Over the last few years, we have seen a remarkable transformation take place in the enterprise communications arena, as businesses have migrated away from traditional phone systems in favor of IP-based communications.
Today, the golden standard is unified communications (UC), a technology that combines multiple systems like voice, video, fax, presence, and instant messaging into a centralized, cohesive platform.
Using UC, businesses can:
- Reduce costs: UC can save a business money in a variety of ways. With UC, for instance, it’s possible to pool telephone lines, making it possible to pay less for fewer lines. A cloud-based UC system will also come with less capital and operational expenditures. And businesses can save even more money by using video conferencing, for faster meetings and reduced travel expenses.
- Eliminate shadow IT: Another major benefit to using UC is that it will reduce “shadow IT,” which occurs when employees use technologies that IT administrators don’t know about. With UC, all employees can operate over an approved and secure messaging portal. This results in a more stable and secure communications environment.
- Boost productivity: UC will also keep employees working in a single communications platform, rather than spread across disparate phone lines, messaging portals and customer databases. It will eliminate confusion and time waste, improving productivity.
- Streamline collaboration: Collaboration is an essential component of any healthy working environment. With UC, team members can easily exchange instant messages and have video conferences to stay in touch and move projects along to completion.
- Enhance the customer experience: UC can also boost the customer experience, by making agents available over a variety of platforms. By leveraging UC, agents can communicate with customers on their own terms, whether it’s by text, video or voice.
2019 Trends To Keep Up With The Times
Some younger millennials may not remember the days when the majority of communications took place over desk phones, snail mail, email, and bulky fax machines. The communications landscape has changed significantly in just a few short years as digital technologies have proliferated, and communications have sped up.
As the digital landscape has evolved, it’s changed expectations for businesses. Today, businesses need to communicate from any location, at any time of the day. Employees are expected to be accessible at their desk, over a mobile device, from a home office, and when traveling. Traditional office hours, and boundaries, are becoming a thing of the past.
To keep pace with the modern demands of doing business, UC is constantly evolving. Looking ahead to 2019, businesses can expect the following trends:
- The rise of EX: Up until recently, everyone was talking about the customer experience (CX) as a major driving force of UC. Now, EX — the employee experience — is picking up steam. As more and more businesses leverage UC, it’s becoming a must-have technology that employees are expecting to be able to leverage in the workplace.
- Increased artificial intelligence: Another trend that you can expect to see more of in 2019 will be the integration of AI with UC systems. Expect platforms to start leveraging AI to enhance in-call services like transcription, and boost security and authentication.
- SD-WAN growth: The benefits of UC can only be realized with a healthy underlying network. As such, more businesses next year will leverage software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) to improve stability across the network.
Know Your UC Terms
At the start of a new year, it’s always a good idea to refresh and reset. In keeping with this idea, here are some key terms and phrases to refresh your memory that you should know for UC in 2019:
5G: 5G is the next generation of wireless communications networking. You may have heard this buzzword in 2018; the real transitions from current 4G standards and technology will begin in the year ahead. Expect to see and learn more about how 5G will change network speeds, reduce latency, and affect wireless devices from smartphones to AI devices.
Disaster recovery: Another major selling point to UC is disaster recovery, or the ability to achieve business continuity in the event of an unplanned outage. With the rise in security concerns, disaster recovery solutions continue to be an important topic in 2019. By investing in a cloud UC system, businesses can keep their critical communications lines up and running even in the event of a local service outage.
Employee experience: As mentioned above, employee experience is a new term popping up in the industry. Forbes writer Denise Lee Yohn declared 2018 the year of employee engagement; employers will continue to see an emphasis on improving the employee experience through leveraging better technologies that allow employees to fulfill their job duties more efficiently and achieve their professional goals.
Full spectrum: Not all providers offer the same level of support for UC. A “full spectrum” provider can provide complete, end-to-end support, as well as the ability to deploy their services on your terms (on site or in the cloud). The UC space continues to see mergers and acquisitions which set out to achieve this holistic vision for communications.
On-premises Cloud: On-premises cloud is the combination of cloud infrastructure and on-premises network management. This type of setup allows businesses to leverage flexible cloud communications while maintaining the integrity and site survivability of a traditional PBX, but without the clunky hardware.
Presence: Remote teams often struggle to communicate, as it’s not easy for employees to see when other workers are available to chat. Using presence indicators, employees can keep others posted when they are at their desk, out to lunch, in a meeting, or doing whatever else throughout the day.
Pure Cloud: Pure cloud systems are software-only versions of communications platforms which are hosted on remote servers. These solutions are best for smaller locations which need efficient, reliable communication and don’t want hardware.
SD-WAN: Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is one of the most in-demand enterprise networking technologies today. In an SD-WAN deployment, the networking hardware is removed in favor of a software-defined approach. The result is WAN that can be easily monitored and managed from a centralized location, resulting in greater stability and performance.