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18 & 19 MARCH 2020


Collaboration Predictions for 2019

Collaboration is a bigger buzzword today than ever before.

In the digital landscape, the term collaboration doesn't just mean "working together" anymore, it means syncing conversations, productivity, and efficiency among employees who are often separated by different apps, technology, and even geographical locations.

As the demands for trends like remote working and globalisation increase, the collaboration boom is set to get even bigger, with businesses of all shapes and sizes turning to chat apps, file sharing solutions and video for help. It's no wonder that IDC expects the market to reach a value of $3.5 billion this year, up from $2.9 billion in 2018.

So, what can we expect to see from collaboration this year?

App Overload Leads to Cluttered Communication

According to a RingCentral study from 2018, App Overload is a severe problem in the current workplace, and it's an issue that's only getting bigger. According to survey results from over 2,000 knowledge workers in the US, UK, and Australia, employees are exhausted by the number of messages, emails, and notifications they need to deal with every day.

3 quarters of the respondents said that they are collaborating regularly at work, with the majority handling more than four communication apps on any given day. It seems that the availability of so many different apps is harming the collaboration landscape, rather than helping it. Up to 7 out of 10 workers waste an hour each day just hopping between apps. With so many distractions in the workforce, privacy and productivity may be a challenge in the year ahead. That is - unless we can find a solution for true consolidation.

Standard Definition is So Last Year

In 2018, UC Today interviewed the CTO of Lifesize, Bobby Beckman, who told us that the millennial generation would lead the way for greater adoption of video conferencing technology. It's safe to say that we've seen demand for video increasing, particularly as it becomes easier for teams to access. However, today's modern workers aren't happy with just any standard of video, 4K screens have become the new must-have feature.

In a world where we're recreating our face-to-face interactions through hand-held devices and computer screens, little differences like the option to stream in 4K make a big difference. The chances are that 4K will become even more commonplace in the years ahead, as things like 5G improve our mobile connectivity.

Team Apps Won't Always Play as a Team

We've already seen evidence that team apps such as Slack and Microsoft Teams are taking over the workforce. There are countless options to choose from today, and each offers valuable capabilities for their users. Unfortunately, if you need features from more than one application, you're going to have some friction, as the most popular apps don't play well together - yet.

Third parties are doing what they can to make integration more accessible, but it's going to be a long and bumpy road. In the meantime, you can expect to see more vendors enabling external calling to PSTN numbers. This means more UCaaS entrants coming into the market. We've already seen this with Cisco and Webex Calling. Additionally, Zoom entered the telephony industry in 2018 too with their new cloud telephony service, exclusively reserved for people using the Zoom conferencing platform.

Welcome AI and Virtual Assistants to Your Meetings

Just like your voice calls, video conferences can provide plenty of useful data about everything from customer preferences to meeting habits. Combine the data available from your daily meetings with virtual assistants and AI, and you've got everything you need to optimise your business conversations.

In 2018, organisations began to experiment with the possibilities of voice assistants in meetings, using them to take notes, transcribe conversations and even add follow-up conversations to their schedule. As we move into 2019, you can expect to see more AI potential within your meetings. Even at a basic level, intelligence could help you to optimise your meeting lengths, schedule conversations that suit everyone's calendar and record essential details from discussions.

Microsoft Teams will Lead Collaboration

When Microsoft Teams first entered the collaboration market, we were all left wondering whether it would ever be able to contend with Slack. Now, Teams is leading the way for many companies, providing a more immersive and professional experience, complete with exciting technological advancements like the opportunity to use the Microsoft HoloLens in your collaboration efforts.

With a free version now available for smaller businesses, Microsoft Teams has everything it needs to officially knock Slack off the top spot and take over the collaboration space. According to the Microsoft Ignite conference from 2018, 329,000 organisations worldwide currently use the app along with their Office 365 suite. Recent reports also suggest that Teams is set for the fastest growth out of any chat app during the next 2 years.

Slack Ramps Up to Stay in the Competition

Of course, Slack hasn't conceded defeat to Microsoft yet. 2019 is set to be a significant year for this enterprise chat app too, with expectations rising for a new IPO in the months ahead. The business plans to use a direct public offering - a strategy which eliminates middlemen like brokers and underwriters and gives the organisation more control over how it spends the capital it earns.

With that knowledge in mind, it's fair to suggest that Slack has some big plans for how they plan to use any cash they make in the year ahead. Already, the company has engaged in several strategic acquisitions to extend the reach of the platform. If the business decides to move into the space of UCaaS and calling, then the other collaboration tools on the market could be in real trouble.

Cisco Will Look for New Opportunities with BroadSoft

Speaking of companies taking advantage of their assets, I'm interested to see what Cisco does with BroadSoft next in 2019. With Amy Chang at the helm, BroadCloud calling is set to be an exciting offering for businesses who want a more flexible telephony solution. Cisco BroadCloud's "Flex" plan provides users with total control over their calling, content sharing, group messaging and meeting strategy, thanks to telephony combined with the Cisco Webex Teams collaboration app.

For now, we can only wait and see whether Webex calling will be as successful as some experts believe, or whether it will miss out on its real potential. Fingers crossed they don’t lose any more collaboration division execs in 2019.

Will Workplace Thrive or Flounder?

In 2018, Workplace by Facebook began rolling out new features to help it contend with giants like Slack and Microsoft Teams. While the app has its benefits, it's been difficult for users to overlook the privacy and security issues surrounding Facebook since the Cambridge Analytica Scandal. Fortunately, in 2019, Facebook plans to run everything in the Workplace environment from a different domain, and they're even using a new domain name to reflect this.

The leaders behind Workplace by Facebook are hoping that a change in where information is stored, and a new title will help to pave the way for a brighter future.

Zoom Consumes the Video Conferencing World

Finally, in 2019, we're bound to see the continued growth of Zoom, the video-conferencing app that took over the industry in 2018. Zoom has been doing incredibly well in their market up until now, and the addition of a new external dialling solution (Zoom Voice) makes the application even more appealing. Now, users will be able to access a softphone client to interact with third-party PBX systems during their calls.

Ever since its launch in 2011, Zoom has been making waves in the industry, and now the business is growing even more significant as potential communication provider. I expect to see some big international moves and innovative developments in 2019 as Zoom prepares for a total video industry takeover.

Do you agree with my predictions for collaboration this year? What are the trends your company is seeing?

Rob Scott - UC Today - - 0161 240 4445

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