ChannelVision Magazine

software platforms, opening up yet more possibilities for tie-ins to UC functionalities – plenty of which are sure to debut in the coming year. Trend #4: Data is King UC systems generate a lot of infor- mation – information about employee collaboration trends, customer service outcomes, omnichannel usage and more – but for that information to be useful and actionable, some level of au- tomated analytics needs to be in place. Armed with insights from this vast repository of data, businesses can ap- ply them in a number of strategic ways: think marketing automation, enhanced sales outreach and follow-ups, proac- tive customer service and more. In 2018, expect to see more automated analysis for UC information at scale. Trend #5: EmergingApplications Video is becoming embedded into business communications processes, and 2018 promises to see it become ubiquitous, with video chat and confer- encing an ever-present option in UC suites. Hand in hand with this will be new types of video usage, such as streaming video for presentations and social out- reach (think Facebook Live), and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR). The latter could represent the fu- ture of workplace communication. For example, using an VR/AR headset or even a mobile phone app, a user can see what his or her colleagues or customers are seeing. This could revo- lutionize customer service and repair calls, boost project collaboration within distributed workforces, better enable supply-chain quality control, and more. SMBs Look to Modernize The nation’s small and medium- sized businesses (SMBs), meanwhile, see technology as a primary factor in meeting business objectives. According to a recent CompTIA survey, a large majority of the 600 SMBs it queried are looking to communications and technology to help them grow, reduce operational overhead, be more respon- sive to their customers and work more collaboratively with partners. About four in 10 SMBs say their current level of spending on technology is too low. “This highlights a key challenge: balancing the desire to embrace inno- vation with the realities of running the business,” said Tim Herbert, senior vice president, research and market intelligence, CompTIA. Some of the trends guiding SMB communications choices in 2018 in- clude the following: 1. A Continued Move to Managed, Hosted and Cloud While the move to cloud has been underway for some time, plenty of SMBs have yet to make the transition, or have only done so in part. 2018 will see more businesses than ever before moving additional mission-critical func- tions to the cloud or to hybrid models. The CompTIA survey found that while 60 percent of SMBs believe their return on investment in technology has been excellent or good, 40 percent categorize it as “just okay” or disappointing. Among the reasons are things that moving to the cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) can fix: ongoing maintenance costs and fees; required upgrades and built-in obsolescence; staff time needed to oper- ate and maintain systems; large upfront costs; and complexity. Similarly, according to a survey from technology solution provider Di- rective, 69 percent of SMBs expect a decline in installed applications on local machines, in favor of virtualiza- tion and the cloud. By storing data in a secure online location, they can easily add user access permissions, create new accounts or scale services accord- ing to their business’ specific needs. “Today’s digital climate doesn’t have room for complicated infrastructures, let alone the inability to scale alongside change in your workforce or business needs,” Directive noted. “Your infra- structure needs to be volatile enough to adapt to change – something that only a virtual environment can provide.” 2. Cybersecurity, Cybersecurity, Cybersecurity Small businesses are increasingly the target of hackers, as they’re at an Core Communications January - February, 2018 | Channel Vision 45