators to emerge for frontline employees, lightweight contact center-like, or knowledge workers.” 

Denise: “What is interesting to reflect on as we come to the end of 2023 is that not only have UCaaS providers successfully integrated UCaaS and CCaaS to drive high value use cases in organizations, but the most innovative UCaaS providers have essentially reshaped how to even conceive of a UCaaS platform. UCaaS platforms have earned a place where they are now considered not only for employee communications but also for customer engagement.” 

“In 2024 leading providers will be taking the UCaaS-CCaaS integrations to the next level. Leading providers will move beyond UCaaS-CCaaS integrations as delivering on the promise of seamless workflows to meaningful, more rich types of workflows in organizations. UCaaS leaders, using AI with unified communications, will completely reshape how enterprise applications are not passive repositories of info but rather an active part of the employee-customer engagement. This will not happen without AI. With AI, the value of unified communications at the customer edge and in the enterprise workflows will deliver better and better ROIs for organizations.”

Zeus Kerravala, ZK Research

2024 prediction: In-office work returns in a big way”

Zeus correctly predicted that AI in video meetings was just getting started this time last year and boy was he right. What was needed, he said, was for AI to start showing real value; it had to be used to solve harder problems, specifically, in the pre- and post-meeting experiences as well.

Zeus: “Generative AI stole the show this year, so the entire vendor community heavily emphasized integrating it into the platforms. This did take some emphasis off of pre- and post-meeting AI, although generative AI did bring some new capabilities that would fall into my prediction. Keywords, meeting highlights and meeting summaries are all examples of AI features that help users across the meeting lifecycle. My prediction was certainly true although we are not as far along as I thought we would be.” 

“In 2024, Employers have had to dance the remote work dance since the pandemic began. Business leaders that mandate days back in the office have had to walk those mandates back and cave to the pressure of employees that want to continue to work from home. In 2024, we will see an unprecedented number of return to work declarations, not all 5 days but 2-3 days a week and this time, they will stick. The uncertainty in the market now favors employers and they will use this as a way of getting people back.”

Roopam Jain, Frost & Sullivan

2024 prediction: “Prioritizing the hybrid event experience”

“2023 was supposed to be the year of hybrid events. Instead, most people went back to events in person. There are significant opportunities ahead for technology providers to improve the hybrid experience in a way that provides truly engaging and inclusive experiences, unique networking opportunities, and  data-rich insights for both in-person and virtual attendees”

Dave Michels, TalkingPointz

2024 prediction: “We are going to see significant changes in hybrid events and they will become the norm”

Upon reflection of his 2023 prognostication, Dave felt he was right on the money. He said the metaverse was going to have less hype and more business-focus. 

Dave: “The metaverse is coming, but not the world of meeting with fish we were thinking about. First, online meetings are a form of the metaverse, and they continue to improve, especially with AI. We have seen tremendous enhancements in camera and noise control, transcripts, translations, and more. We will get to immersive meetings with goggles, but they are going to be very specialized (business) use cases at first, not games.” 

“Regarding 2024, we are going to see significant changes in hybrid events. First, events are creeping into the UCaaS stack. Hybrid events will become the norm, and the UCaaS providers expanding into physical events is an easier lift than physical event companies expanding into online events.”

“I know everyone is talking about AI, so let me try to carve a unique path. We are in early innings but it appears generative AI will be very disruptive in many sectors, but we don’t quite know how this will play out. There are far more unknowns than knowns at this time, such as pricing, accuracy, trust, and how much our new AI can do with and without human supervision. I love the excitement over AI in terms of what it can do for us, but I get a bit nervous about the excitement over cost savings.”

Elka Popova, Frost & Sullivan

2024 prediction:“Next year we will see a growing proportion of mobile-centric deployments leveraging a variety of architectures that connect mobile endpoints to cloud call control platforms.”

Elka: “There have been some concerns that the PBX, coupled with PSTN connectivity, may be out of favor with IT decision makers due to the rise of video meetings as the communications tools of preference for hybrid workforces. However, in 2023, communications usage and purchase behaviors normalized to some extent, with telephony/voice-centric and collaboration-centric experiences co-existing to address different use cases. Whereas previously telephony deployments created pull-through for additional meetings and messaging functionality, today we are seeing calling capabilities being added on to existing cloud meetings and messaging solutions”

“Frost & Sullivan research shows that approximately one half of organizations around the world plan to increase their investments in PBX functionality and PSTN connectivity in the next 2 years. Hybrid telephony environments will dominate for the foreseeable future; however, cloud PBX adoption is growing at a steady pace. In 2024 and beyond, we will see a growing proportion of mobile-centric deployments leveraging a variety of architectures that connect mobile endpoints to cloud call control platforms.”

Final thoughts

Proven, demonstrated value in AI use cases for UCaaS and CCaaS applications and improved, inclusive hybrid events can sum up most of our analyst predictions for 2024. Vendors, customers and analysts alike saw great opportunities for what AI could do for both employee and customer experiences in 2023. But I think organizations will raise the bar in 2024 on what they expect to get out of their AI investment. The industry will see more AI applications that reduce effort, save money, and accelerate value realization. And solving for hybrid is still a greenfield opportunity. We should see a dramatic narrowing of the equity gap that still exists in hybrid work and hybrid events. I can’t wait.

Originally published Dec 22, 2023

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