Next Generation of Unified Communications

Unified Communications is an integral part of business which helps optimize processes and increase user productivity. Gartner defines unified communications (UC) products (equipment, software and services) as those that facilitate the interactive use of multiple enterprise communications methods. UC products integrate communications channels (media), networks and systems, as well as IT business applications and in some cases, consumer applications and devices.

Unified communications primarily consists of the following:

  • IP telephony (IPT)
  • Unified messaging (voicemails, video mails, fax, or other multimedia)
  • Presence and instant messaging
  • Team chat
  • Audio/Video/Web conferencing

These tools were invented over two decades back when working required you to go to the office, sit at your desk, have a physical landline and a desktop PC loaded with business tools. There was an underlying assumption that we would always be in the office during regular business hours and behind the walled garden of IT. Fast forward to today and look around, the way we work today is fundamentally different than the way we worked two decades back, yet several of the communication and collaboration tools have been slow to catch up.

The growth in cloud, mobility, peer-to-peer communication, and communications capabilities embedded into business applications software are changing personal and corporate communication patterns. These new capabilities have led to significant new opportunities for enterprises to support collaboration, improve their fundamental business processes, reduce delay and errors as well as offer new ways to get work done more effectively. Essentially, we want the same tools at both home and the workplace.

The modern workforce is different, has more dynamic ways of working and is also disparate. However, workers still need to collaborate with customers and co-workers. A very good example of integration of home and the workplace is WordPress.com. It is one of the most trafficked websites in the world but has no dedicated work office. Everyone works from home and uses IM, wikis and social collaboration tools to do their work instead of traditional communication means such as email.

These disruptive forces will transform Unified Communication in a way that will change how the modern workforce communicates:

1.Web Real Time Collaboration (WebRTC) - WebRTC enables plugin-free, Real Time Communications in the browser. It includes the fundamental components for high-quality communications such as network, audio and video components used in voice and video chat applications. These components can be accessed in a browser through a JavaScript API enabling developers to easily implement their own RTC web application. Users can have a "click-to-call" facility from within a webpage or mobile app without ever having to pick up the phone. The objective of WebRTC is to provide UC apps like telephony and video conferencing to everyone.

Collaboration services like Webex and GoToMeeting have existed for quite some time. But the usage of these services required creation of a meeting, an email to the invitees and a login to the service. With WebRTC, these steps will not be required. Having said that, there are challenges in rolling out WebRTC full throttle. There are interoperability issues across major browsers, and the standards for video codec are still brewing.

2.Mobility- The increase in the number of mobile devices has led to individuals being connected anytime, anywhere, which is an essential characteristic of business communication. This has added to the challenge of Unified Communication as it requires more than a set of disparate devices connected to a wireless network. It requires efficient utilization of available bandwidth for a connected office experience whether an employee is commuting, at home or on vacation. Most UC vendors have come out with fully-functional mobile clients for personal and enterprise devices that support their applications and features.

3.Cloud Hosted UC – The usage of cloud-based applications is increasing steadily with as many as 90% of organizations using Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). This allows organizations to cut down on costs and free up IT resources to handle important day-to-day operations. Other reasons for SaaS adoption could be lack of in-house expertise and need for speedier deployment. What’s more, cloud-based UC applications eliminate capital spending and move to an operational cost model in which companies only pay for what they need, when they need it.

Cloud-based solutions are particularly advantageous for small and mid-sized organizations. The needs of businesses vary, meaning, that while the cloud-hosted applications can benefit almost anyone, it might not be the ideal solution in all scenarios. A larger user base leads to cloud services which will be more expensive than on-premises UC. Another aspect to consider is that cloud services are not easily customizable and there can be security-related challenges. In these circumstances, a hybrid solution may prove to be the best bet, wherein a mix of cloud-based services and on-premises devices is used. Despite the challenges, there is no stopping the adoption of cloud services for UC.

4.BYOD- Allowing users to integrate personal devices into the business environment offers much flexibility, but is not without the checks and balances required to ensure data sanctity. This trend further adds to the usefulness and accessibility of UC.

5.Video - Video is gaining prominence in the UC ecosystem. It is helped by new codecs which are reducing the impact of video on network resources. Use cases like recording video conferences for future playback or distance learning are enabling video to emerge as a medium for individuals and groups to share content internally and externally from multiple sources.

6.Social Media - Companies are now more intertwined with social media than ever before. Businesses need to be integrated with social media more than ever. There are already UC plugins available for CRM applications.

These trends are turning out to be game changers in the way business is being done now. The boundaries of distance and time are blurring. Traditional work desks will not be the only way of doing work. Welcome to the future. Welcome to the next generation of Unified Communications.

Partnering with Aricent

Aricent UC Federation is a centralized application which interconnects UC systems, including industry leaders such as Microsoft Lync/Skype for Business, Cisco Jabber, IBM Sametime, Broadsoft Broadworks, as well as public UC and even IMS/RCS networks. The UC Federation is part of our Business Communications Services portfolio. It includes applications for corporate users, including a VPN / VPBX, a contact center, a call routing system, a toll-free service, a UC federation service and a gateway to interact with Social Networks. UC Fed also provides a unified set of interfaces for OSS/BSS integration, as well as open APIs for third-party developments and end-user clients.

Click here to download Aricent Whitepaper on Unified Communications.

Click here to register for a free Webinar on Cloud-Based Unified Communications Federation.

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