2017 – The Year of Integrated Communications and Re-platforming

T. Banting

T. Banting

Summary Bullets:

• 2017 is likely to see more innovation in the field of integrated communications (embedding click to collaborate functionality within business applications) which may incorporate Communications as-a-Platform (CPaaS).

• In order to support digital transformation initiatives, enterprises will be faced with a re-platforming choice – arguably this is likely to be a cloud-based team collaboration application.

Season greetings! It’s that time of the year where analysts start looking towards the year ahead and dust off their crystal ball to offer vendors and customers an insight into what’s to come. As we look at 2017, two key collaboration and communications trends emerge:

1. There is a move away from innovation in united communications (UC) and towards a new category of integrated communications.

This trend is triggered by the need for companies to squeeze additional productivity from their businesses and this is driving a need for integrated communications. This is not merely limited to providing click to collaborate features in office productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and Google G Suite), but also to home-grown applications and mobile apps. Consequently, this requires an extensive range of APIs for developers to leverage and potentially, a new platform: CPaaS. This has the potential to disrupt the traditional UC market considerably which has hitherto focused on the unification of numerous real-time modalities (voice, video, instant messaging and conferencing) into one client. CPaaS essentially allows developers to embed real-time communications functionality directly into business applications, circumventing the need for premises-based PBXs or UC servers.

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We Suspected Contact Centers Would Move to the Cloud; Now We Know Why

Ken Landoline

Ken Landoline

Summary Bullets:

  • Improved cloud-based contact center solutions as well as the CapEx-OpEx tradeoff argument appeared to be good enough reasons for some contact center managers to move their operations into the cloud.
  • In retrospect, based on feedback from companies that have made the shift, there are more reasons than we may have thought driving this shift, including some that may not have been seen beforehand.

I have written before on the potential benefits of cloud-based customer care solutions and the company attributes and vertical market requirements that, in many cases, made it a relatively simple decision to move contact center solutions to the cloud.  The most common identified drivers of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions were the increased number of technology solutions worthy of consideration and the budgeting advantages of paying a monthly fee versus making a large upfront capital expenditure on hardware and software.  In retrospect, and after discussing the topic with enterprise decision makers, system developers and several others involved in the customer care industry, I realized there may be several other drivers behind the trend to the cloud.  The list is probably longer than this and growing, but here are the additional reasons I have identified: Read more of this post

Mobile Video Conferencing Can Fully Connect Remote Workers

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • End users should see mobile video as an integral part of their UC solution.
  • Microsoft Lync 2013 will steal many headlines, but other solutions are available.

Microsoft Lync 2013 is now beginning to deliver on the huge potential hinted at in Lync 2010.  Lync 2013 has been around for a while, and comparisons between the 2010 and 2013 iterations have also been made before.  What is different now is that telecoms providers are beginning to engage with key added features such as PSTN gateway functionality and, perhaps more innovatively, mobile video conferencing.  As ever, enterprise solutions necessarily lag behind the consumer market while quality, reliability and security issues are robustly addressed.  However, the fact that using a tablet to talk to people on the other side of the world via Skype video calls has become commonplace without much regard to such issues demonstrates that mobile video conferencing is ready to be seen as a ‘normal’ business tool.  Such is the strength of Lync 2013’s mobile video component (available over 3G, 4G and WiFi), that Interoute’s recent launch of hosted Lync was hailed first and foremost as part of its ‘Video as a Service Cloud’ (hosted in Interoute’s Virtual Data Centre platform).  Interoute states that by integrating the two services, customers are able to join video conferences from any device, from room-based solutions to smartphones and tablets. Read more of this post

Social Media Can Play an Important Role in Companies’ Collaborative Working Practices

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • In an increasingly global world and amidst a growing demand/need for flexible working patterns, collaboration tools become more important.
  • Companies deploying unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions should consider including social media as part of the ‘collaboration’ element.

Yahoo! chief Marissa Mayer has recently announced that the company is to end the practice of ‘remote’ working (i.e., home working) amongst its employees.  However, the Yahoo! chief was quoted as saying, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.  That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices.”  This brings in a slightly separate element to the efficiency debate.  This is not suggesting that home workers cannot produce as much ‘work’ as office workers, but that the collaborative creative process is harmed by not having employees grouped together in one location.  However, as flexible working becomes not only more in demand from employees, but also a reality for organisations with multiple offices or those seeking to reduce their office space due to economic pressures, collaboration tools become more important.  The nature of certain jobs (e.g., sales or field operatives) also means that some employees will always be remote workers. Read more of this post

2013 to Be the Year of BYOD and MDM

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • BYOD should be seen as an opportunity to boost worker efficiency.
  • BYOD creates security challenges, but there are effective MDM solutions available.

