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Future of UC All About AI

The not-so-secret weapon of most successful companies has been the use of information and big data to make decisions, from inventory management to product development to meeting room availability. Artificial intelligence can surface in-depth information that helps humans and machines in the decision-making process. In many business processes, AI can augment (and in some cases, replace) human input, and, if implemented correctly, provide better and faster results.

Let's look at air traffic control as an example. While we are still many years away, think of how a computer can process every flight in the world, along with weather, fuel status, and myriad other information. And AI solutions don't have to worry about fatigue and lack of sleep, so we won't see the human errors those types of conditions induce.

AI is the next strategic weapon for enterprises.

More data provides better information and leads to better decisions -- at least in theory. Toward that end, many companies are looking at how to take advantage of the massive amounts of information generated by Internet of Things (IoT) devices on factors such as product performance, product states (on, off, failure), data collected, and more. Using AI to glean intelligence from the data will help provide the holder of the information with a competitive advantage -- from market research to product reliability to customer satisfaction.

Cloud technology is critical to AI, providing access to computer systems that can process, manage, and store massive amounts of information. Companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are working on AI business solutions that leverage their clouds and worldwide data centers. They are each trying to access consumer information through devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Microsoft Invoke (made by Harman Kardon), for their own or to sell to others.

AI opportunities aren't limited to companies operating sprawling public clouds. Cisco recently moved into the space with the MindMeld acquisition, and IBM has been leading the way with Watson. And smaller cloud services players like Genesys and RingCentral have added AI to their products, too.

The move to AI creates challenges and opportunities for consultants, customers, the channel, and, of course, vendors. It means learning something new -- and that something can be very complex. Consultants -- both business and technology -- need to get in front of this opportunity so they can gain knowledge and insight in order to help their clients.

AI creates many opportunities for the channel, which is looking for a new business model that shifts from capex (selling hardware) to opex (selling and supporting cloud services). Channel partners, which have always been trusted advisors to the enterprise, can continue to play an important role if they can support their customers' AI integration strategies. Companies need to integrate AI into business processes if they're to benefit from the technology, just as is required with UC.

Enterprise customers need to understand that AI changes everything, and, accordingly, will need to evolve if they're to be able to leverage the many opportunities and challenges AI can deliver. Importantly, enterprise customers and channel partners are going to have to understand the impact of AI on UC and in the selection of a UC solution.

In today's enterprise, the silos of communications -- voice, voicemail, email, instant messaging, presence, audio conferencing, video conferencing, Web conferencing, and shared workspace -- are disappearing. Simultaneously, rising up is a new category, known as workstream, or team, collaboration -- a crowded market, with products like Slack, Atlassian HipChat, Amazon Chime, Cisco Spark, IBM Watson Workspace, Microsoft Teams, Mitel MiTeam, RingCentral Glip, and Unify Circuit in the offering. UC&C tools such as these increasingly are relying on AI to add context to conversations, streamline processes -- like scheduling meetings -- and add relevant content in a team workspace.

With AI, BCStrategies (the evolution of UCStrategies) recommends that you make sure your collaboration (and customer interaction) solutions can integrate with AI platforms, including those from companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. It is important to select platforms (UC, contact center, etc.) that can work with other vendors' AI solutions, even that means you go with a best-in-breed approach rather than a single vendor solution.

AI, along with UC&C, cloud, and IoT, will be a key focus of this year's BC Summit, an educational conference for consultants, channel partners, and enterprises run by BCStrategies. BC Summit 2017 will take place Oct. 3 to 5 in Palm Springs, Calif.