For decades, the enterprise communications sector has been dominated by large, unimaginative vendors. These slow-moving behemoths historically provided communications platforms that were both expensive and inflexible, with little to no room for customization to suit customers of all sizes and budgets. These were dark times.
However, revolution is now in the air — or, more specifically, in the cloud. Nimble and innovative cloud-based startups are disrupting the status quo with products and services that offer rich features and flexible pricing models. As 2016 draws to a close, these upstarts are spurring the adoption of affordable, cloud-based enterprise communications technologies by organizations of all sizes and budgets.
What changes can you expect in the enterprise communications sector in 2017? The following are five trends worth watching in the coming year:
1. Full Flight to the Cloud
Expect more small and midsize businesses to jump right into the cloud to meet their communications needs next year instead of sinking a ton of money into on-premise hardware and systems — both of which will require expertise to monitor, manage, and troubleshoot. It’s better to leave your systems’ maintenance to the pros and focus instead on your business (unless configuring a PBX system is your idea of a good time).
2. Legacy Augmentation
Many businesses with on-premise contact center systems want to benefit from the latest digital technologies while also preserving their capital investment. Look for an increasing number of these organizations turning to cloud-based platform services that augment their legacy contact centers. By exporting additional contact center services through the cloud, companies not only can offer the modern tools that today’s digital customers expect and demand, but they can also provide themselves with the flexibility and scalability to ensure optimal customer experiences at a minimal cost.
Whether their users are employees or customers, business communications systems must deliver a highly personalized experience. The system must allow users to communicate with colleagues or customer support through whatever means they prefer — such as phone, email, text, online chat, mobile app, or telepathy (OK, that last one’s not quite here yet) — and on the devices of their choice. Cloud-based services enable all of that and more. Look for even more personalization of communications solutions in 2017, as users will be able to customize interfaces and integrate unified communications platforms (including video conferencing) with collaboration tools and business applications such as customer relationship management software. We’ll shoot for telepathy in 2018.
4. Mobile Integration
Mobile devices and applications are deeply entrenched in many enterprises, though not always well-integrated with back-end services or legacy business communications platforms. This means many enterprise mobile users do not enjoy the type of quality unified communications experience that is their due as owners of sleek, powerful mobile devices. It’s a travesty, when you think about it. Don’t be surprised to see shrewd business communications vendors make the move to better provide their mobile users with the ability to access unified communications systems and data on-premises or in the cloud, and from any device.
Startups bring a lot of benefits to any technology sector. They spark innovation, challenge old rules, encourage a new focus on the customer, and provide price competition. Yet as markets evolve and mature, even startups with quality offerings struggle to survive the fierce competition for revenue and market share. This makes it highly unlikely that every enterprise communications company will be around by the end of next year. This is something to consider for enterprise decision-makers who don’t want to choose between a stodgy, traditional enterprise communications vendor with healthy market share and uninspiring technology, and a scrappy startup that could go out of business or be swallowed up by a larger competitor. Companies should strive to find an experienced communications vendor with the attitude, hunger, and innovative ideas of a startup.
By staying on top of the different ways communications is slated to change in the coming years, organizations can be better prepared to implement key technology to keep up.
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