Back in the 1960s, the Star Trek series was a pioneer in introducing futuristic communications. More than thirty years after Captain Kirk was seen talking over video with his friends and foes, fiction became reality in the early 1990s with the first industrial telepresence solution, writes Sukamal Banerjee, Corporate VP and Head of IoT WoRKS, HCL Technologies. As an onslaught of new emerging technologies disrupt the business status quo, the rate at which fictional technologies are becoming reality is considerably faster than before.
Technological change can come particularly quickly in a workplace environment. This is in part down to the increasing number of millennials who enter the workforce, since the younger generation demand a flexible, on-the-go workspace that reflects their increasingly modern lifestyles. In line with this, organisations need a unified communication (UC) strategy which can lower their costs, deliver anywhere, and fill the gap between employees and their choices – not to mention increasing collaboration and productivity.
Bringing it all Together: UCaaS
The solution to these needs is Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS): a perfect fit for organisations of all sizes, as it helps avoid the hassle of owning and maintaining bulky IT infrastructure. This can have an important role to play if businesses want to scale quickly and remain agile with a low total cost of ownership. With UCaaS, all communication functions such as voice and telephony, meeting solutions, messaging, presence and instant messaging are clubbed together in a single package and delivered over the cloud in a pay-as-you-go model.
Going forward, we can see UCaaS tools transforming into a virtual workplace. With technologies like VR, AR and 5G gaining popularity among consumers, their entry into enterprise UC is the first of many steps towards a different kind of workplace. As attitudes towards telecommuting and communication channels other than voice change, UCaaS will become a key core strategy for any enterprise.
Five Key Considerations
The need for organisations to adapt to their increasingly modern workforce is clearly a matter to take seriously. Cutting edge technology will attract the newest talent, so businesses must keep pace. This means they should take the initiative and remain agile with the help of unified communications – or risk watching employees and revenue flow into the hands of their competitors.
However, it’s one thing to understand the importance of implementing UCaaS into your organisation, but another to administer it in practice. The solution involves focusing on the following five key considerations:
1: Artificial Intelligence
AI and machine learning are already being used in unified communications to improve employee productivity, by assisting in storing data, prioritising communication and delivering a personalised experience for each communication thread. One of the most successful use cases of AI with unified communications is in borderless support centres, where SMEs can resolve queries from anywhere, through any device, at any time. Many enterprises are also using AI to automate repeatable tasks through interactive voice response (IVRs).
Key benefits of 5G include reliability, low latency and fast communication networks. For service providers to completely take advantage of this business opportunity, they will need to focus on cloud-based technologies like network function virtualisation (NFV) to make their networks self-healing & meet demand spikes, all while maintaining their operational efficiency. Edge computing is also necessary to facilitate high data processing rates with lower latency.
3: Automation and Integration
With the rise of multiple communication platforms and trends like BYOD, unified communications should enable seamless switching between them. UC tools can be integrated with support centres, ticket management centres and other third party tools to improve collaboration. UC applications can also be automated to resolve issues in real time by relying on context-based cues, without any human intervention.
As the adoption of cloud and software-defined-X grows, it is important to have network designs that are cloud-native, not just cloud ready. By combining cloud-native virtualisation functions like NFV, organisations can achieve vast scale at extremely low costs, which would lead to quicker service launches and better fault isolation. Cloud-native microservices ensure higher network resilience, lower downtime and remove the need for infrastructure redundancy.
5: Microservices-based software architecture
Instead of traditional, monolithic software architectures, microservices-based-software architectures enable the orchestration of smaller, independent processes to develop highly reusable applications. These are usually based on Agile and DevOps methodologies which have much quicker introduction and scale-up processes. As a result, companies can undergo quick, smooth and cost-eﬀective IT revamps and maintenance to facilitate the changing workforce.
What does the Future Hold?
If one thing’s clear, it’s that ‘unified communications’ is not just a buzzword, but an innovative prototype for the workplace technology of the future. Meetings which take longer to commute to than their actual duration can soon be held over a unified communications system. By deploying UCaaS tools across their operations, businesses can ensure their workforce reflects past and present changes in technology. More importantly, if enterprises today keep in mind the five key factors outlined above, they can implement unified communications to keep costs down, remove unnecessary IT infrastructure and maintain an efficient, collaborative and productive workforce.