Cloud Calling or a Meetings First Strategy?
Where does the Future of UC begin?
For years, companies around the world have been looking for a simpler way to manage their communication experience. No-one wants a dispersed technology stack where you need to jump from one application to another to switch between voice and video calls anymore. Instead, you want a true unified communication experience.
As the technology, we use every day grows more complex, and customers become more demanding, we need a single environment, where we can manage everything from video conferencing to instant messaging. As a result, vendors far and wide are beginning to re-think the solutions that they offer. We don’t just get cloud PBX anymore; we get cloud PBX and video. When you invest in a collaboration tool, you also look for something that offers web-based conferencing and calling too.
The question is, what needs to be at the heart of these UC environments. Can companies build the best offering by putting video-based meetings first?
Changes in the Video and Meeting Space
I can’t be the only person who has started to notice a trend in the video conferencing and meetings space lately. Countless vendors are starting to bring UCaaS (aka cloud calling) into their offering. That means that if you’re using Zoom for video, you can also use it to make a web-based call with PBX capabilities, trunking, and so on.
On the one hand – that’s excellent. Video providers need to be more flexible in a world where their users want more freedom of choice. However, the decision to branch out from being a video specialist to an end-to-end solution provider presents a few challenges too. Companies like PGI, Cisco Webex, GoTo (part of LogMeIn) and Zoom suddenly need to change their entire brand, and the perception that consumers have of their company.
Look at this way; if you’re searching for a cloud-based calling strategy today, you’re probably not going to go online and seek out a video conferencing specialist. UC buyers don’t start their journey in the meeting room. They begin with their phone system or their contact centre environment. Video isn’t at the forefront of a company’s mind when it comes to buying communication strategies – at least not yet.
Building New Customer Perceptions
The video vendors that are now experimenting with UCaaS offerings are already popular in their space. Their organisations trust them to deliver high-quality video meetings and conferencing solutions. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the same communities will trust these companies to provide high-level cloud calling too.
The leading video and meeting room providers have a serious challenge ahead of them if they want to convince buyers that they’re not just video specialists. To some degree, this means investing in a lot of marketing, and a new branding strategy. Video companies need to start thinking carefully about how they’re going to position themselves if they want to deliver more than meetings.
However, there’s also a requirement for video conferencing brands to upgrade the phone services that they’re offering too. Many of these vendors can only provide the very basics of cloud telephony. They’re only just starting out in terms of features and capabilities. While their video solutions might be the best on the market, their phone systems don’t compare to the offerings from other companies that focused on business telephony from day one.
Even if today’s evolving meeting companies can successfully convince their audience to stay loyal to them, it’s difficult to know whether these customers will be patient enough to wait for them to catch up with other offerings.
Putting Teams Solutions First Is a Better Strategy
As the communication and collaboration environments continue to evolve, I believe that future buyers will start their search for technology by looking for a Teams application – not a meeting tool. According to Aragon research, by the time we reach 2025, Teams-style applications will be the tools that we all use to communicate and collaborate.
I can definitely see the marketplace leaning this way. A Teams application gives users a simple, single pane of glass environment where they can handle all their calling, video, and messaging needs. It feels like a natural way to bring everything together.
In my opinion, companies that want to give their users a little bit of everything in the communication environment, need to approach it from the right angle. Starting with video conferencing and working back through messaging and calling seems a bit like going backward. While it’s good that AV companies are waking up to the need to diversify their offerings, they also need to reposition themselves too.
Look at Microsoft for instance; this is an example of brand that’s doing things from the right perspective. Everything that Microsoft offers for communication and collaboration is built onto the central hub of Microsoft Teams. Their collaboration app is at the heart of their offering; then they build on functionalities like calling, video conferencing, and meeting platforms. Read my UC 3.0 blog for more information on what the latest UC stack should look like.
Where is the Business Communications Market Heading?
There’s no denying that the world is moving more progressively towards a video first world. Now that we have more remote and mobile workers to cater for than ever before, video is an excellent way to create more intimate connections between team members. Video also helps to bring additional value to collaboration sessions. As a remote worker myself, I couldn’t imagine working without video meetings.
However, right now, it’s not big enough to be the central foundation of an entire communication stack. It’s going to be quite a while before we’re thinking of video first when we look for new ways to invest in our business conversations.
However, as we can see from the constantly growing value of the Team Collaboration market, Teams-style tools do appear to be at the heart of a lot of technology strategies today. Perhaps video vendors need to take a completely new approach to their identity in the comms marketplace if they’re going to go beyond meeting tools.
It could be that we’re entering an era that marks the end for the video conferencing specialist, and the beginning of an ever-evolving battle for team collaboration tool dominance.
What do you think?
Can video and meetings come before chat and voice?