• In 2017, enterprises should expect more integration between UC platforms and applications and services such as CRM, Salesforce, and workflow tools.
• Enterprises should begin to talk to ICT providers about their plans to deliver RCS-enabled collaboration services.
In many ways, 2016 has been a quiet year for unified communications and collaboration services. Although Broadsoft has made good progress in becoming the most popular vendor in the SME sector, Microsoft and Cisco remain the dominant market forces. Mitel deserves an honourable mention and remains a keen competitor, whilst Avaya’s struggle to make progress in the hosted UCC space, despite its contact centre strengths, has contributed significantly to its present challenging situation. Google enjoyed a positive 2016. Its market penetration remains modest, but publicised case studies of Google-based collaboration solutions are becoming more common, particularly in the public sector in geographies such as the UK. The newly branded G-Suite offers a genuine alternative to Microsoft Office 365. Although Google’s proposition must still sit alongside a hosted voice and UC solution from another vendor, its collaboration features make it an option that should be considered by all enterprises.
Collaboration has been a growing trend in 2016 with a number of service providers (e.g., Orange) beginning to develop solutions that combine UC platforms such as Cisco HCS and Microsoft Skype for Business with collaboration tools, CRM, and workflow/performance management tools. Enterprises should now be talking to their ICT providers about how they can integrate their voice and UC platforms with business applications. Enterprises should expect to see more solutions that offer off-the-shelf integration with platforms such as Salesforce and LinkedIn in order to provide a greater range of information when interacting with customers. Vodafone is one provider that can offer compelling examples of how it is using Salesforce internally. Such solutions allow employees to be more efficient and also offer the opportunity for enterprises to gain a clearer overview of the activities being conducted by their employees.
Enterprises should also consider how they can make better use of social media and communications applications such as WhatsApp. In 2016, Orange has highlighted how it has worked to increase internal usage of corporate social media platforms, and more providers are likely to follow suit in 2017. But the use of non-corporate platforms remains a very real function of the modern workplace, and instead of discouraging the use of tools such as WhatsApp, enterprises should instead be talking to providers about how WhatsApp can become more of a managed service.
Late 2017 may begin to see launches of collaboration solutions involving rich communication features powered by IPX platforms and VoLTE. WebRTC has been around for over two years now, and although it features on the websites of many companies as a customer contact medium, the level of service it can deliver is limited. RCS should allow for a more immersive and collaborative environment combing voice, video, and text with the sharing of applications over a single SIP instance and supported over multiple devices. 2017 should be the year when enterprises begin to talk to their ICT providers about RCS.
Have a happy and prosperous 2017!