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Cloud Communications 2021: 3 Key Predictions

When I think about where cloud communications will be in three years, I sometimes like looking back at older predictions. In 2011, AT&T’s CTO told Mobile World Congress that storing all of your data in the cloud would be inevitable, useful, and ultimately, creepy. In 2011, the idea of allowing a system to know your contacts and analyze your preferences seemed invasive. In 2018, many of us have invited devices like Amazon Alexa into our homes to chat with our kids.  

At this point, AT&T’s CTO was right about the fact that cloud communications is inevitable. Last fall, Gartner forecasted that the renewal rate for like-for-like systems would drop from 95 percent to less than 25 percent in the next few years. Fuze’s own research showed that more 96 percent of CIOs will have a formal cloud strategy in place by the end of the year. We’re just starting to see the sense of urgency  play out with competitive consolidation, including Cisco’s acquisition of Broadsoft and Nice’s purchase of inContact -- these types of investments are a matter of survival for legacy players to stay relevant.

So what else can we project for cloud communications in 2021? Here are some of my thoughts:

Prediction 1: Cloud Migrations will Become Less Painful

Right now, legacy systems are a top pain point when it comes to migrating communications to the cloud. Many organizations who may want to make a cloud migration may have contracts in place with a legacy vendor, such as a PBX system. Maybe they just purchased new phones a year or two ago, and can’t upend that investment for the next five years. This type of migration doesn’t have to be difficult; I believe in the concept of “designed coexistence” for making the transition to the cloud.

For example, if an organization is using a legacy PBX system, intra-office calling and legacy root systems still need to work as the change to a cloud UCaaS is in progress. A good vendor will serve as a bridge between these legacy systems and pure cloud-based services. If not, the transition will be painful, users will be incredibly frustrated, and something will inevitably break. Ask a prospective UCaaS vendor for a proof-of-concept for their interoperability with your specific legacy systems. Hybrid cloud is an important stepping stone and a reality to achieving a full migration.

In 2021, however, I predict that pure cloud-based services will dominate the communications landscape as companies skip attempts to achieve parity with decades-old legacy PBX systems via hybrid deployments. Instead, they will focus on the value of a unified voice, video, and chat service that is 100% cloud-based to match their operational and cost goals, and more importantly to match the adoption characteristics of their rapidly evolving workforce.

Prediction 2: Cultural Transformations will be as Important as Digital Ones

Speaking of a rapidly evolving workforce, digital transformations fail most often because people take cultural transformations for granted. Our industry has seen so many examples of users that ignore change, circumvent systems, and bring in low-cost shadow IT solutions to meet their specific demands. With multiple generations coexisting in the workforce, it’s not an option to ignore the points-of-view and use-cases of an entire demographic of people in favor of change. In my opinion, sometimes these cultural transformations can be even more important than digital ones.

We’ve seen some of the biggest companies stumble with their cloud transformations when simple requirements of a front desk operator or executive assistant -- such as call parking -- aren’t taken into consideration. The best UCaaS providers will make this cultural transition easier by helping an organization identify the different personas using the system, as well as daily use-cases of each persona. From there, it’s critical that the organization brings representatives from each workplace demographic into the fold when making any important decisions about a migration to the cloud. Communication and training for the workforce are key to wide-scale cloud adoption in an enterprise digital transformation.

Prediction 3: Next-Gen Cloud Technologies will Work Better Together

One of the biggest benefits of the cloud is the ability to choose best-of-breed solutions, and have them all speak the same language. Most of the next-gen cloud technologies in 2021 will work best when the core systems of an organization are also in a pure-cloud environment. The data from various best-of-breed systems has to be cloud-native: that means it’s easily consumed by AI and IoT apps, for example, and should require no work to unify and normalize.

For example, Fuze unifies three key communication areas: voice, video, and collaboration, at the infrastructure, data, and application layers. We’re able to consolidate communications and provide bi-directional data connectivity for many of the common business applications across the enterprise ecosystem. Just one possibility: a sales person is able to see customer name, contact details, and open revenue associated with the account in Salesforce.com and a support representative is able to view a list of open incident tickets before answering a customer call. I believe this type of ecosystem will become even more achievable (with even more use cases) when enterprises go all-in on cloud.

Where do you think cloud communications will be in 2021? What are some of your biggest deployment challenges? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Michael Affronti

Michael Affronti

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