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2017 in Collaboration Tech: Cloud, Convergence and Consumerization

Cloud Collaboration

Craig MalloyBy Craig Malloy

As your customers’ workforces become more global, collaboration technologies are even more essential to business operations. Rushing to capitalize on this, new vendors are launching technologies in hopes of taking a piece of the pie. The collaboration space is a rapidly changing one and will only become more chaotic before it settles down.

Here’s what I expect from the collaboration market in 2017:

 

  • Goodbye, On-Prem: In 2013, conferencing through the cloud was an early-adopter trend. Today, it’s the cornerstone of collaboration technologies for most businesses. On-premises deployments are dying, and we can thank Microsoft for hammering the last nail in the coffin. In the last couple of years, the company has systematically converted on-premises Exchange customers to Office365 and Skype for Business, showing the world that mission-critical tools can be run in the cloud.
  • (Actual) Unified Communications: Audio, web, video, streaming, recording, you name it. It will all join forces. Today, 77 percent of organizations work with multiple vendors for conferencing and collaboration. This is not a sustainable practice. Users can expect to see these technologies converge, with offerings from a wide selection of providers allowing every person and every conference room a full suite of capabilities right at their fingertips — and at any scale. 
  • Consumer UX in the Office: Consumer trends have been making waves in the workplace, which means meeting technologies will need to start matching consumer standards of BYOD-accessibility, flexibility and ease of use — and be able to accommodate these elements on a much bigger scale. Whether the user is in a conference room or using a desktop, laptop or smartphone, collaboration technologies will have to provide a consistent experience and access to features like streaming and recording.

So what does this mean for the channel?

Let’s be honest: The rapid rise of SaaS has left a good chunk of the channel in the lurch. The collaboration market is saturated with plug-and-play endpoints and services, and many resellers and distributors are reluctant to give up on the high upfront gross margins of on-premises infrastructure. But the market has charted its course, and the channel will need to get on board. These teams might not be collecting the same sums up front, but with a SaaS model, they can reach 100 times as many customers. That should be a pretty big draw.

The delivery model and convergence of technologies are also prompting some AV integrators to question their relevance. We’re willing to place our bets: Integrators won’t fade into a distant sunset anytime soon. Customers are still reliant on relationships with their AV integrators or consulting firms, which means the channel bridges an important gap in the customer experience.

Through all the change, some things will stay the same. But whether you’re a vendor, end user or channel professional, we encourage you to hold on to your hats. The collaboration space is in for some whirlwind changes.

Craig Malloy is CEO of Lifesize and is on a mission to reinvent the video communications industry. Craig started Lifesize in 2003, oversaw its acquisition by Logitech in 2009 and served as CEO until 2012. Drawn back by his unceasing passion for the industry and reinventing video technology, he returned to Lifesize in 2014.


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