My first blog of 2016 discussed Security, but the second will tackle a topic close to my heart, UC (Unified Communications) or to describe it via a new remixed term “Digital Collaboration”.
UC has suffered in recent years from nothing more than being pretty boring. The functional elements continue to work well and the UC solution most commonly experienced by users, IPT, delivers high value but with little applause. And that state signposts the age old challenge with UC, it continues to be viewed and described by users as a number of discrete technology based solutions, some working well together, others still a challenge and others still confusing. Sadly UC for the enterprise has failed to become part of the soul of an enterprise user in the manner UC in the social and personal world has managed to do. Consider just how ubiquitous platforms including Whatsapp have become and the real emotion and passion users have for the solution. No similar state or outcome is mirrored in the enterprise. With the immense potential for “Digital Collaboration” in the enterprise still very much apparent, this blog will focus on the 2016 “hot topics” that I think will start to make UC (Digital Collaboration), exciting and essential through 2016. First off UC for the mobile user.
- UC for the mobile:UC for the mobile user has continued to deliver a somewhat “inconsistent” experience. Different screens to access, credential issues, endless software updates, compatibility issues have resulted in users deeming this valuable experience often too challenging. I expect 2016 to become a real vendor battleground to deliver the best digital collaboration mobile user experience with the leading vendors striving to make UC seamless, invisible and ultimately essential. Microsoft, Cisco and even more innovative start-ups (remember Whatsapp) will step up to the plate with the Cisco and Apple alignment very promising for mobile user collaboration in the future.
- Video from the cloud:My colleagues and I have discussed video in the cloud for many years. Whether it’s bridging services or person to person video, the always on, everywhere nature of the cloud signposts it as the best destination for the service. Common to other components of UC , cloud based video has proved too complex, with too many choices, via confusing cost structures. No more in 2016 – the vendor that becomes synonymous with connecting and delivering video via the cloud has the potential to win the UC war so expect this to be an area of high vendor focus. And the benefit, a better user / enterprise experience and potentially right sized pricing. Cisco, Vidyo, Polycom, BlueJeans and the ever increasing collection of managed video service providers will deliver numerous opportunities for enterprises to finally unlock the benefits of such an essential service.
- Imbedded Digital collaboration:2016 will see a rise in an area I will call invisible or imbedded digital collaboration. Whether it’s a remote advice kiosks in a bank branch, a “contact an agent” option in a web store front or a “help me” customer service option on a smart device, UC elements will be integrated into a wider portfolio of applications and business services in a manner invisible to the user. There will be no switch on or off, it will be part of and core to the experience. This area has the potential for hyper growth with the current crop of smartphone equipped consumers happy to interact digitally via whatever communications channel their device is capable of. This is a real area where tangible customer and business value can be delivered.
- Browser based UC: I am risking my predictions going up in flames with this one. WebRTC is an open source initiative to deliver rich communications services (including video) via a web browser. It was the next big thing a few years ago and stalled somewhat due to browser compatibility issues, poor user experience and lack of integration. Expect it to reappear in a big way through 2016 as the drive to deliver an increased number of browser centric end user applications increases thus reopening the door to video or rich media collaboration via that same browser. The browser vendors need to do more / faster, ISVs need to push harder but the benefits to all in time if WebRTC delivers to its promise will be unparalleled.
- Digital team collaboration:For my last 2016 prediction I will take a bit of a long position but remain convinced it will come good in time. A key obstacle to team collaboration through previous generations has been the cultural challenge of using IT based sharing platforms within enterprise organisations. With a vast amount of legacy processes often mental or paper based, feeding them consistently into a digital platform proved a challenging cultural shift for the user. However the social / personal digital experience realized via the Facebook generation has softened the challenge and validated the user benefits of person to person sharing or interaction via digital collaboration platforms. 2016 will be the year platforms that including Cisco Spark, Microsoft Skype for Business & SharePoint or emerging solutions that include Slack will permeate the enterprise as essential collaboration platforms rather than UC technology upgrades.
And that’s the first pass of 2016 “hot tips”. As the digitisation of the enterprise continues at warp speed platforms and systems that store, share, integrate and transact digital data will prove invaluable to user and business productivity. UC of old is dead, but the legacy it delivered is the foundation of today and tomorrows “Digital collaboration” experience. If technical functionality drove the IPT & UC dawn, user experience and viable business outcomes will drive the “Digital collaboration” reality. That time is now.
Until next time.
Chief Technologist Computacenter UK: Networking, Security and Digital Collaboration (UC)