Unified Communications in 2019 and 2020
Interview Video: The Future of Unified Communications in 2020
Tom Minifie, XMedius VP & General Manager of Voice Solutions, has his finger on the pulse of the Unified Communications market. We asked him for his predictions were for UC in 2020.
More about UC in 2019 & 2020
2019 has been a year of transition for the Unified Communications industry characterized by pivots, new ideas, and the Microsoft Exchange SBC deadline. Here’s a look at recent developments in the industry and what their implications might be for 2020.
Avaya + RingCentral
While 2019 still hasn’t seen as many of the significant Unified Communications mergers that abounded in 2018, one just happened that’s a big enough deal to make up the difference. After months of speculation, Avaya and RingCentral have announced they’ve joined forces.
Through this new alliance, Avaya will provide their customers a path to move to a UCaaS solution provided by RingCentral. It appears that Avaya will focus on contact center development, CCaaS, while depending on RingCentral for UCaaS. It will definitely be interesting to see how this relationship evolves.
Customer Privacy Has Become a Much Bigger Factor in Doing Business
Last year, Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) went into effect, adding strict new data privacy controls, security requirements, and citizens’ rights. The law introduced extraterritorial coverage for Europeans’ data, with associated penalties for failure, even if the organization was based in the US. As a result, many organizations with international customers have adjusted the way they operate to comply with GDPR.
Previously, if all the people (“data subjects”) whose data your organization handled were in the US, GDPR wasn’t a factor or concern. Now new US laws are emerging that promise to enforce stricter controls for (some) Americans as well. Early next year, the new California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) kicks in, bringing many GDPR-like protections into play for Californians, regardless of what state an organization dealing with them is in.
California’s not the only state introducing new privacy laws. New York has a new SHIELD Act, which dramatically increases reporting requirements (and thus potential fallout) in the event of a breach. The Nevada State Privacy Law is adding limits (similar to some in the broader CCPA) to how businesses can sell the personal information of Nevada residents to others. It’s likely more laws are on the way, possibly to be eventually replaced by an overarching Federal law that tries to reconcile everything into one document.
In other words, if your organization handles citizens’ private information, maintaining compliance with regulations is going to get more complicated as we head into 2020. The advent of the internet has made information incredibly fluid, capable of easily and instantly traversing national boundaries. GDPR, and laws like it, are once again making borders an important factor.
Organizations need to be cognizant of their obligations, especially given that so many of these laws set their boundaries based on where the subject is located (in the case of GDPR, regardless of citizenship), not where the organization dealing with them is headquartered. Even though you’re in Maine, you’re still bound by GDPR when dealing with someone in France. Similarly, companies in Idaho will now have to worry about California’s CCPA law.
As customer information can travel across connections managed by a UC system, this is making UC security an ever more important consideration.
The Bots are (Still) Coming
In our 2018 lookback and 2019 predictions at the beginning of the year, we wrote about how AI had emerged as a major buzzword in the UC innovation conversation. Companies continue to explore ways AI and Machine Learning can improve the way we communicate, from video conferencing with automatic attendee context (the software automatically scanning the web to deliver background information in real time) to adaptive chat bots that answer customer inquiries to save staff time.
As with other intersections of existing industries with new AI and Machine Learning/Deep Learning applications, the market has yet to decide what new features are truly powerful and which are gimmicks or solutions in search of a problem. Ultimately AI’s most powerful contributions to videoconferencing, for example, may be much less flashy than automatic curated intelligence dossiers. Regardless, it’s exciting to see boundaries continue to be pushed.
The Cloud and UCAAS Continue to Be the Near Future
It’s possible that there will continue to be organizations that will never be cloud-comfortable, simply because their security, technology, and/or regulatory requirements won’t allow them to let essential data and/or functions offsite. That said, the truth is that a cloud migration of some sort is probably in everybody else’s near future. However, how close that future is largely depends on each organization’s unique needs.
There remain plenty of good reasons why organizations aren’t ready to go all in on the cloud…yet:
- Missing features
While many providers are working to close the gap, many cloud UC solutions still lag behind long-established on-premises versions in functionality.
UCaaS offerings are typically closed ecosystems that provide a suite of solutions. Some of the items in each package may be good, while others aren’t as solid. However, they don’t support the ability for a customer to replace a weak component with a best in class solution of their choosing.
- Security and Control
Privacy regulations, security policies, and cybersecurity insurance agreements can force organizations to exert more physical control over their data than can be achieved in someone else’s data center.
- Depreciating Investments
If an organization’s on-premises hosted solutions, or portions of them (see interoperability above) still work, and are still depreciating, that can be a powerful incentive to delay a rip & replace or migration to the Cloud.
Unless another paradigm shift takes its place, it’s hard to argue that the Cloud isn’t where we’re all going to end up…eventually, but it’s important to temper exuberance with the knowledge that organizations are only going to migrate when and how it makes sense for them.
Expanded Communications Methods Lead to Expanded User Preferences
In our predictions for 2019 we also wrote about the continued strength of traditional communications (in person, phone calls, and email) in the face of up-and-coming competitors like social media, chat apps, and website chats, when it comes to company to customer communications.
What we’re starting to see now is that more and more end users are demonstrating a taste for communications variety. They don’t prefer one method over the others, instead they prefer specific methods for specific situations. This is driving demand for functions that transcend traditional strengths of communications mediums, like speech recognition and transcription in voice products, so people can accomplish more tasks via the phone (for example) if that’s their preferred outreach tool.
These situational preferences also appear when evaluating what communication tools are best suited for internal communications versus communicating with external contacts. While team messaging apps may be the preference internally for a team of people, phone calls or SMS may be the preference to communicate with people outside the team or company.
Interoperability and Security: Keys to a Nimble UC Future
XMedius has developed a Unified Communications application suite that delivers powerful functionality through industry-leading interoperability. XM Connect works with an incredibly broad range of email servers, PBXs, and other communications tools to deliver secure Unified Messaging, voice-driven Automated Attendants, voicemail transcription, and a great deal more.
Reach out to an XMedius expert to learn what XM Connect can do to prepare your organization’s communications for the challenges and opportunities of 2020.