Despite the fact that UC is becoming a mature market, there've been more changes over the past year than I've seen in a long time. Most relate to deploying, consuming, and using UC solutions, rather than to the core technology. Beyond some of the obvious trends--e.g, Cloud, BYOD/mobility and video--below are some of the key changes I noticed in the past year:
• User experience: There's been an increased focus on use cases and the user experience. In the past, vendors concentrated on technical issues when discussing their UC solutions, including "feeds and speeds," and all of the compelling features and capabilities that UC provides. The primary buyer was the IT department and possibly the CIO.
More recently, the focus has shifted to the end-user experience, including ease of use, as well as the business value of UC. There's a growing realization that the user experience must be intuitive, relevant to the user's work and tools, and competitive with the experiences delivered by consumer devices and apps. It's no longer about getting the "latest and greatest"--it's delivering intuitive and contextual UC solutions, and the business results that are achieved by simplifying collaboration and meetings and enhancing the mobile experience.
• Simplicity: All of the vendors are emphasizing how they're simplifying their solutions--making them easier to purchase, deploy, and manage.
• Context, context, context: This involves providing a caller's or meeting participant's communications history and relevant interactions, including calls, videos, audio conferences, emails, and texts. For example, context can enhance conferences by providing documents or links to information that needs to be shared during the meeting.
• More emphasis on SMBs and the midmarket: UC was initially aimed at large enterprises, but the vendors are now devoting more attention to smaller and mid-market customers. This trend, however, moves in both directions: Cloud vendors like 8x8 and RingCentral that targeted small businesses have been moving upmarket, while Avaya and Cisco have moved downmarket. There also is a growing trend toward subscription-based pricing, for both cloud and premises-based solutions.
• UC--Part of the "Plumbing": UC is becoming embedded in work activities and applications, whether a CRM solution like Salesforce.com or a social software solution like IBM Connections. Remember when computer telephony integration (CTI) was a "market" and vendors were charging lots of money for their CTI middleware and other offerings? Today, CTI is expected in contact center solutions, and we no longer see vendors touting their CTI products--they're part of the plumbing. The same is becoming true for UC.
• WebRTC: WebRTC has gained more traction, as evidenced by the number of products being introduced. WebRTC will make it easier to do "click to connect" and "click to video," and we can expect to see this technology ramp up even more in the coming months.
It's still an exciting time in UC, with lots of changes on the horizon. What changes have you seen or expect to see in the coming months?
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