Unified communications and collaboration experienced a year of transformation in 2019. The shift to cloud accelerated as leading vendors sent a clear message via product launches and partnerships that future product direction and development are now cloud-first.
Emerging cloud-native vendors Slack and Zoom became public companies and reported strong growth. Meanwhile, team collaboration took its place at the center of UX, and AI began to emerge to improve collaboration functionality and experiences.
Will 2020 continue these transformations? Or are new disruptions on the horizon? Here are my predictions for the unified communications (UC) and collaboration trends influencing the market in the coming year.
1. UC as a service (UCaaS) takes control.
According to the Nemertes Research 2019-20 Workplace Collaboration study, 36% of the 645 companies surveyed still rely on on-premises UC platforms. Of those companies, 43% are either planning or evaluating a UCaaS migration.
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For organizations using single-tenant hosted services, 63% are planning or evaluating a potential shift to UCaaS. Increasingly, IT leaders are looking at multi-tenant services to reduce costs and ensure access to the latest emerging features.
2. Team collaboration becomes a work hub.
Most UCaaS vendors now provide a team collaboration experience as the core UI. But only 29% of survey respondents view team collaboration as a work hub. Most organizations still largely view team collaboration as a softphone replacement or just another messaging app.
Most team collaboration vendors are trying to expand their apps to serve as a portal for work by providing packaged or low-code/no-code (LCNC) options to integrate workflows into team spaces. Nearly half of the organizations with quantifiable benefits to their collaboration investments view team collaboration as a work hub compared to 24% of those with no measurable benefits. It's clear adopting team collaboration as a work hub correlates with success.
3. AI options expand.
Only 5% of respondents are currently using AI to enhance their collaboration experiences, but 43% are evaluating their AI options. I expect to see rapid uptake of AI-powered capabilities as they become more widely available in 2020 to improve meeting experiences, enable easier access to relevant information and break down language barriers. However, most IT buyers will continue to see AI as delivering feature enhancements to existing services and not as stand-alone products that require extra cost.
4. Security, compliance and governance are primary differentiators.
Security, compliance and governance capabilities will emerge as a major battleground for vendors fighting over the cloud market to win larger, more complex customers. Vendors like Cisco are touting security as a major differentiator, while others are adding features to support encryption key management, export and archiving, and analytics to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements. Expect continued vendor focus on providing highly secure offerings to move the last on-premises holdouts to the cloud.
5. Companies empower workflows and analytics.
The collaboration software landscape is rapidly changing from point products for meetings, calling and messaging to integrating collaboration capabilities with workflows to improve business processes. The integration of workflows and collaboration capabilities requires a platform approach to deployment and development expertise to take advantage of collaboration APIs.
LCNC workflow builders are now entering the market, either natively from collaboration vendors or as stand-alone offerings by a growing list of vendors. IT leaders must shift from a buy-and-deploy viewpoint to one focused on identifying and optimizing specific workflows and enabling users to create their own workflows. Along with this shift comes a need for analytics to identify opportunities for process improvement and measure the results of deployed integrations.
The collaboration market has rapidly evolved over the last year. My predictions for 2020 UC and collaboration trends take those evolutions a step forward. Watch for a continued shift to the cloud, combined with a new focus on using collaboration platforms to deliver measurable business value while ensuring security and compliance.