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UC in 2023: 5 Predictions for the New Year

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Image: Jorge Pérez - Alamy Stock Photo
The UC market in 2022 is one that underwent significant transformation and upheaval. UCaaS vendors continued to broaden their portfolios, adding features like events and space management, AI-powered features to improve communications experiences, and integrated contact center capabilities.
 
As we head into 2023, here are five predictions about how the market will continue to transform.
 
1. It’s Time for Rationalization
Metrigy’s Workplace Collaboration Metricast 2022 global study of more than 900 companies found that overall UC spending will only increase by around 5% a year between 2023 and 2025, with the biggest increases coming in cloud phone system, virtual whiteboard, and performance management apps. Given global economic concerns and the reality that many organizations have adopted a myriad of apps to support virtual work during the pandemic, the time is ripe now for organizations to revisit their current application portfolio and look for ways to cut costs by removing overlapping services.
 
Metrigy’s research data shows roughly half of companies currently purchase more than one meeting app, for example. Rationalization won’t be easy, and it may require IT managers to make tough choices between supporting apps that users want and those that are most cost-effective. Rationalization will also require IT leaders to look beyond licensing cost and instead focus on the total cost of ownership. A meeting app that is free with a larger office suite may still be more expensive to operate due to higher support, hardware, and maintenance costs.
 
2. Security, Compliance Take Center Stage
Our research continues to show that most companies do not yet have a comprehensive approach to securing their UC apps, especially given the explosion in the number of apps. Today, companies may be using SBCs and associated security features to protect against SIP and toll-fraud attacks, but they may not yet have addresses security concerns related to sharing of documents through file-sharing apps, team chat, virtual whiteboards, and workflow management apps. Many companies haven’t yet gotten their arms around the content being generated within meetings, such as transcripts, highlights, and recordings. And they haven’t expanded their compliance capabilities and policies to cover these new ways of collaborating.
 
In September, we saw the result of a lack of a proactive security and compliance strategy, as the SEC fined several financial services firms for allowing customer conversations to occur in apps that operated outside of company compliance controls. B2B security tools, including those for managing compliance, cross-company chat, and data loss prevention, are likely to see growing adoption in 2023.
 
3. Market Consolidation Continues
As the UC market matures, vendors are no longer seeing the massive growth rates they saw a few years ago, and as a result, stock prices have fallen for most of the leading UC vendors. This creates opportunities for mergers and acquisitions to accelerate throughout 2023 as high-performing companies become affordable and those that have struggled to grow seek exit strategies. 2022 saw a wave of acquisitions as detailed by my peer Dave Michels in this article. Heading into 2023, we are already hearing rumblings of potential acquisitions, financial restructurings, and mergers.
 
4. It’s All Hybrid Work These Days
The primary growth area in 2023 will be in apps, services, and hardware that optimizes hybrid work experiences, including workspace reservation apps, employee experience measurement and analytics, virtual engagement and social apps, performance and administration management platforms, and more. Key investment areas are likely to be in the conference room, where companies can’t return to the days when remote participants were treated as second-class citizens, unable to see, hear, or fully participate in conversations being held in the meeting room. Instead, that script has flipped as remote participants are often more easily able to chat with one another, share content, and use virtual whiteboards for ideation and content generation.
 
IT and business leaders must rethink their meeting room experiences to ensure equitable meetings for all. They might consider deploying center-room or multi-camera systems that allow them to see in-room meeting participants easier. Additionally, they might add digital whiteboards with touch screens to a meeting space, eliminating the need for dry-erase whiteboards, which could be hard for remote attendees to see.
 
5. UC leaders must think beyond UC
As I noted earlier, UC apps are rapidly becoming platforms that not only provide a wide range of features but also feature open APIs to enable customization and embedding of components into other apps (and vice versa). Even beyond UC, work management apps such as Asana, Monday, Smartsheets, and Wrike, as well as asynchronous collaboration apps like Notion and TeamFlowHQ, are quickly becoming a part of the enterprise collaboration landscape. UC leaders must evolve to become collaboration leaders, looking at all the ways employees communicate and collaborate, internally and externally, with an eye toward enabling convergence wherever possible.
 
Barring a resurgence of pandemic-era work restrictions, 2023 is likely to be defined by the continued focus on hybrid work and market and economic forces that will impact vendors in this space. As always, a proactive approach to managing UC is required to ensure success.

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