2023 was a stellar year for the field of Unified Communications, from the shift to cloud-based infrastructure with UCaaS and new cybersecurity improvements, to the integration of AI in various aspects of workflow to ease employee workload and overall focus on user-friendliness.
These trends have helped many service providers up their game and keep up with the competition, but 2023 is behind us now and it is time to see what UC Trends the new year has to offer.
Let’s see what new focuses are looking to shape the landscape of telephony in 2024.
1. Asynchronous Video Messaging
When hearing the word asynchronous, most people would attribute it to something negative, but in a fast-paced business world with workplaces employing people from all over the world, it could not be more positive.
Standard meetings were expected to be the norm for a while in order for everyone to sync up and to know where everyone else is at with their work, a place where experiences, successes and difficulties are shared and resolved if need be.
The Problem Of The Standard Method
However, these standard meetings could run into scheduling problems if they had to accommodate for several different time zones which made it difficult to hold one with everyone present with some employees always missing out on updates.
Combatting this problem would often stifle a company’s hiring power by making them restrict themselves to only the timezone ranges that worked for them.
However, asynchronous video messaging is looking to eliminate that snag and allow companies access to a bigger cadre of potential talent.
What Is Asynchronous Video Messaging?
Async video messaging encapsulates a video response that a team lead can create and share with their team to catch them up on the latest updates, one that they can replay and rewind at their convenience in case they missed out on a particular detail.
They can then issue a response to said video with their own in the same manner once they parse all that information and generate an adequate response if one is needed.
Think of it like a smaller version of Youtube enclosed in the business’ ecosystem, or a video email that everyone can contribute to.
How It Helps
Leaving these condensed video responses can help streamline communication among teams that comprise of employees spread across the globe by not reinforcing strict meeting times and allowing everyone to catch up at their own pace and respond accordingly.
This will ultimately help employees be more productive without feeling the pressure of having to attend a meeting too early or too late into the day.
Utilizing video instead of purely audio or text also helps retain that human element that synchronous meetings would have, making it a slightly more favorable option over emails or voice recordings.
Plus, it is a bit more palatable and easier to navigate without shifting focus away from an employee’s current workflow.
An Improved Onboarding Tool
While some companies have already started utilizing video as an onboarding tool, we are likely to see more companies adopting this approach.
This is likely to eliminate lengthy manuals that are hard to sift through and visualize application for and replace them with more interactive, visually appealing, and comprehensive videos that will all be stored and shared over the chosen UC platform and will always be accessible.
Further Potential Enhancements
These use-cases are just the base form of a number of potential ideas that are getting cooked up as companies are already envisioning potential integration of AI in async videos to make it a more desirable option over alternative communication mediums.
Some of the main ideas include:
• Automatic language translation
• Automatic voice transcription
• Automatic generation of summaries and actionable insights
A Potential Issue
While the idea of async video messaging is looking to be the future given how many communication giants are buying async video platforms up, it may still take time to develop something functional.
While the burden of scheduling meetings may be loosened, not having everything be “synced up” right away may lead to some delays which may pose issues for businesses relying on tight deadlines.
2. Further AI Integration
“Generative AI applications in UC will continue to expand beyond meeting summaries and predictive text in the year ahead”Rob Scott, UCToday
While the use of AI is still a divisive topic in social circles, there is no doubt that the administrative benefits and shortcuts that AI can provide are nothing but positives.
Making Chatbots Smarter
In UC in particular, we have seen the inclusion of AI models in chatbots to provide more intelligent, responsive, and overall useful user interaction.
Streamlining Contact Center Agent Workflow
We have also seen AI put to use in contact centers to both input and fetch information on various callers to shorten the time between inquiries and streamline the overall process which has led to great improvements in user experience.
As for its use within the company itself, we have already mentioned its potential uses in this current year during meetings where AI could recognize the audio of a meeting, analyze it, and create summaries and actionable insights that can be referenced at a later date without having to sift through the entire meeting again or bother the speaker to repeat themselves.
Automatically Generating Tasks Based On Meeting Discussion
It is also believed that there will be a functional AI model that will be able to integrate with team collaboration software to automatically generate tasks based on these summaries should the technology develop that far throughout the year.
This could eliminate a lot of that tedious busywork in-between projects and would allow employees to focus on the task at hand without having to deal with the virtual paperwork, improving overall effectiveness and reducing stress.
Automatic Event Scheduling
While on the topic of administrative shortcuts, scheduling could also become less of an issue by allowing AI to sift through employee data and determine the best times to schedule meetings and other business events based on expected attendees.
