Written By: Tom Tuttle, SVP, Global Alliances & Enterprises
We are seeing several new trends in the unified communications (UC) space in 2020. There has been an accelerated shift or race to migrate to the cloud, an increased focus on remote worker user experience (UX), and intense competition amongst various cloud platforms. Each trend has long-term implications for all of us in the UC industry.
Due to unforeseen COVID-19 circumstances, these trends have reshaped our realities and futures. In this piece, I highlight what has happened, and what the implications are for the remainder of 2020 and 2021.
The Winners of the Race to the Cloud
Nine months ago, obviously there was a lot of talk around the “race to the cloud”. Back then, however, it was expected that this race would take place over a 12 to 24-month period.
Instead, with the pandemic, it played out more like a 40-meter sprint, where enterprises immediately had to put their heads down and figure out how to support large numbers of remote workers—virtually overnight. Every cloud strategy and support model had to be accelerated, putting a strain on those businesses to get up and running.
The big benefactors were Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Zoom, and other cloud-based conferencing enablement solutions. Even cloud contact center solution companies—who before all of this had nice growth plans—have grown exponentially.
It was reported that Microsoft Teams, whose daily active users were 14 million pre-COVID, skyrocketed to upwards of over 80 million. Cisco WebEx’s monthly minute use was up dramatically, and the number of new Zoom users was off the chart.
What we’re finding now, after the initial 60-90 day push, is that enterprises are now looking for comprehensive tooling and analytics to better support their remote workers’ environments. This is not only for the near-term, but for the foreseeable future, and in some cases, permanently.
A customer we were recently speaking with has decided to permanently close five facilities, not because they were letting people go, but the work at those facilities is now going to be supported 100 percent via remote workers. It has ramifications beyond just doing this temporarily and brings greater visibility to how critical analytics and monitoring capabilities will be in the future for these remote environments.
For those moving to the cloud, monitoring the UC infrastructure is now the responsibility of the cloud provider and the necessary visibility and insight shifts to the enterprises’ network and endpoint health domains.
One thing you will hear Nectar talk about more and more moving forward is the importance of key metrics related to the desktop. Not every remote worker is going to have a Cisco or Avaya hard phone on their desk, they’re going to be working predominately off the soft client on their PC.
That means you need to know how well that client is performing on the PC. Is CPU or memory utilization causing issues? Is it the headset or speakerphone? What about the remote Wi-Fi? All this information plays a much larger role in the remote work environment. Effectively collecting and correlating this data can give enterprises and service providers the ability to optimally manage the UX for those remote workers.
Nearly every day we see how essential it is to have insight around the customer or user endpoint, the enterprises’, or remote workers’ network connectivity to the cloud, and what is happening on the actual user’s desktop.
Increased Emphasis on Customer Experience & Costs
It is obvious that customer experience (CX) is critically important, but what’s the risk or impact on the business if the user of CX is poor?
It is easy to put dollars and cents on the contact center CX because that is still, in many cases, the lifeblood of an enterprise; be it a sales or support situation. But if you are outside the contact center and rely on collaboration services throughout your day, issues or poor UX can negatively impact productivity and present difficult challenges to enterprise support teams and help desk.
Think back to just a few months ago, it was commonplace to have 5, 10, 15 people in a physical conference room, now you have the same number of people trying to join over a cloud collaboration solution. If there is a poor or bad UX, there is not only the cost to resolve the issue, but the loss in productivity is increased.
There is an absolute ROI that speaks to how quickly you can identify, isolate, and remediate the issue. The quicker all of that happens, the more an enterprise will save operationally and make the remote worker more productive.
Competition Amongst Platforms
The different collaboration platforms provide both common and unique features and functionality, with nearly all of them investing significantly to improve the usability of the solution and UX.
The ability to host or broadcast to large groups, content sharing, video experience, and even provide custom virtual backgrounds are areas we have seen dramatic feature development.
The Future of Sharing & Collaboration
How are people going to collaborate moving forward? What percent of sessions will include content sharing? Will video become commonplace for all calls? How do the collaboration cloud providers continue to drive innovation to ensure user engagement?
We strongly believe that regardless of the innovation, critical insight and analytics will be key, but more importantly, it will be the ability to correlate this data to enable help desks and supports teams to take immediate corrective action
As we see more and more video calls, it will have an impact on how we operate every day. For example, what our background may look like, what we wear, and ensuring we have the right tools to improve our individual experience.
I am sure we all have witnessed a variety of situations as everyone shifted to working remotely, some hilarious and others maybe not so much. But this also helped many remote users improve their collaboration skills and as cloud-based collaboration solutions evolve, so too will the tooling. Bottom line, UX will continue to be at the forefront of collaboration.
Finally, as people start safely returning to the office at some point in the future, there have been several articles about creating a more touchless workplace, which has several challenges and ramifications.
These new re-designed work environments still drive back to the need for the collection and correlation of critical data.
As we might expect, there will be some work that remains permanently at home and certain roles that will be completely remote. As workers return to the office, how much of the inherent UC infrastructure will be used versus incorporating the cloud shift they may have already set up; and that becoming the “new on-prem” will be the question.