As 2020 draws to a close, it’s natural that we start thinking about what next year has in store for the unified communications space. Inevitably, there will be shifts in the way that we work that were accelerated because of COVID-19; we’ve heard no shortage of conversation around the fact that we can anticipate a hybrid work model. In addition to a more distributed workforce, I believe we’ll see communications solutions rising to meet that need.
Below I’ll share some of my thoughts about how we can expect the UCaaS industry to evolve over the next year:
Communications solutions that evolve to support “the great migration” brought on by COVID-19.
With the transition to remote work required by most businesses worldwide, there has been a “great migration” of knowledge workers leaving major cities for a higher quality of life or to more affordable regions to states like Idaho in the West and Vermont, in the East. This shift to secondary and tertiary markets will stretch the companies in the connectivity and communications sectors to meet increased needs of these workers in these regions. Communications companies are asking themselves, how can our products and services address this trend (one which I anticipate is unlikely to change) in a hurry? How can we support a more distributed workforce with our solution? I believe we’ll see not only a steady stream of worker relocations, but major product enhancements that facilitate more distributed team collaboration.
Video is the new dial tone; meetings are dead.
I firmly believe that meetings only solutions are going to go the way of the pager and the palm pilot in the next twelve to twenty four months. With remote individuals craving interpersonal connection, video calls will become as ubiquitous as dialing someone by phone has been historically. On most calls that I sit on these days, we begin with some personal pleasantries and asking each other about our families, lives, etc. The easiest way to form that strong connection is over video, where you can read the other persons’ body language and facial expressions. The big difference will be centered on enabling peer-to-peer or group video as an embedded feature rather than a software category. It will be an extension of other user experiences enabling rich interaction for heavy calling scenarios (sales and call center) or enhanced collaboration around topics and content while specialized use cases will continue to require specialized tools for things like webinars and teaching.
A new renaissance for mobile.
As we all transitioned to working from home this year, one of the things we observed at Fuze was that there was an explosion of increased mobile adoption almost overnight. Many workers found that the fastest way to maintain productivity was to shift from their deskphone or desktop to their Fuze enabled mobile device. This streamlined their shift out of the office. Independent of the pandemic, we have also seen this trend with frontline workers. In particular we have seen this with our logistics and retail customers, not only using mobile devices for point of sale (POS) transactions, but also for interacting with their colleagues boosting collaboration and productivity throughout the duration of their shifts. In retail, we have seen this streamline both the worker and customer experience, enabling retail associates to multitask and deliver better customer experiences.
Our manufacturing and logistics customers have seen workers gravitate from legacy push to talk devices toward the enhanced features available on Fuze Mobile. For example truck drivers on the front line are using things like group collaboration to communicate problems on the road and to maintain a richer engagement with their home office, while Fuze ensures their safety, disabling key features while vehicles are in motion. Overall, companies are looking for more flexible and agile solutions that still ensure access to the people and all the data they need. Enhanced mobile UC experiences combined with maturing technologies like 5G and wifi6 will ensure we not only meet the needs in 2021, but also uncover new ways of working and collaborating together.
Embrace the visibility afforded by cloud communications platforms.
While most enterprise organizations, particularly CIOs, have already accelerated their move from legacy PBX systems to cloud communications because of COVID-19, there are still some that resist the change for now. Most executives now understand the benefits of adopting a cloud communications platform for their company — namely, the ability to maintain business continuity and agility — however, there are still some holding on to the standard hardware they’ve always used and avoiding change.
One of our customers once joked about their legacy solution prior to moving to Fuze. He once described his environment to a peer that responded, “that is the Cadillac”, he then replied, “yeah, a Cadillac on blocks.” His logistics company was suffering from a huge driver churn and he had no visibility into why or what was going on with their driver’s experiences to the home office. Moving to a modern cloud communications platform gave them the visibility to better understand their workforce, to optimize their worker experience and productivity, and to increase retention and customer experience. This type of business agility and visibility is critical for our enterprise customers in being competitive in the market and also competing for talent. This has never been more true as we transition from the current state we all find ourselves in and into managing a highly distributed and remote workforce in 2021 and beyond.
2020 has brought about much change both personally and professionally for all of us. While most organizations have adopted cloud communications out of necessity, there will be changes over the next year that take UC platforms like Fuze to the next level. I’m looking forward to seeing what that transformation looks like.