10 UC Predictions and Trends for 2020

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An increased focus on artificial intelligence (AI), more communications platform as a service (CPaaS) acquisitions and the rise of product suites are among the trends/predictions in UC for 2020.

We spoke with Zane Long, RingCentral’s senior vice president of global channel sales; Raul Castanon, 451 Research’s senior analyst of workforce collaboration; Jon Arnold, principal analyst at J Arnold & Associates; John Lindsley, Mitel’s vice president of channels; and Mark Sher, Intermedia‘s vice president of UC product and marketing, to find out what they’re expecting in the year ahead.

Mitel's John Lindsley

Mitel’s John Lindsley

Public cloud is growing more than 20% annually, and in a crowded supplier landscape, those who can best anticipate, predict, meet and ultimately exceed customers’ needs will lead and eventually consolidate the market, Lindsley said.

“Think about how customer needs have changed other industries in the last few years — health care, automotive, transportation, hospitality, retail, banking and so much much more,” he said. “Changing customer needs can often be fueled by technology enablement, creating new needs customers didn’t know they had.”

As businesses continue to acclimate to and realize the benefits that a more mobile world affords, and as UCaaS becomes easier for partners to sell, deploy and support, we’ll see more and more partners who have hesitated in the past to sell UCaaS begin to add it to their portfolios, Sher said.

Intermedia's Mark Sher

Intermedia’s Mark Sher

“As the UCaaS and CCaaS markets continue to heat up, partners will have to decide if a commissioned-based agent model is right for them, or if a more lucrative reseller model that allows them to build significant value in their organizations while maintaining customer control is preferred,” he added.

When asked about providers worth keeping an eye on in 2020, Castanon said Wazo is an emerging UCaaS/CPaaS player that he expects we’ll be hearing about in 2020.

“AWS has kept a relatively low profile in the last couple of years in the UCaaS space, but they recently announced general availability of the Amazon Chime SDK, which allows customers to embed audio calling, video calling and screen sharing capabilities into their own applications,” he said. “By enabling customers to embed these capabilities in their own applications, the SDK provides them with another way to consume real-time communications differently and could significantly expand their market footprint.’

Vendors like IntelePeer, Bandwidth and Brightlink that provide enterprise-grade connectivity and CPaaS capabilities that enable organizations to incorporate programmability into their business communications are three other vendors to keep an eye on in 2020, Castanon said.

Moving from on premises to cloud brings with it lots of new security challenges, Arnold said.

Jon Arnold

Arnold & Associates’ Jon Arnold

The end customer may be trusting a lot of this stuff to the cloud for the first time and they don’t necessarily know all of the things that are required, said Arnold. “There are all these new modalities of communication that if you have to be compliant in health care or financial services, or even government services; these are all new environments where data could be unsecure. And when a channel is trying to get into these spaces, they have to know and be able to demonstrate to the end customer that they understand what all these security issues are because if the cloud is new to the end customer, they’re not going to know all of the little things that might put them in jeopardy of staying compliant.”

Scroll through our list below of 10 UC predictions and trends for 2020.

UCaaS currency
Data Is the New UCaaS Currency

Data has become the new currency, and in 2020 enterprises will want to analyze data from their UCaaS platforms, similar to other areas of the business, Long said.

"There is real value in understanding how an organization’s employees prefer to communicate — for example, what time of day employees are most productive," he said. "How are engagement levels trending? This insight will help organizations define their approach to internal communications and get the most value out of their interactions."
UCaaS and AI
UCaaS Embraces AI

UCaaS providers believe that in 2020, enterprises will turn to artificial intelligence to improve communication processes and streamline productivity across the organization, Long said.

"For instance, AI can help businesses automate tasks like scheduling or setting up conference calls, or proactively add tasks to a to-do list," he said. "An AI-powered assistant within a UC platform can proactively complete busy work, giving workers more time to focus on the creative and interactive aspects of their jobs. Additionally, AI can help call centers analyze large amounts of data and provide solutions in real time, reducing the lead time to provide value back to the customer."
Call center chatbots
Chatbots Take Over the Call Center

There's no doubt that AI chatbots are transforming and will continue to transform the customer experience, especially in consumer-facing and services industries,like retail, Long said.

