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3 Holiday Wishes for UCC

An annual tradition around the holidays is recapping the events of the passing year and making predictions for the next one. You know how it goes... "5 Important Predictions for 201X, "Top 12 Trends to Watch in 201X," "9 Things You Need to Know About in 201X," and so on. (Of course, we all wonder how many people actually take the time between shopping and cooking to read these, but that is beside the point.)

Frost & Sullivan publishes multiple studies that discuss important technology and market trends shaping the IT and unified communications and collaboration industries. Some of these trends are ongoing; others are just emerging. But each time I sit down to write my end-of-year article I find myself challenged to settle on just a few key trends that will have the greatest impact on the market in the coming year. So instead of going through a laundry list of market trends, I thought I'd make some holiday wishes for the UCC ecosystem in 2017.

A Holiday Wish for End Users
Advanced technologies for connecting and collaborating with others inside and outside our organizations have undoubtedly become necessities in our everyday work lives. But they can also seem necessary evils, leaving many of us feeling as overwhelmed as empowered. Each of these many new tools and applications comes with its own interface, features and functionality, and sign-on/log-in details making it difficult to keep up with and make the best use of them all. As far as I am concerned, less is more.

May 2017 become the year of simplification, ease of use, and intuitive design!

Many technology developers are working toward this goal, borrowing ideas from the consumer space and the world of online gaming. New team collaboration apps are replacing more clunky legacy UC interfaces, mobile-first clients are finally providing a much more compelling mobile user experience, and video is now just a click away within most business communications and collaboration tools. UCC app integration with other frequently used software, as well as purpose-specific team spaces, are enabling users to experience technology in a much more customized and personalized way, with all the contextual information ready at hand.

The journey is going to be long, and we may never achieve the cherished single UCC interface, but staying on the right track is important. When developers can say "even my grandma can use this," then they will have found the Holy Grail of the user experience.

And let's not kid ourselves: the next generations of office users are not only tech-savvy but also tech-dependent. However, they don't look for tech challenges to prove themselves like Gen Xers have done and still do. In fact, Millennials and Gen Zers, many of whom have never experienced some of the life hardships known to previous generations, are much more likely to seek technologies that finally live up to their promises to simplify lives rather than create greater complexity.

A Holiday Wish for IT
Most businesses and their IT staffs know that digital transformation is a key prerequisite for success in any industry today. Also, by now, IT has seen and heard it all, with each emerging new technology allegedly better than the previous ones and promising to unify the user experience, improve productivity, and help IT better align technology investments with broader business goals.

In a Frost & Sullivan survey of 1,980 IT decision makers from around the world, 60% of respondents reported they were looking to reduce costs and 40% were hoping to boost innovation and productivity through new IT investments in 2016. But thinking about 2018, survey respondents indicated a shift in priorities toward more strategic objectives: Compared to 2016, a larger number of respondents will be looking to invest in IT in 2018 in order to gain a competitive advantage; most are planning to do so through better customer experience, improved collaboration, and accelerated decision making.

Quite notable, more than one-quarter of respondents stated that automating and streamlining business processes is a key challenge. Many in IT tell Frost & Sullivan that they wish to close the loop -- find a way to leverage advanced technologies to improve business processes and achieve broader business benefits. They ask how to use UCC tools and other technologies to ensure more efficient resource allocation, better project management, greater production output, and more effective customer engagement.

May 2017 become the year when IT/UCC becomes a true business enabler with tangible impact on revenue, profitability, and customer satisfaction!

Cloud, the Internet of Things (IoT), mobility, big data, artificial intelligence, wearable technologies, and advanced UCC are transforming the way businesses create value for customers and the way they operate internally. Innovative technologies are enabling new competitive advantages, but also causing disruption and creating competitive pressures. Businesses must make technologies much more integral parts of their business fabrics -- processes, culture, and people -- to ensure they realize greater benefits and higher returns on their technology investments. For that, they need their technology solution providers to help them integrate UCC with mission-critical business apps.

Vendors that understand customers' key pain points are offering flexible APIs, communications platform as a service, and other solutions to foster communications-enabled business processes. IoT can create significant opportunities for UCC vendors to deliver business value through actionable communications and collaboration events triggered by specific business processes or performance thresholds signaled by a variety of connected devices. The possibilities are practically infinite for technologies to transform traditional verticals into smarter, connected industries.

A Holiday Wish for Vendors
Disruptive technologies and business models are shaking up the UCC industry, creating a lot of uncertainty and slowing market growth. Only one thing is certain today: We are bound to see a lot more consolidation in the coming years. Sometimes predictable, but often quite unexpected, mergers and acquisitions will continue to change the competitive landscape and create more powerful participants with sustainable strategies for the evolving marketplace.

In such turbulent times, it is even more important than ever for vendors, service providers, and resellers to map their core competencies and mission-critical assets to key customer pain points and requirements, as well as to important growth opportunities. They must identify potential gaps, and work to fill them through internal product development and/or strategic initiatives, partnerships, or M&A.

May 2017 become the year of disciplined strategy alignment with evolving market realities!

Earlier this year in an article titled "I Just Want to Say One Word to You ...," I talked about the importance of pull-through -- achieved by using one thing to sell more or something else -- in vendor strategies. In the frenzy to catch up and keep pace with customer demands and competitor product development, many vendors often lose sight of their core strengths and fail to create pull-through for existing products and skill sets. Going forward, business continuity, in the broadest sense of the word, is going to be critical for market participant survival and success.

With this, I'd like to wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Join Elka at Enterprise Connect 2017, March 27 to 30, in Orlando, Fla., where she'll be sharing her insight in the session, "Where Is the UCaaS Industry Headed?" as part of the Cloud Communications track. View the Cloud Communications track, and register now using the code NOJITTER to receive $300 off an Entire Event pass or a free Expo Plus pass.