The Potential To Be The Next Trendsetter
Commercial AI technology is technically still in its infancy with a lot of room to grow in almost any direction.
While the applications listed are only some of the potential new uses for generative AI that we can expect in this year and onward, there are plenty more innovations that are likely to emerge and it is important to keep your finger on the pulse to keep up with it.
However, it is also an opportunity to discover something new yourself and find an application of it that can provide a positive impact on the world of UC as a whole and to keep you ahead of the competition.
It sets the stage to be the next potential industrial revolution, the only question is who will be the ones taking a bow on it.
3. A Focus On EX On Top Of CX
The primary focus of a company has usually been on the customers themselves, but modern companies are realizing that the main driving force behind improved CX is a satisfied employee, which is why the employee experience is looking to share the spotlight with the customer in 2024.
According to UCToday, this is something that a lot of successful UC companies are already well aware of and are making strides in improving, offering businesses ways to track employee engagement and experience on top of customer satisfaction to provide better, data-driven insights into potential pain points and how to improve on them.
Leaning Into Hybrid And Remote Work Options
Of course, analytics and tools can only take this so far, proper action needs to be taken. Businesses have already started working on adapting their infrastructure to better implement remote and hybrid work options in the previous year, and are scheduled to continue to do so in the current one too.
The reason behind it was quite obvious post-pandemic and onward as employees with more flexible work options have reported a better work-life balance, at least according to a survey done by FlexJobs.
Hybrid remains, however, because another significant portion of employees value the option of choice as, according to an MIT study, they felt more productive and less lonely being around others in the office at times while still liking the option of being able to work from home.
Putting The “Unified” Into Unified Communications
Work options are not the only things that are undergoing changes to help improve employee satisfaction and engagement, the tools that employees utilize are as well.
It can be quite frustrating to constantly have to switch from one app to another when working, which is why UC providers are looking to provide their customers with platform options that unify the tools that an employee is going to use in his everyday work.
Said platforms are also able to manage and monitor customer and employee experience at the same time, ensuring both can be kept at optimal levels without adding further frustration.
Apart from putting everything in one place, this helps employees out by shortening the learning curve required to utilize the platform and improving overall workplace efficiency.
How This Approach Benefits The Customer
By simplifying operation complexity and making the operating tools for employees more intuitive on top of providing them with more flexibility in their work, they are more likely to have a more productive and positive approach to the work in question.
This reflects really well when interacting with customers and, according to Forbes, it shows.
That is why investing in ways that benefit employees in a business should be one of the pivotal trends in UC in 2024.
4. Highlighting The Importance Of Cybersecurity And Regulation Compliance
“More than 77 percent of organizations do not have an incident response plan.“Source: Varonis
The final focus is gearing itself toward workplace security and compliance with emerging regulations around new technology like AI.
While this is always at the forefront of any successful business’ interests, it takes on an even greater role in an ever-expanding digital landscape, particularly with the large shift to cloud-based operations and flexible work options, as well as the increasing utilization of AI in every aspect of business, among others.
Customers need to feel secure when interacting with a business as data privacy is becoming a top concern and regulations are popping up left and right to ensure that they can feel safe in that regard.
Compliance Regulation Is Key
It is important that UC solutions follow suit and that they can provide businesses with flexible tools that can help manage how customer data is used without having to uproot their entire infrastructure to accommodate new regulations and remain compliant to them.
This is why generative AI is such a double-edged sword at the moment. Its applications are vast, but customer privacy needs to be put into consideration which turns it into a volatile tool if left unchecked, which is why businesses need these compliance management tools to be able to regulate their own technology and to retain their reputation and customer trust.
Preventing Features From Suffering
While this does mean that integration of new features may take longer to develop and that some existing features may suffer from shifting regulations, that is nothing new in the field of Unified Communication.
However, minimizing the impact while still retaining compliance is going to be one of the key challenges that many UC platforms are likely going to be tackling, and only those that have mastered data management and AI utilization are going to be able to seamlessly achieve.
This is why it is important to focus on these two key aspects of modern business infrastructure to enable a less painful and quicker regulation adjustment process.
Keeping Sensitive Files Secure
“17 percent of all sensitive files are accessible to all employees.”Source: Varonis
Aside from customer privacy concerns, businesses always have to be on the lookout for their own secrets as well, especially with the dangerous stride toward flexible work options.
Office work has the benefit of minimizing potential leaks and keeping everything in-house, but the human element becomes a bigger liability when work is done outside of it.
That is why proper security measures will need to be put into place to enable these flexible work options to begin with, without compromising data security.
