Future Collaboration and Communication Vendors Haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• ‘Good enough’ capabilities further commoditized communications in 2015, threatening established platforms (i.e., PBXs and dedicated video conferencing rooms).
• The decentralization of IT budgets and the democratization of buying decisions are likely to drive the proliferation of cloud-based services in 2016.

Those of you familiar with Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will recall that Ebenezer Scrooge is haunted by the Ghost of Christmas Past, who shows scenes from Scrooge’s past in order to demonstrate to him the necessity of changing his ways. As the year comes to a close, what trends gathered pace throughout 2105 and what should vendors pay specific attention to in 2016?

Premises-based Communications: 2015 has been a difficult year for PBX vendors. As customers further question the benefit of PBX replacement projects, 2016 is unlikely to offer new revenue opportunities for premises-based voice vendors. ‘Good enough’ capabilities are making communications a commodity, threatening established platforms such as PBXs and dedicated video conferencing rooms. Consequently, vendors are focusing their efforts on making their solutions more consumer-like in their simplicity and cloud-based in design.

Conferencing: The distinctions between audio, video, and web conferencing have blurred. Devices with in-built cameras (and portable video peripherals) continue to improve in terms of cost and quality, and as teams become more geographically dispersed, requirements for ad-hoc meetings are increasing. Consequently, this democratization of video is resulting in a need for a more diverse range of services to support the modern workforce. Those vendors fixated on quality and specific video endpoints (as an argument for hardware-based video conferencing) are likely to find 2016 a challenging year.

SoCoMo (Social, Collaborative, and Mobile) Apps: As conferencing services now provide bridging functionality plus support for multiple devices and clients, many vendors refocused efforts on redefining the traditional conferencing experience through the introduction of virtual meeting rooms, inclusive of persistent chat and file sharing. The persistent nature of such collaborative team spaces ushered in a new emerging category in 2015; in 2016, we expect to see additional functionality (such as @mentions, #topics, and modular integration capabilities) complementing SoCoMo services, coupled with add-ins and connectors for easy integration.

The Role of the IT Department: IT has traditionally stood for ‘information technology.’ However, we are seeing the acronym redefined as departments become more focused on company ‘innovation’ and ‘transformation.’ The role of IT has shifted from that of gate keeper to a productivity enabler; consequently, solutions that are flexible to respond to today’s ever-changing environment are likely to garner favor in 2016. Furthermore, the decentralization of IT budgets and the democratization of buying decisions are likely to drive the proliferation of cloud-based services, with IT acting as arbitrators ensuring services do not compromise security, privacy, and compliance.

Happy holidays! We look forward to helping you navigate through what promises to be an interesting and very dynamic 2016!

About Tim Banting
As Principal Analyst within the Business Technology and Software group, tracks and assesses the rapidly evolving communications and collaboration marketplace. His areas of coverage include collaboration platforms, unified communications, video collaboration and social analytics

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