Before mobility really took off, there were only a few communication portals that mattered in the office: the telephone, email, maybe a company cellphone and, if you look far enough back, a pager, a fax machine and snail mail. Now there is an entire range of communication tools enterprises as well as small and medium-sized businesses use, including VoIP phone systems, VoIP softphones, instant messaging platforms, audio and video conferencing and email. The bevy of devices that leverage these UC tools at any given time – desktops, laptop, tablets, smartphones and smart watches – create more moving parts than ever before.
Unified communications solutions essentially stepped in and saved the day by bridging the gaps between these business communication systems and the disparate devices that they operate on. That said, change is the only constant when it comes to information communication technology, and UC's work is far from finished. Several important trends looming on the horizon may affect how UC is offered in the near future.
"Mobile UC may soon take precedence over traditional UC."
Unified communications have provided organizations with the tools to collaborate from various geographic locations. This has sparked an increase of telecommuting rates: Between 80 and 90 percent of people would like to have the option to work from home part-time, according to the results of a September 2015 study released by GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com. The study also found that globally, Fortune 1000 companies are already accommodating mobility in the workplace. For the most part, telecommuting appears to be popular with employers and employees. In fact, this popularity is cause for several big changes, namely the idea of mobile-first UC.
In a mobile-first world, tailoring applications and collaboration tools for use on mobile devices becomes the priority, as users make smartphones and tablets their principal computing and communications devices. This shift has become evident in how we use smart phones in our everyday lives. We simply reach into our pockets to look up train times or restaurant hours, and send a quick text to orchestrate meeting times. This mentality is also pervading the workplace, and mobile UC may soon take precedence over traditional UC. In fact, Gartner, like Google search rankings, has even altered its UC Magic Quadrant to give mobility more weight when rating UC solutions, according to TechTarget.
The growth of cloud UC
Another significant trend in UC is developing in response to the benefits of cloud computing. By 2022, the global unified communication as a service market is expected to be worth $37.85 billion, which represents a compound annual growth rate of 23.4 percent from 2014. Unlike on-premises UC, UCaaS is easier for businesses to deploy, and can expand and contract with the company, making it an especially viable option for SMBs. Cloud UC also creates a more mobile-friendly work environment by simplifying access to the collaboration from remote locations via smartphones and tablets. This means vendors that have already begun offering cloud UC are in a good position to reap dividends in the future, both in terms of wading into a thriving market, and in terms of the ability to accommodate the mobile-first trend.
The world is changing fast, and UC is changing with it. But at the end of the day, the end goal of UC will ultimately remain the same: to streamline business communication and to enhance collaboration capabilities.