ChannelVision Magazine

Core Communications A few key trends will shape the space this year, including a continued march toward digital transfor- mation, the rise of hybrid services, emerging appli- cations such as streaming video and virtual reality, the use of artificial intelligence, and advanced ana- lytics to get the most out of UC investments. Trend #1: Digital Transformation Becomes an Imperative. About 90 percent of organizations are currently using cloud technologies in some form or fashion. Now, after years of investing in smaller initiatives, companies are beginning to take a more holistic view of their transformation strategy, driving investments to place the bulk of their mission-critical functions into the cloud. Adoption of cloud-based UC is accelerat- ing as a key part of the roadmap for most companies. Organizations are looking to empower their distributed workforce with cost-effective, secure solutions that allow workers, partners and custom- ers to communicate over multiple channels (voice, text, video and so on), across different devices, at any time and anywhere. This fosters widespread organizational digital transformation, lowering overhead and improving business agility and stra- tegic outcomes. Unsurprisingly, according to IDG, 47 percent of companies have already moved their messaging plat- forms into the cloud, and in 2018, the most popular choices for cloud deployments will continue to be com- munications platforms. Cloud UC alone is projected to grow by 20 to 25 percent in the next year and beyond. Trend #2: The Rise of the Hybrid Model Even as organizations embrace the cloud, they’ve discovered that this is not an all-or-nothing proposi- tion. An appliance-based strategy is becoming in- creasingly attractive as businesses look for addition- al, complementary features to their UC investments. In a hybrid model, services are delivered via the cloud, with an on-premises, lightweight box enabling quality of service, analytics, built-in security and other functions, such as geo-redundancy for multilocation broadband deployments and SD-WAN capabilities. With a growing focus on both security and SD-WAN in particular, 2018 will see an uptick of interest in appliance-based UC deployments. Trend #3: AI Supercharges the User Experience AI is maturing, and users are increasingly connect- ing with the likes of Apple’s Siri, Google’s Cortana and Amazon Alexa in their daily lives. These types of digital assistants show great promise for business environments, especially on the UC front. Eventually, employees can use AI to connect and communicate with each other, with customers and partners, and with their own UC suites and other ap- plications. Imagine being able to simply say, “Alexa, open a chat window with Mark in accounting,” and from there being able to dictate a conversation. AI engines such as IBM Watson, SAP Leonardo and Salesforce Einstein also are being built into By David Portnowitz Top 2018 UC and SMBTrends toWatch U nified communications (UC) adoption shows no signs of slowing down in 2018, as businesses look to gain competitive advantage through the latest technology. Channel Vision | January - February, 2018 44