Work Communications 2020: A Decade of Disruption
Trends to watch for in the New Decade
Communication has evolved. There’s everything from collaboration, to video conferencing, and web-based conversations to consider these days. The average phone call is just one part of a huge and growing landscape. This new era of work communications is collaborative, it’s anywhere, it’s remote and it’s intelligent. Business user, team, and customer expectations have changed, and we all expect more than ever before from the way that we connect. It’s time for a brand-new decade of disruption.
In the last couple of years, we’ve seen brands and vendors everywhere beginning to better-understand the different generations and personas in the workplace. Companies know how to serve a broader audience of people who want to communicate in a host of new and exciting ways. Processes, people, and technology now need to work together seamlessly, giving businesses more chances to offer that perfect end experience.
Here are my insights into what the next decade holds for work communications.
1. Artificial Intelligence Continues to Evolve
Artificial intelligence is sure to be one of the biggest hot topics of the new decade. In recent years, we’ve already seen an astronomical transformation in the digital space, driven by the new possibilities of machine learning and natural language processing. Voice AI has become a commonplace part of every household, helping us to control everything from our televisions to our lighting.
We’re starting to see that same technology creeping into the business landscape, helping team members to control their meeting room technology and access virtual assistants on the go. On top of that, AI gives us access to analytics and intelligence that we never could have accessed before. We’re finally switching on the lights in the caverns of dark data that went unrecognised for years. Companies are seeing the real practical applications of AI within business meetings and contact centre analytics. That impact isn’t just on historical data either – but real-time information.
With the right technology, you can dive down into the layers of the technology in your landscape and see which processes are driving your business forward, and which are holding you back. Going forward, we’re going to continue building on the benefits of AI.
2. Video Enabled Devices
Another major trend that we’ve seen evolving in the last few years is the rise of video as the ultimate form of communication. We’re living in a landscape where more employees are working on a remote and mobile basis than ever before. In this space, where employees are so widely distributed around the world, voice calls and messaging aren’t always enough. Video gives a much more immersive way to bring people together. As such, video conferencing vendors have experienced an astronomical level of growth lately.
The good news for everyone is that video conferencing tools are also leading the way to a more accessible era of video. We don’t have the complexity that used to make video impossible to use before. Today, anyone can access simple and convenient tools like super-fast connections, video recording, and even blurred backgrounds. This means that we can all enjoy better collaborative experiences.
Whether you’re using video to connect with remote workers and teams, or to help gain context from front-line and first-line workers, we’ll continue to see the benefits going forward. Video will continue to grow even further with the rise of things like 5G and IoT technology too.
3. APIs and CPaaS
APIs have emerged as a fantastic differentiator for communications service providers in the modern landscape. While we’ve had APIs and SDKs for a while now, we haven’t had anything nearly as simple and accessible as what we have today. We’ve got the low-code build-it-yourself solutions in the modern landscape that smaller businesses and legacy companies have always craved. You don’t need to be an innovator to tap into APIs today – anyone can get started.
This new age of APIs is being driven by the rise of leaders like Twilio, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, and Vonage. These companies are showing us that CPaaS and low-code solutions are available, and they’re here to stay. Companies can carve out amazing solutions in vertical marketplaces with these solutions too.
APIs are giving everyone the opportunity to innovate and evolve without having to worry about being restricted by proprietary code.
4. Virtual Assistants
Virtual assistants have a significant link to the trend of artificial intelligence that I mentioned above. However, this trend is powerful enough that I think it deserves its own section. Virtual assistants are paving the way to a new world of opportunity for businesses and consumers alike. If today’s customers want to communicate with a business, they want to be able to communicate across all channels, and I believe that chatbots and assistants will help with facilitating the switching between those channels.
Machines are learning and becoming more intelligent, and I think that going forward, we’ll continue to see vendors innovating in this category. This is particularly likely as platforms from Google and Amazon continue to make it easy to tap into AI on a modular level. We’ll be able to bring more virtual assistants and innovation into the desk, the meeting room, and the contact centre.
5. eCommerce and Irregular Sales Channels
We’ve seen an evolution in the way that people access their communication stacks today from brands like Microsoft with Teams. We’re also seeing other vendors and service provider organisations embracing the opportunity too. The ability to buy a phone system online is here. You can get everything you need at the click of a button – at least for software.
This means that the communication marketplace is poised for change. Channel partners will begin to make their money through specialist services, rather than selling maintenance plans and call packages. However, there will always be complexity in the Comms marketplace and vendors that need specialist support to bring their communication solutions to life. This new marketplace will steer partners and resellers to differentiate themselves as specialists in particular niches.
I also think that CIOs will be focusing even more on multi-vendor environments going forward. This will mean that companies will have to prove that they’re willing to work together if they want to attract more conversions. Cisco and Microsoft are two of the market leaders who have already jumped on this trend going into 2020.
Vendors to Watch in the Next Decade
Here at UC Today, we keep a close eye on hundreds of vendors every year. Some of these companies are large and packed with heritage, whereas others are small and just entering the market. Our helicopter view makes it easier for us to see the standout brands in the industry.
I think heading into 2020, and beyond, one of the biggest companies that we’re likely to see more from is Microsoft. The number of daily active users interacting with Microsoft is huge, and the rise of tools like Teams will bring big things for the brand. I think Microsoft is going to have a massive impact on the industry as we know it.
At the same time, Google and Amazon also have the potential for disruption, particularly in the background with their AI landscape. These two companies may help to power the innovations of other brands through AI integrations. On the other hand, we could see the companies growing with direct sales to customers. Tools like Google Voice and Amazon Connect are proving that both companies are taking the industry seriously today.
Zoom Video Communications is another significant player worth keeping an eye on in 2020. The organisation has seen astronomical growth over the last couple of years – and they’re great at keeping customers happy. Although the brand has had a couple of security blips over the last year, they’re still gaining excellent traction, and it will be exciting to see how they continue to evolve.
Additionally, Twilio has and will continue to disrupt the market. The company has done an excellent job of pioneering in CPaaS and showing companies what’s possible with APIs. Going into 2020 we’re likely to continue seeing the demand for Twilio and similar solutions growing. Twilio has a lot of potential to continue differentiating itself by working well with developers.
RingCentral is a brand that has gone off like a rocket in the last few years, getting involved with both innovation and strategic acquisitions. I think RingCentral is probably the best example of how to grow a successful UCaaS business and with their recent Avaya partnership, the cloud communications powerhouse will likely maintain their place as the leading UCaaS vendor in the new decade.
On the other hand, collaboration pioneer Slack also has a lot of value to bring as we head into this new decade too. I’m keen to see whether the business continues to grow, or whether it decides to sell or merge with another brand. As a company at war with Microsoft, Slack will need to continue working hard to ensure that they remain relevant.
Of course, there’s also a lot of niche players out there with their own unique solutions. There’s a huge amount of technology vendors entering the space, and more consolidation going on from every angle. I think we’ll continue to see more of that, and more specialists showing people how important it is to differentiate in the new world.
What do you expect from this new decade of disruption? I’d love to hear YOUR predictions, join the conversation and comment below.