business trends

Spring is around the corner, and with the melting snow and moderating temperatures, animals and plants are coming out of hibernation. Something else should be coming out of hibernation too: your communications plan.

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Innovation doesn’t stop, and businesses need to stay on top of today’s fast-paced competitive environment by leveraging cutting-edge technologies as they come down the pike. Technologies like cloud, blockchain, augmented reality, Big Data and analytics, DevOps, and artificial intelligence (AI) are transforming the tech ecosystem. It may be sooner rather than later that these start to offer opportunities for your business to better communicate and achieve your strategic goals more effectively.

Budding Business Trends

At the same time, the risk landscape is shifting too, with new regulations and compliance requirements blooming right along with the tulips.

Related: How To Ensure UC Security

Here are three business trends for this spring that should be on your radar screen as you thaw out from the winter.

A Focus On Cloud Management

The adoption of cloud and hybrid services, such as Unified Communications (UC), has become mainstream: So mainstream in fact that a full 96% of businesses in a recent survey are using cloud infrastructure in some way. For those businesses with cloud-first strategies, the creation of a centralized cloud team or a “Center of Excellence” for cloud will be a growing phenomenon in 2018. 

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According to the survey, these teams provide centralized controls, tools, and best practices to help accelerate the use of cloud while reducing costs and risk. Overall, 44 percent of companies already have a central cloud team. Enterprises have an even stronger need for centralized governance within their larger organizations: 57 percent of enterprises already have a central cloud team with another 24 percent planning one.

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These teams are taking a stronger cloud governance role in advising on which applications move to cloud (69 percent in 2018 vs. 63 percent in 2017), managing costs (64 percent in 2018 vs. 55 percent in 2017), setting policies (60 percent in 2018 vs. 58 percent in 2017), and brokering cloud services (60 percent in 2018 vs. 54 percent in 2017).

Artificial Intelligence Crosses The Chasm

For some, the term “AI” conjures up images of SkyNet from the Terminator and HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey. But the reality is that machines are useful for aiding businesses in decision-making in new and exciting ways. They can also learn over time, improving their algorithms and approaches in a closed-loop feedback system that improves the longer they’re active. 

Related: 3 Key Ways AI Impacts UC

According to Statista, the market for virtual assistants will reach $255 billion by 2020; for AI-based analytics, the market should reach $70 billion in that timeframe. IDC meanwhile found that 75% of technology teams will use AI in one or more business applications or services this year. Timo Elliott, Innovation Evangelist at SAP, recently said that very soon, ALL products, services, and business processes will be self-improving.

Related: The New Visual Enterprise Channel With VR & AR

In a communications setting, the applications are myriad. For instance, AI can supercharge and automate business intelligence projects that involve gathering, cleaning, and joining data from different sources, so that, say, a call center can optimize its operational approaches. Also, natural-language interfaces that correctly interpret user questions in everyday language via voice or chat and return appropriate responses based on a wide pool of data can be invaluable for customer service, collaboration, and more. 

GDPR Looms 

The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) goes into effect on May 25, and will give EU regulators the power to levy punitive damages as high as €20m (or 4% of global turnover, whichever is greater) who fail to adhere to a series of requirements when it comes to securing the data of EU citizens. Any damages could be significant enough to put a smaller organization out of business.

Related: Top 5 Communication Trends Impacting SMBs In 2018

Any business that has any dealings whatsoever with the data of EU citizens is subject to the GDPR, even if that business is located in the United States. This means that if you have a customer on the Continent, or have dealings with a business that may be headquartered overseas but has a location stateside, or even if your business has foreign tourists as part of its customer base, this impacts you. 

Related: Top 6 Ways To Maintain Secure Communications

The requirements include: All breaches must be reported to regulators within 72-hours of the organization becoming aware of it; the regulator must also be informed of “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” measures taken/proposed to address the breach and/or mitigate its effects; if the breach is sufficiently serious to warrant notification to affected customers, the organization responsible must do so without undue delay. 

Related: 3 More Ways To Maintain Secure Communications

Compliance with GDPR requires changes in technology, processes, reporting, and more. Adopting technologies with encryption can go a long way to helping you get ready.

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