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A new year, a new era for Unified Communications


At first glance, 2020 was the year organisations in both the public and private sectors wholeheartedly embraced Unified Communications (UC), in direct response to the challenges presented by COVID-19.

However, while we certainly saw a surge in uptake of UC solutions as part of the wider move towards remote working, this was more the culmination of a long-term trend rather than a completely new development. Organisations across a wide range of sectors had been exploring the integration of multiple communication and collaboration tools, particularly in contact centre environments. COVID-19 has simply accelerated the process, to the point where UC is now firmly embedded in many organisations' day-to-day working practices, with no sign of this changing as we prepare for a post-COVID world.

Moving from attractive concept to proven model

The most important development for UC in 2020 has been the successful delivery of benefits that were previously seen as purely theoretical. In this way, the technology has moved from being simply promising to a proven, well-established model that organisations at all levels have been successfully utilising for several months now. Key developments have included:

  • Home working has moved from being occasionally utilised to the new norm for the workforce as a whole, with it now being expected by potential employees. Longstanding concerns about its effect on productivity and morale have near-universally proven to be unfounded, with many employees stating they are happy with more flexible working arrangements.
  • Customers and end users now expect to be able to contact agents through a range of different channels – including online chat, video calling and voice calling – with a fully consistent quality of experience across all of them. As a result, the overall UX experience has become a key priority across all platforms.
  • As UC is now firmly established and has demonstrated its full range of capabilities, providers are shifting their focus from demonstrating what the technology can offer, to delivering (and where necessary, developing) solutions to achieve specific business goals. In this way, we are seeing the relationship between UC providers and their customers shifting, from the simple provisioning of technology to robust partnerships that support sustained business growth, scalability and operational resilience.

We've seen these trends play out throughout the year, in numerous organisations' successful migrations to remote working and the Cloud, and as we approach the end of 2020, they show no sign of slowing down. So as we approach the new year, where is this leading?

2021 and the next step in Unified Communications

If 2020 has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected. While we now have a reasonable idea of what the post-COVID landscape will look like, agility will be the primary factor organisations will seek to cultivate in their workforce and infrastructure. Pivoting in response to future crises must be a question of days or weeks, not months, and so we expect the long-term trend of Cloud migration and an increasing emphasis on Cloud-first and multi-Cloud strategies to continue. This will, in turn, support the implementation of technology that drives remote communication and collaboration, with a lot of on-premise technology – and even the office space itself – becoming increasingly streamlined in order to control costs and maintain scalability. Similarly, we would anticipate more and more services to be delivered through a consumption-based model – something the Cloud excels at.

In terms of communication channels, integrated, multichannel communication will introduce a number of opportunities regarding AI, with chatbots providing contact centre staff with an extra level of efficiency, without compromising the quality of caller interactions. This will grant organisations an additional level of flexibility with regard to employee working hours. The implementation of AI combined with a secure, effective remote working solution, and consumption-based pricing means that organisations and their employees are no longer limited to the traditional working hours or office environment. For example, contact centres can ensure staff are always available to respond to callers, and agents can arrange their working hours around family – a win/win situation for everyone.

Following our win at the 2020 UC Awards, where we were awarded Best Cloud Communications Provider, our Director of Public Sector & Unified Platforms, Afshin Atari, sat down with UC Today to discuss his perspective on what this year has meant for Unified Communications and what the next one is likely to hold. Watch the video here.

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