From smoke signals and carrier pigeons to video conferencing and instant messaging, communication has come a long way. Businesses have realized the importance of communication technology, and this has paved the way for unified communications as a service (UCaaS).
Through the years, UCaaS has gone beyond the confines of its widely accepted definition. Its evolution is based on the simple need to increase productivity and save time. This has given rise to the following current and projected trends in the UCaaS space.
One of the goals of a sound UCaaS system is unified presence. This component is especially relevant with the rise in remote work, as siloed communication tools have led to disconnected teams.
For example, say John, a remote support representative, sets his status as "Available" in his online workspace. He then takes a customer support call through a third-party application that is not integrated with his company's internal communication system. His supervisor, Jill, tries calling him while he's on the phone with the customer. John understandably cannot respond, but as Jill isn't aware that he's already on another call, she sees this as negligence.
The disconnect observed in the case above is a small representation of a more significant issue. Optimizing a unified presence in UCaaS systems can help companies avoid miscommunication. UCaaS providers are constantly working towards optimizing their systems so that user presence is established across channels.
One of the central capabilities of a UCaaS system is calling. This could include calls between employees in an organization, calls to customers, or conference calls involving an employee and the customer. Although the base functionality of this feature has been established, there have been improvements and integrations to make the user experience more seamless. The first instance relates to the increase in demand for the inbound-outbound calling functionality. Generally, this function is offered on software not used for internal communication. This enables a loss in time owed to channel switching. If both these functionalities were on the same interface, customer-facing employees could easily switch between customer interactions and internal communication.
Context switching results in lost time across industries. While UCaaS already helps reduce context switching by providing all necessary communication in one interface, providers also offer companies the freedom to centralize all essential applications on the platform. Through custom tools built on the UCaaS system for both external and in-house applications, providers reduce the context switch for users and facilitate easy account maintenance for admins.
Additionally, when the provider offers a single sign-on (SSO) service through a business identity provider, the need to switch between several applications and sign in each time is eliminated. For example, if you create an integration in your UCaaS system that connects your system to your drive files, you can access and share files directly from your UCaaS screen. This reduces the time lost from switching between your communication screen and the drive screen. The future of UCaaS could potentially see even more advanced and efficient integrations.
Admin controls in UCaaS systems enable the administrator to manage the organization's resources from one place. Over time, UCaaS providers worldwide will allow admins to customize the system and set detailed security controls. This level of flexibility would give companies greater control over their security. Providers are also likely to work towards providing tools like e-discovery, data export, and data control policies to help with data management.
Usage reports and analytics
With usage reports and analytics, companies can streamline and optimize communication patterns using relevant data.UCaaS providers are continuously working towards making this information readily available. This aids companies in adopting a more metric-driven approach when analyzing results.
Using technology to automate regular business processes has become a well-established practice. Low-code and no-code platform services have allowed businesses to automate workflows and improve productivity. This workflow automation can be triggered by various events, such as check-ins at work or even ending calls with a quick command. Good unified communication should not limit these workflows within the application, and it should allow them to function in external applications as well.
A significant trend in UCaaS is the need for open software development kits (SDKs). This facilitates seamless integration of the UCaaS system into the company's applications. By providing open SDKs, UCaaS providers give users the choice of customization. The company can use the SDK to customize the solution so it fits their applications, rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach.
Artificial intelligence (AI) has automated routine communication system processes. Apart from some of the processes mentioned above, AI could play a more significant role in elevating UCaaS systems. Recent advancements have been in the form of virtual assistants, priority-setting technology, and meeting aids. Providers have also been developing the technology to combine augmented reality (AR) and AI in communication to troubleshoot using remote teams. This effectively reduces the dependence on in-office teams. Although these developments are nascent for most providers, advancements in virtual communication using AI are inevitable.
The pandemic and the subsequent rise in remote work have encouraged companies to drive research and development in virtual meetings. The goal is simple: make virtual meetings and conferences as realistic as possible. Companies are now working on cutting-edge technology that can take virtual reality to the next level. This is bound to have positive implications for virtual meetings, as it improves the potential tools and technology required to make meetings more realistic and enhances the quality of remote work.
The way forward
With the trends and potential future of unified communication discussed, it is clear that UCaaS is constantly evolving. It is proof of the need for companies to select a provider who keeps up with these trends and engages in research and development.
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