It’s over two decades since the first IP-based networks were created, and since then there has been a global eruption of innovation and advancement in the network space. One of the most successful results of this has been the mass adoption of unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) in businesses around the world. Integrating instant messaging (IM) along with
Voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony, email and shared screens, UC technology has enabled the transition from traditional working practices to the agile, flexible and smarter working that is becoming the norm.
>See also: The next era of unified communications
Already there are two million businesses in the UK that have adopted hosted voice or UC, and by 2020 it’s predicted that 50% of businesses will have moved to hosted solutions. UC – and more recently UC-as-a-service (UCaaS) – has been around for the last 10 years, but the next wave of innovation is around the corner. From enabling more diverse content to be transferred over networks to improving security and enabling agile working, a new breed of Digital Service Providers will come to the fore with this next wave of UC.
Move to video first
The next generation of Digital Service Providers (DSPs) will be primarily driven by providing their customers, mostly SMEs, the tools their workers are asking for and now expect as standard. The last decade has seen a significant shift in attitude away from traditional rigid, hierarchical working values towards more fluid and agile working. This shift can be seen clearly in the fact that DSPs are now providing more high-quality video-first tools for their customers.
The new generation of workers entering the workforce are very comfortable using video and have come to expect it as a standard part of how they communicate in the workplace; yet this was not the first port of call for older generations.
One of the first industries to adopt this video-first technological approach was recruitment. It’s now very rare for a recruiter to meet a candidate for an initial meeting face to face. The preferred method of meeting is now via video conference, such as iMeet or Skype, which speeds up the process and enables recruiters to meet candidates anywhere regardless of location.
Unlike previous generations, the focus is now on the quality of the candidate rather than their ability to reach certain locations. Further, this enables recruiters to get a better feel about a candidate from nonverbal clues such as eye contact and body language which wouldn’t be able to be picked up over a traditional phone call.
The new breed of DSPs is also tailoring its services to global organisations with teams spread across continents and time zones who are also starting to turn to video technology. With teams that may not ever be able to meet physically who are running global projects with significant budgets, it’s imperative to foster a community feel and encourage communication and team work in real-time. Senior leaders are looking to deploy holistic solutions that enable much needed communication and community feel and we will see DSPs move towards providing whole 360 UCaaS suits to service this growing need.
Greater focus on security
With the number of cyberattacks on the rise and increasingly making the headlines, security is now a top priority for senior business leaders. Further, with the new GDPR regulations coming into effect in May 2018, both businesses and DSPs need to have a clear understanding of where their data is stored and by whom.
Every time a traditional call or video conference is recorded, that data is stored somewhere, whether on a cloud server or physical mainframe. Historically, dial-through fraud and poor security on IP extensions have been a significant problem with UC; whereby fraudsters have targeted phone systems to make calls to premium rate or international numbers. Companies that fall victim to this crime are often liable for the fraudulent transactions, which have in some instances caused significant financial harm or bankruptcy.
With hosted voice solutions, fraud protection is capped, which ensures that it is easier for all parties to be compliant with data protection regulations. While DSPs have always been security conscious, over the coming months we will see even more of an emphasis placed on the security of customer data.
Enabling agile working
The last few years has seen a significant amount of companies move towards project-based, rather than departmental-based, working. With this way of working, the traditional barriers between departments are starting to be blurred, whereby people will be pulled from multiple departments and disciplines to create a team which has all the required expertise to complete the project.
Often this requires team members to work across different sites and various offices for a set amount of time the project requires and then return to sit with their ‘home department’ once the project is completed.
A truly dynamic way of working that leads to faster decision making and cost savings, but the success of this model relies on technological infrastructure that can support it. Members of the project team need to be able to move their handset and softphone around with them and login in anywhere to contribute to the project, without causing disruption to either the home department or the project team.
As more companies turn to this method of working, we will see DSPs put significant amounts of resource into ensuring their UC solutions are simple to implement, easy to use and supportive of agile working.
The next wave of UC will be driven by the need to enable agile working for all businesses around the globe. Further, with new regulations coming into effect, security will continue to be of high importance.
The new breed of DSPs looking to differentiate themselves from the market will look to capitalise on their ability to provide holistic solutions for companies that support their flexible, smarter ways of working.
Sourced by Jon Loftin, head of Unified Communications at Powwownow