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Forecasting the future of the unified communications industry

This blog post is part of our Essential Guide: Integrating unified communications products and other UC trends

New trends are reshaping the unified communications industry as organizations embrace the cloud and employees push new methods of collaboration. These trends are influencing the direction of UC vendor portfolios and introducing new technology, such as AI, into the workplace:

1. Digital transformation and the cloud. For the past few years, many organizations have developed digital transformation initiatives to maximize productivity and efficiency in the workplace. Now, those initiatives should begin to pay off, said Matthew Jackson, senior solutions engineer at performance management vendor IR, in a recent webinar.

Digital transformation initiatives “really have to stand on their own two feet and deliver the benefits,” he said.

Cloud deployments seem to go hand-in-hand with digital transformation, but many organizations have realized the cloud doesn’t mean an all-or-nothing migration. Hybrid environments will become the more popular deployment option over the next few years, he said.

2. New ways of communicating. One-to-many voice and video calls are growing in popularity. Jackson said conference calls make up 40% of all voice traffic in the enterprise. Multipoint video is also becoming more popular. The combination of the two, however, could negatively affect enterprise networks and network architecture, he said.

The unified communications industry is also moving toward in-browser and in-app communications, such as embedded web chat, as a preferred communications channel. Jackson said early adopters are the drivers for embedded chat and in-app communications in the enterprise.

Embedded communications “will start to take over low-level transactions that you don’t need a phone call for,” he said.

3. Emerging technology. AI will become more prevalent in the unified communications industry, especially in the contact center where the technology can be used for simple transactions that rely on speech recognition and interactive voice response. As users become more comfortable with consumer AI at home, such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, they will become more comfortable with AI in the workplace.

“With the fear factor removed, these kinds of bots will be increasingly accepted into a business environment,” he said.

4. The vendor effect. As a result of these unified communications industry trends, the “big three” vendors — Microsoft, Cisco and Avaya — are positioned for a strong year, Jackson said.

Microsoft will continue to focus on Microsoft Teams and messaging, while Cisco will extend its market reach by consolidating its BroadSoft acquisition into its Spark collaboration software, he said. Jackson also expects Avaya to be resurgent after its bankruptcy with a new focus on the cloud.

Amazon could be a wild card in the unified communications industry as it gains momentum with its Amazon Web Services cloud offering and UC product, Chime.

“If we look at the totality of the business and growth, it’s not unreasonable to expect they will have a much larger UC voice-based business this time next year,” he said.

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