2013 should be the year when the cloud stops being a buzz word and starts to gain real traction, particularly for IP voice and unified communications (UC) services.  The ‘cloud’ is an amorphous and much abused term, but despite its presence on the homepage of every telecoms provider in Europe, take-up of fully hosted voice and UC solutions has been slower than the hype would suggest.  Persuading enterprises to part with their PBX is challenging.  However, as fully hosted MS Lync solutions start to be offered by the majority of major telcos across Europe, alongside hosted Cisco, Avaya and Mitel-based solutions, and the case studies begin to emerge, enterprises should now have enough confidence to consider ‘taking the plunge.’  A hosted solution will not suit all businesses and virtualisation will be preferable for many over a truly cloud solution, but the overall need for a CPE-based PBX has all but been eliminated for the majority of business customers. Read more of this post

Vodafone Accelerates Cable&Wireless Worldwide Integration

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • Faster integration will deliver quicker synergies for Vodafone and allow it to develop converged fixed and mobile services faster.
  • This is a sudden change in strategy from Vodafone’s initial slow integration approach and the MNO’s plans are ambitious.

Vodafone has set out a strategy for its enterprise facing divisions that will take it through until 2015. Effective January 1st, 2013, will launch a new ‘Group Enterprise’ umbrella (GEU) consisting of four units: Vodafone Global Enterprise (VGE); Vodafone Carrier Services, Machine-to-Machine (M2M); and Hosting and Cloud Services. Vodafone’s new strategy also involves an accelerated integration schedule for Cable&Wireless Worldwide (CWW). From the start of 2013, Vodafone will begin to integrate CWW’s UK operations with Vodafone UK – including customer service; CWW’s international business, carrier services, hosting and cloud business with the new GEU; CWW’s HR, finance and legal services will be merged with Vodafone UK and CWW’s technology division will be merged with Vodafone’s Group Technology. Read more of this post

WebRTC: Near-term Battlefield, Long-term Impact on IT

Brian Riggs

Brian Riggs

Summary Bullets:                

  • WebRTC is a promising technology with an uncertain future, particularly in the enterprise
  • WebRTC could impact how corporate IT departments deploy comms software, but not for some time yet

WebRTC is a new technology that has the potential to impact how corporate IT departments purchase and deploy communications software. But sparring among industry heavyweights could deal WebRTC a knockout punch before it ever finds its way into the enterprise. Read more of this post

Unified Communications Is More a Way of Working Than a Technology

Gary Barton

Gary Barton

Summary Bullets:

  • SMEs should talk to providers about the benefits of UC solutions and demand that providers present solutions with broader efficiency rather than a specific vendor or technology.
  • SMEs should consider UC as a way of improving both internal working practices (e.g., hot-desking) and customer service (e.g., contact centres).

Demand for unified communications (UC) solutions seems to be growing, but remains far from achieving critical mass.  SMEs often ask why a business should pay for features such as IM or shared workspace when services such as Skype and Dropbox provide some of that functionality for free.  An obvious answer to this is security and reliability; a business-quality solution should provide a much more stable service than free applications.  However, it is not an unfair question for SMEs to ask.  Paying for a suite of UC services is likely a waste of money if working practices are not changed to best utilise those services.  So, SMEs should be wary of UC underachieving unless providers show how it can help increase customers’ efficiency. Read more of this post

Networks Do Matter – Really!

Jerry Caron

Jerry Caron

Summary Bullets:              

  • Networks and networking suffer from a lack of respect that defies logic.
  • Innovation continues apace, however, the industry often fails to give these advances the attention they deserve.

Networks and the stuff that make them work are suffering from a dearth of respect to which even Rodney Dangerfield would have to defer. Sure, we all know that it is lunacy to dismiss the value of both private and public networks because the quality of experience is utterly dependent on the quality of the network connections. This is a stone-cold fact, whether we are talking about a teenager looking at YouTube videos on a smartphone, or a business running mission-critical applications.

Yet while networks and networking have never been truly glamorous, there is a perceptible downward trend in love for the stuff of connectivity. It has long been the case, for example, that the hottest, most admired Internet businesses take public and private networks for granted and ride roughshod over them with something approaching complete disdain. If Facebook is sluggish, you don’t blame Facebook, do you?. Read more of this post

Small Business IT Turning to Social for Renovation over Innovation

Brad Shimmin

Brad Shimmin

Summary Bullets:
• Like their big business brethren, small businesses are flocking to enterprise social networking solutions as a means of cutting travel costs and improving productivity.
• As our research has revealed, when the rubber hits the road, however, IT buyers prioritize the improvement of existing collaboration tools such as e-mail over pie-in-the-sky ideals such as business transformation.
As an industry analyst, I find it very tempting to look for that next big thing, the innovation just over the horizon, which promises to sweep away our obviously outmoded notions of what it means to build a productive, innovative business. We analysts are not mistaken in looking to the future and imagining “what if.” But as our recent survey of 600 SMB IT buyers has revealed, the future can actually improve the past. What if ideas like social analytics, event streams and rich profiles had been around when e-mail first found its footing in the mid-1980s? What if early messaging products like cc:Mail had the ability to recommend people and documents contextually, based upon the message being viewed?
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