Malicious actors are everywhere and them gaining access to the work PC or an employee’s credentials to mess with sensitive data becomes a real risk in the modern business landscape.
2-Factor Authentication becomes a no-brainer in 2024 if UC platforms did not have it by now as it provides an additional layer of security to prevent any of this sensitive data from leaking out.
Knowing Who You Work With
One of the most common reasons for breaches in security are third parties with poor cybersecurity infrastructure which is why it is important to minimize reliance on them and to teach businesses about these potential risks.
If one of these third parties is crucial to their operation, they should ensure that their cybersecurity meets their company’s standards.
Emphasizing Employee Training
With the introduction of flexible work options, we are likely to see a greater focus on educating employees on keeping data safe and what practices to utilize in order to avoid attempts at stealing their credentials and risking a potential breach.
New policies are likely to be put in place and all of that will need to be relayed to everyone in a comprehensive manner.
Finding ways to enable businesses to execute this through the UC platform will be a great benefit with integrated learning tools acting as a solid example, among others.
The Challenges Accompanying The Trends
The future of Unified Communications is looking bright, but there are a few pitfalls that need to be considered before stepping toward it as one can easily trip and fall along the way.
As was mentioned earlier, AI and data utilization are at the forefront of it all, but they are also the biggest hazards.
Gambling With AI
AI’s issue lies in its infancy. While it does have unbridled potential, emerging regulations are going to keep it in check to ensure customer privacy which is why any AI-centric venture can be a big gamble that was destined for greatness, but could fall through at a moment’s notice.
Investing in it is going to be a risky gamble, one that everyone will need to consider whether it is worth taking or not as the potential gains are quite tempting.
However, sticking to safer, smaller scale AI-centered projects seems to be the way to go for the time being unless one hits a potential goldmine.
Data Privacy Concerns
Businesses have greater access to data now than they have ever had before and analytics surrounding customer data have provided a number of advancements in the field of Unified Communication.
However, knowing how to handle this data without encroaching on customer safety will be of paramount importance.
That is why giving customers the ability to choose what data is collected about them (if any) will be a crucial factor that businesses will be looking into considering emerging regulations about data privacy all over the world.
The Cost Of New Technologies
Even with the dangers of delving into data and AI, the solutions that can emerge from them can still be phenomenal.
However, developing the same solution for commercial use can end up being too costly to be considered feasible if handled improperly.
This is why the emphasis on teaching existing employees and implementing infrastructure changes to bring in AI and data analytics specialists will likely be another focus of 2024.
Its aim will be to combat this issue and help generate positive ROI on any new projects revolving around these two important aspects, making them easier to adopt for commercial use.
The Key Takeaways On Utilizing New Trends
The future of Unified Communications looks quite interesting and the trends of the current year show much promise, however it is still important to know how to properly go about them with minimal risk on your part.
Do Not Bloat Your UC Solution
New technologies are always tempting to implement in an existing UC platform, however one must think about how well it plays with existing features.
If it compromises the existing package with unnecessary features and is hard to integrate, then you are better off not interacting with it until a better version of it comes along that fits better into the overall picture.
Keep your UC solution flexible, safe and scalable and only include features that businesses are looking for.
That will help keep them interested and justify a positive ROI on any newly included features.
Invest In Data Analysts And AI Experts
In order to create new, more manageable, adoptable and financially feasible solutions, investing into talent that is well versed in the field is going to pay off greatly by keeping you on top of the competition and letting you provide what your customer base needs in a more timely manner.
Know What To Invest In
With broadening scopes in Unified Communications with the inclusion of AI into the fold and the greater focus on data analysis, investment opportunities expand as well.
Knowing what the right option is will be half the battle and will ensure that you suffer minimal losses while reaping maximum gains as long as you adapt your infrastructure to facilitate experts in these fields.
Ultimately, it all boils down to how adaptable and financially feasible your UC solution is compared to that of the competition while integrating these new technologies.
If you reorganize your infrastructure to facilitate these changes, you are sure to stay on top of things for the remainder of the year and beyond.
One final note that I would love to leave on is the bold claim from UCToday that we may see traditional communication channels somewhat phased out by the arrival of AI and data analytics to develop more data-driven operations.
This is something that we partly agree on as data has always been the driving factor of innovation in the UC industry, but we are certain that traditional communication channels still have a place in Unified Communication, at least for the time being.
But, we will see what the future brings. For now, be certain that Bicom Systems is working hard to ensure that our own UC platform keeps up with burgeoning trends in the field.