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Track these six UC and collaboration trends in 2017

The 2017 forecast for unified communications trends includes a flurry of APIs, a steady stream of video, a team-messaging tempest and, of course, a high chance of clouds.

Unified communications and collaboration trends saw rapid change in 2016.

For instance, team messaging applications, such as Slack, have changed the very definition of a collaboration application. New entrants, such as Facebook's Workplace, are challenging incumbent collaboration providers. Meanwhile, the shift to the cloud is continuing to accelerate. 

So, what collaboration trends will we see in 2017? Read on for some predictions.

1. Large enterprises consolidate on one vendor, while the SMB market sees fragmentation.

More than 40% of enterprises are planning to converge their UC applications around a single vendor, with the majority choosing Cisco or Microsoft, according to a recent Nemertes Research study on unified communications and collaboration trends.

Meanwhile, choices in the SMB market continue to grow. Pure cloud services, for instance, are offered by vendors such as Mitel, RingCentral, ShoreTel and 8x8. Other products are available via service providers, such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon, and they are bundled with WAN and internet services. SMBs can also choose from hosted, custom-built services from partners of Avaya, Cisco and others. 

These UC and collaboration trends should continue in 2017. Large enterprises will increasingly consolidate around a single, primary vendor. SMBs, meanwhile, can move more quickly and take advantage of disruptive service providers.

2. Cloud-first becomes the norm.

Nemertes has found about 40% of organizations are using or planning to use cloud telephony services. Even higher percentages are using cloud web and video conferencing, email and file-storage services.

According to Nemertes, the shift to the cloud will continue to accelerate, as companies look to reduce capital costs, become more agile, take advantage of new capabilities and curb security concerns. 

Yes, you read that correctly: Forty-five percent of participants in the Nemertes study said they see cloud services as more secure than on-premises platforms, largely because of the difficulty and cost of keeping up with threats against internal systems.

3. The age of the API arrives.

About one-quarter of companies are already using APIs to embed UC features -- such as click to call or click to chat -- into existing business applications. Another 20% of companies are building custom UC applications via development platforms, such as Avaya Breeze, or through their existing development environments. 

Some examples of custom UC apps include customized call reporting and handling, vertical-specific apps for internal communications or communications tied to digital transformation initiatives. 

Just 19% of UC teams have dedicated app development staff, but many plan to add developer capabilities in the next year.

4. The walls come alive.

About 70% of companies are already using or evaluating immersive group collaboration platforms.

Next-generation whiteboards, which Nemertes calls "immersive group collaboration" systems, will enter meeting spaces rapidly. These systems enable teams to project, manipulate and share content in real time with remote workers.

These platforms will improve distributed meetings, as remote users can see static content, such as PowerPoint decks, and actively participate in ideation and content manipulation on wall-based units. 

About 70% of companies are already using or evaluating these platforms, which include DisplayNote, Oblong's Mezzanine, InFocus' Mondopad and the Microsoft Surface Hub.

5. Stream, stream, stream.

Video is moving beyond conferencing and now becoming integral to digital transformation efforts to improve customer engagement and internal business processes. More than half of companies have deployed or are deploying video content and streaming management platforms.

Use cases have spread beyond executive broadcasts and training videos. Employees can now record and share their own videos. Enterprises can also use video capture via remote monitoring or drone-based video for security purposes and facility management.

Companies are also investing in customer-facing video for kiosks and to enable "see-what-I-see" types of services. Expect more video in more places in 2017.

6. Team chat replaces the UC client.

The UC desktop app for calling, instant messaging and video chat is quickly being replaced by team chat applications, such as Atlassian's HipChat, Cisco Spark and Slack.

With the recent introduction of Microsoft Teams, Facebook Workplace and the extensibility of consumer chat apps -- such as Apple Messages and WhatsApp -- business messaging is poised for even further growth. Many UC vendors have responded by adding messaging applications to their UC offerings, including Avaya, Fuze, RingCentral and 8x8, to name a few. 

Expect the UC client to continue to focus on team messaging over the next year, as messaging adoption continues to grow.

And there you have it, a peek into key collaboration trends in 2017 -- and possibly beyond. Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful holiday season.

Next Steps

See how the cloud and APIs are driving the UC market. 

These four trends will affect enterprise communications.

"Try before you buy" immersive collaboration systems.

This was last published in December 2016

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