During 1960s, Star Trek was a pioneer in introducing futuristic communications. Remember Captain Kirk talking over video with his friends and foes? It took more than 30 years for fiction to become reality (the first industrial telepresence system was introduced in the early 1990s). However, with advent of new technology, the rate at which fictional tech is fast becoming reality is astonishing.
The workplace is an area subjected to such accelerated change. The increasing addition of millennials to the workforce — whose communication choices are more flexible and mobile, with light and on-the-go application needs — is contributing to this change. In this rapid workplace transformation, organizations need a unified communication strategy which can lower their costs and deliver anywhere, as well as plug the gap between employees and their choices, and increase collaboration and productivity.
Unified communications as a service, or UCaaS, is a perfect fit for organizations of all sizes as it helps avoid the hassle of owning and maintaining bulky IT infrastructure, thereby enabling businesses to scale quickly and remain agile with low TCO. With UCaaS, all communication functions, such as voice and telephony, meeting solutions, messaging, presence and instant messaging, are clubbed together in a single package and delivered over the cloud on a pay-as-you-go model.
UCaaS is suitable for current and future trends we are seeing in the market
Going forward, we see UCaaS tools becoming integral in the virtual workplace. With technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, 5G and IoT gaining popularity among consumers, its entry into enterprise UC is inevitable. With changing workforce attitudes toward telecommuting and communication channels other than voice, UCaaS will become a key core strategy for any enterprise.
Getting it right will be the key
To deliver differentiated and compelling UCaaS, telcos and communications service providers (CSPs) must focus on the following key aspects:
- Marrying IoT and UC. With new-age technologies, and especially with IoT and more devices being deployed at the edge, CSPs must innovate rapidly. Systems and services can no longer exist in silos, because real value will come only from seamless integration. Having said this, service providers need to understand that UC and IoT are focused on enhancing workforce productivity (people) and back-end efficiency (technology), respectively. That’s also the whole point — using IoT technology to boost UC for a more productive workforce.To get more value from IoT and UC, it’s best to consolidate data streams (IoT) and deliver insights directly to collaboration tools (UC). By integrating IoT and UC, businesses will benefit from faster response times while removing the typical lag time between data collection and execution of actionable insights. For service providers, this means more effective troubleshooting and more proactive resolution of security incidents. Integrating IoT and UC is now made easy with network edge orchestration which marries the two.
- Integration of AI in UC. AI and machine learning are already being used in unified communications to improve employee productivity by assisting in storing data, prioritizing communication and delivering a personalized experience for each communication thread.One of the most successful use cases of AI and UC adoption is in borderless support centers, where subject matter experts can resolve queries from anywhere, through any device, at any time. Many enterprises are using AI to automate repeatable tasks through interactive voice response.
- Using 5G for UC. Key benefits of 5G include extremely reliable, low-latency, very fast communication networks. For telcos to completely take advantage of this business opportunity, they will need to focus on cloud-based technologies, like network function virtualization (NFV), to make their networks self-healing and to meet demand spikes while maintaining their operational efficiency, and edge computing to facilitate high data processing rates with lower latency.
- Automation and integration with ecosystems. With trends like BYOD and the availability of multiple platforms of communication, UC should enable seamless switching between them. UC tools can be integrated with support centers, ticket management centers and other third-party tools to improve collaboration. UC applications can be automated to resolve any issues in real time by relying on context-based cues, without any human intervention.
- Getting ready for cloud native. As adoption of cloud and software-defined X grows, it is important to have network designs that are cloud native, not just cloud ready. By combining cloud-native virtualization functions like NFV, CSPs can achieve vast scale at extremely low costs, which would lead to quicker service launches and better fault isolation.A cloud-native set of microservices ensures higher network resilience and lower downtime with lesser infrastructure redundancy.
- Microservices-based software architecture. Instead of traditional, monolithic software architectures, microservices-based-software architectures, which are usually based on agile and DevOps methodologies, enable orchestration of small, independent processes for development of highly reusable applications with much quicker introduction and scale ups. Hence, companies can undergo a quick, smooth and cost-eﬀective IT revamp and maintenance.
In getting these transitions right, an engineering service provider’s unique expertise and experience has become more and more valuable. With such extensive end-to-end expertise and deep investments in internal communication labs, IoT and emerging technologies, engineering service providers that understand the nuances of the ecosystem can help businesses build and execute their unified communication strategies at an accelerated pace with lower investments.
What the future holds
Remember Eden Hazard’s live interview on Belgium TV from a studio in Russia using hologram technology during the FIFA World Cup? It will not be long before we see these technologies in our UCaaS tools. Most — if not all — meetings, which often take more time to commute to than their actual duration, can soon be done over a unified communication system without compromising on personalized experiences.
It might have taken decades for us to realize the sci-fi tech of 20th century, but the sci-fi tech of 21st century will be realized much sooner — maybe within a decade. We’re now at a pace where reality might even outdo fiction.
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