"Customers now expect that their questions get answered almost immediately, and in today’s competitive landscape, retailers are looking for new ways to be readily available to their customers at all times," he said. "According to research by Salesforce,, 53% of service organizations will use chatbots within 18 months — a 136% growth rate. Interacting with an AI chatbot is now the norm, as 40% of customers say they don’t mind whether a human or a chatbot answers their questions — as long as they get an answer fast. We expect this trend to continue in 2020 as more retailers will turn to AI chatbots in order to serve their customers 24/7, while freeing up their service agents for more resource-intensive tasks."
CPaaS acquisitions
The Rise of Programmability

Programmability will become a central component for the UCaaS road map, with more vendors following the example of 8x8, Sangoma and West, which acquired standalone CPaaS providers to expand their capabilities, Castanon said. This might lead to further M&A activity in the CPaaS space in 2020, he said.
Intelligent assistants
Talk to Me

Voice user interfaces and intelligent assistants are becoming more prevalent, and Castanon expects that in 2020 they will permeate the workplace and become part of the everyday activities of most workers, just like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant have become for the smart home.
Avaya and RingCentral
Avaya-RingCentral Partnership Goes Big

The partnership between RingCentral and Avaya will have a significant impact, further accelerating the transition of many organizations to the cloud, Castonon said. RingCentral agreed to contribute $500 million to the deal and will be Avaya’s exclusive provider of UCaaS solutions.

The partnership also will redefine the competitive landscape, with RingCentral gaining a stronger position and market share, he said.
Product suites
Product Suites Take Off

In 2020, the tide will turn in favor of product suites, which in the past three years have seen challenges by point solutions for team collaboration and video conferencing, Castanon said.

"Vendors like RingCentral, Microsoft and Cisco have put together a compelling value proposition with tightly integrated product suites that encompass chat, messaging, telephony and video conferencing," he said. "Furthermore, vendors like 8x8, Mitel and Vonage have recently launched new video collaboration solutions. As more UCaaS vendors continue to upgrade their portfolios with video capabilities that are tightly integrated to their product suites, they will become a major challenge for point solutions, who will see their business models threatened."
UCaaS drivers
Changing Business Drivers

Years ago with UCaaS, the business driver was cost reduction, Lindsley said. Increasingly, UCaaS customer needs center around seamless global collaboration, communicating on any device, integrating with other technology platforms, accessing information at your fingertips on demand, being able to work from anywhere, and doing it all easily and securely, he said.
UC commodification
Dangers of Commodification

Going into a new decade, the value proposition of UC could get to be much like a commodity, Arnold said.

"It seems as if everybody is able to offer some form of UC these days, so the inherent value proposition is getting hard to differentiate across the board," he said. "So as this commodification starts to creep into the market, it starts to become more of a price-driven thing. And that's a little bit of a concern because if that starts to drive the market, then that's good news for Amazon and Google, the really high-scale cloud operators who don't need to make a lot of money selling this stuff just to get into the market. And that could kind of hurt the ecosystem in terms of pushing some smaller players out of the market because they just can't keep up. So there's a possibility that we're going to see some commodification in this space and that could start to lead to some culling of the offerings out there in the market."
Wings over Rockies
Increasing Pressure on Bigger Players

Most of the focus in marketing from the bigger, established players, like Cisco and Microsoft, is on protecting their customers from competitors, while the more disruptive players like RingCentral and Vonage don't have a native customer base, so they "have to steal it all from somebody else," Arnold said.

"And competition is what we want to see in the market – which is healthy – but the thing I would be looking for in 2020 is how effectively these bigger players can continue to protect their customer base, because that forces them to be more innovative along the way, which is exactly what we're seeing them do, but how much headway are the more disruptive players going to make?" he queried.

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