UC Evolves to Collaborative Communications by Blair Pleasant

UC Evolves to Collaborative Communications

 Blair Pleasant

COMMfusion LLC and BCStrategies

As an industry analyst, I follow trends in the market and try to identify what’s coming next. As the unified communications (UC) market continues to evolve, I believe the next stage of evolution is what I call “Collaborative Communications.” This involves several key trends that are currently taking place:

  • Various UC, collaboration, and contact center applications are being integrated to provide a gestalt-type effect where the total value is greater than the sum of the individual parts.
  • Communications capabilities are being embedded in the software applications we use on a regular basis to do our jobs,
  • The PBX/IP-PBX/VoIP system is quickly losing its central role in the way businesses communicate.

As a variety of applications are being embedded with calling capabilities, communications technologies are becoming a part of software apps we use for work (and even for fun). Whether it's a team collaboration application with integrated calling and conferencing capabilities, or a CRM application with contact center capabilities, communication functionality is no longer solely in the domain of the IP-PBX/VoIP system.

Let’s look back at what’s been happening. Around the same time unified communications and collaboration hit the scene, we also saw the rise of business-grade social software from companies like Jive, Microsoft (Yammer), and IBM (Connections), which were mostly standalone applications. More recently we saw the increasing prominence of team collaboration (aka workstream collaboration) tools such as Slack, Cisco Spark (now Cisco Webex Teams), Unify Circuit, and many others. While all of these on their own are useful, the real power comes when these applications or capabilities are integrated together. When they become part of a larger application suite with seamless integration and a unified user interface, they provide value that is exponentially increased.

For several years I’ve seen applications like enterprise social software struggle for one main reason – they’re isolated or siloed applications. The vendors get this, and have been working to integrate their point solutions together, as well as with other vendors’ offerings, while adding calling and other capabilities to their standalone offerings.

Expect to start seeing more integrated collaborative communication offerings in the coming months. Several companies have already made good progress. Companies like Cisco, Microsoft, and Starleaf have had a head start, with others following suit. For example, RingCentral has done a notable job of integrating its Glip team collaboration software, now called RingCentral Teams, with its cloud UC service. 8x8 has been pushing a single platform for UC and customer interaction, while Vonage is focusing on integrating its cloud UC offering with its CPaaS capabilities to communication-enable applications and workflow.

The point is, point solutions can only go so far. With an integrated UC/team collaboration/social, or collaborative communications solution tied in with a company's business processes, users will have increased functionality and a seamless user experience. As consultants, you have an important role to play in helping your customers move away from siloed applications to more efficient and optimized collaborative communication solutions.

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