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2015: A New & Different Year for Enterprise Communications

Change will be the norm for enterprise communications this year, for sure. Let's look at the changes through some keywords: mobile, applications, architecture, analytics and experience.

Mobile: Mobile devices continue to transform everything. Almost everyone is using a smartphone -- aka, a smart, mobile, Internet-connected computer. The phone part of the device is not the first thing folks think about when making a purchase and is definitely no longer the first thing they think about for communications. That mobile computer is the go-to device for texting, email, instant messaging, Tweets, social posting -- all before voice or video even get into the mix. In 2015, the mobile device is likely to transform the communications architecture for mobile employees, as those people click to call from their mobile contact lists and mobile apps and click to conference from their mobile calendars.

Applications: Software applications have pervaded almost everything we do in a business setting. For example, customer relationship management apps keep track of customers and prospects; enterprise resource planning, logistics and point-of-sale apps keep track of inventory and product location; electronic health record apps track patient care; learning management systems manage educational experiences; and collaborative workspace products (i.e., those that include content management and process coordination) boost the output of development, marketing and professional services. The key for the communications industry is that these apps now have communications built into them. In many cases, the app becomes a communications substitute -- for example, a user tracks shipments in an app rather than by calling the shipment desk. In other cases, messaging, posting and peer-to-peer voice or video are built into the apps (think Chatter in In many cases, we won't even see this transformation happening, but it will -- and we can measure it.

Architecture: This year we will see a continuing shift in architectural design for enterprise communications. My expectation, based on our client experiences, is that in 2015 and beyond most IT and telecom teams will build their communications system architectures around directories, applications (increasingly cloud-based), gateways, and mobile devices (almost all cloud-based on cellular networks) in the cloud. Of course, it will then take several years for these architectures to shift the market for communications technology purchases. The architecture will still account for IP-PBX and video room systems, which serve specific functions, but the higher-level view will begin with organizational workflows and the design of communications solutions for those workflows and the people -- employees, customers, partners, citizens and so on -- who participate in them. Directories will support addressing; gateways will provide connectivity, protocol conversions, security barriers and some middleware; and the cloud will serve as a host and connection point for apps, devices and users. (Note: I'll be moderating two related sessions Enterprise Connect 2015, taking place March 16 to 19 in Orlando: Will Middleware Solve the Interoperability Problem? and Integrating Communications with Business Apps: Case Studies.)

Analytics: Now that almost everything is happening through apps (or the apps behind Web pages), companies are able to apply analytics engines to the massive data trails being created and use the analytical insight to guide or assist with processes, workflows and individual activities. This has been part of contact centers for some time and is now blossoming far beyond through digital marketing. In addition, analytics can now interact to shorten process times, lower costs, and reduce manual effort. Outside of the contact center, our industry has been a laggard in the use of analytics, but that will change, since there is so much to be gained by optimizing the flow of communications and by reducing the communications-based labor content that consumes as much as 21% of enterprise revenues, as I've noted previously. We probably can't even imagine all that will change based on analytics, but the application of analytics will be an investment criteria in 2015 and beyond.

User experience: My estimate is that we will look back on 2015 as the year in which the user experience for communications shifted to the application interfaces on mobile devices. I've described the reasons above, and I've seen plenty of evidence already. Several major IP-PBX producers have moved this way -- think of Unify's Circuit and Cisco's Project Squared developments, for example). But application powerhouses such as, IBM, Microsoft, Google and Oracle are delivering far more of this. In addition, new methods such as WebRTC, new services such as Twilio and the creativity of the mobile device OS makers including Apple, Google and even Microsoft Nokia and BlackBerry are dramatically lowering the barriers to embedding communications functions. You will see this in many sessions at Enterprise Connect 2015.

So, welcome to 2015 -- a new and definitely different year! We'll enjoy sharing it with you!

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