This past year we have seen a migration of emphasis from Telephony to UC. In fact, the conversation with any enterprise user we have had discussion with, including all clients and projects we serve, has been centered on Unified Communications, the game-changing elements of UC, and how it impacts the user communities they serve. The conversation around Telephony has virtually gone “extinct” and has completely been missing from the discussion. Telephony is a required component, yes, but any value statements and perceived value associated with Telephony-only are simply no longer there.
As mobility continues to gain ground (just look at Apple’s recent announcement around worldwide iPhone sales and associated profitability), elements of UC are also growing in the consumer space. Consumer elements of UC have been around for some time, including ad-hoc video conferencing (Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts), IM/chat (texting), and presence (aka friends lists and availability on Facebook). UC clients are available on mobile devices (smartphones, tablets) with all of the tools available in a desktop UC client.
Now it’s the enterprise’s turn. All of our clients are embracing UC and its entire suite of tools. They want a more robust environment; they want the ability to work from home and remotely from anywhere; they want one number reach to any device; they want desktop mobility (working from anywhere as though working from your desk); they want to collaborate and share documents and get consensus on a topic together; they want to get all email, voice mail, and faxes in a single InBox (Unified Messaging); they want to call one another by name and not by number any longer (corporate directory); and they are beginning to show great interest in having video conversations one-on-one and in groups.
Drivers for UC Adoption in 2015
So why will UC go mainstream in 2015? In my opinion they include:
1. The Hype Cycle Is Over – The hype cycle for UC is over, period, and interest in UC and UC adoption will be at the forefront of the real time communications conversation
2. Consumer Components of UC Here - Consumer components of UC are already here (as noted earlier)
3. Millennials Want It -
Millennials will make up a full 50% of the workforce in less than five years and recently have surpassed baby boomers as the largest segment of the domestic US population. Millennials embrace all of the elements of UC and not just tolerate it – in a word, they want it (see my December 5, 2014 post “Planning for the Best UC Experience? Follow the Millennials
4. Telephony Is Dying – Telephony, and the interest in it, is for all intents and purposes, “dying” or even “dead.” Of course TDM has been dead at the enterprise level for over 60 months, and that part is obvious. The less obvious is that, although Telephony is not actually dead, the interest in it as a necessary component of real time communications is more than just irrelevant, it no longer carries any perceived value. The emphasis and conversation is now on UC and how UC and collaboration can connect everyone in real-time. The UC suite of tools brings so much more to the user experience than Telephony alone could ever bring by itself.
5. Enterprise’s Interest in UC Is Greater Than Ever - Enterprises have shifted and are now showing more interest in UC than at any other time. And they want to be creative with it. One of our clients is interested in adding UC clients for all Board members, providing them their own DID number, and holding a virtual Board call that can be recorded, in the event that a critical decision is necessary quickly or in the event of inclement weather. Another client is interested in providing all students with a tablet and adding a UC mobility client for each. This will provide faculty members the ability to notify students of a change in class venue, or hold a class “virtually” via collaboration or videoconferencing or both in the event of inclement weather. This will provide a richer, more connected student experience on or off campus.
6. Front Line Business Units Are Asking for UC Components – Many Contact Center leaders are now requesting multi-channel components, including IM/chat functions, responding to emails, phone calls, social media integration, and even video calls (Amazon Kindle Fire has been doing so over 15 months now). Some customers are planning on video kiosks for virtual specialists to work “across” multiple branch sites in any given day, a feat virtually unattainable if that specialist were physically required at all sites in a single day.
7. The Cost of UC Continues to Plummet - Pricing alone per UC license / end point has dropped close to 20% in the last 24 months, in our experience. Price consistently drives adoption in any industry, in this case UC. And UC offers huge ROI opportunities, from SIP trunking, working from anywhere (reduced real estate), reduced maintenance costs, and reduced end points (as desired), among others.
8. Next-Gen UC and Collaboration Is Here – New entrees are offering (some or all) feature and functionality including ease of use tools, “like” interfaces across multiple devices (desktop, tablet, smartphone), moving a single “conversation” among multiple devices, adding device awareness, geo-location presence for location-based identification, and powerful search functions for referencing multiple discussions. These new features and functions are creating new “buzz” surrounding UC. A single “like” user interface across multiple devices minimizes any extensive learning curve (in some cases nearly zero) and will be another key enabler to driving UC adoption this year.
Summary and Conclusions
So if you are a channel partner, gear up with appropriate manufacturer certifications to successfully implement UC day one for your enterprise customers.
If you are an end user organization, embrace UC as a core, key component of real time communications for your community going forward.
Note that the acceptance of UC in your organization relies heavily on a strategic deployment of UC, carefully constructed and rolled out for a high user acceptance rate. Without such an approach, your organization’s acceptance level will be less than stellar and even a possible failure.
So to be prepared, in my opinion this is the year for UC to go mainstream. If you don’t place UC into the pipeline as one of your next major projects for 2015/16, the level of adoption by competitors will begin to surface. The clock is ticking and you have 12-24 months before you will have to catch up to your competitors; now is the time to embrace the full UC suite of tools for your organization.