Modality Systems 2020 Predictions: What’s Next for UC?
Guest Blog by Tom Morgan, Product Innovation Architect at Modality Systems
When it comes to predicting what 2020 will have in store for Unified Communications, I probably have a different viewpoint from most. Yes, I’m a huge fan of what the UC space is doing and I work extensively in this area – but – in my heart, I’m a Developer. My passion is in writing and creating software solutions to solve problems. For the most part, I believe that the core problem of UC has been solved and joining meetings today is commonplace in a way that it wasn’t five years ago. HD video, good quality headsets, and fast internet connections also mean that joining a call remotely isn’t as difficult it used to be.
But is it true that joining a meeting remotely is as rich and immersive as joining in person? I believe no, not by a long way. Human beings are intrinsically sociable by nature, and there is something about meeting in person that cannot be replicated with technology. In fact, I’m writing this in an airport lounge before I fly out to meet partners and customers because nothing can quite replace an in-person meeting.
That’s not to say that the technology providers aren’t trying, as every month we see new technologies aimed at improving the experience for remote attendees. The latest (being worked on by both Microsoft and Apple), involves using Artificial Intelligence to change how our eyes look in meetings, ensuring they’re always fixed towards the camera rather than looking elsewhere in an attempt to promote “better engagement”. Microsoft has also invested in features such as Background Blur and Live Captions to help ensure that remote attendees are better represented in meetings. It’s laudable and will lead to a greater meeting experience overall.
Creating a seamless meeting experience is still a challenge
However, this still doesn’t address the challenge that the meeting experience can be too much of an event. For true collaboration to happen between connected individuals, the communication and collaboration part of the equation should happen seamlessly in the context of the work being done. This is an age-old problem and 20 years ago it attracted Microsoft’s attention. People would be working on their PCs, receive a phone call, and physically move position at their desk which was breaking up the flow of work. It was this that led to the first release of Office Communication Server and set off a path of development that can linked to Microsoft Teams today. This i still a problem today, although the methods of communication are different. Messages, chats, and calls all happen in a specific application and pull the user away from the work they are doing into a dedicated communications app to fulfil their task.
Microsoft Teams: The hub for teamwork
For me, this is the real problem that needs solving. I’m excited to see that Microsoft (in contrast to some other communication providers), seems to understand this with their approach to Microsoft Teams. By making Teams a hub for teamwork and a single place to get work one, Microsoft is bringing together both communication and productivity workloads into one place, meaning that users don’t have to switch context between work and communication. The great thing about this approach is that is also allows Developers to write integrations into Teams, providing a rich development platform that they can use when extending it. All of this seems to be landing well with users, making Microsoft Teams the fastest growing business app in Microsoft history with 20 million people using it daily.
My UC prediction for 2020
This is the place where I see real innovation happening in 2020. My hope (and prediction), is that Developers will step up and bring more business workflows into Microsoft Teams using existing elements such as bots, tabs, and messaging extensions. By doing this, we can close the gap between doing work and talking about work, making communication something that happens naturally within the context of other activities rather than something that can only take place if people stop what they’re doing. Once this happens, I think we’ll see an increase in productivity and a reduction in the need to fly across the world to sit near the people we want to talk to.