Many of my posts advocate a strategic, unified approach to the convergence of network, application, and infrastructure performance monitoring (NAIPM), user experience (UX), and security monitoring technologies, including the concept of the secure UX enterprise and how to get CEO and CFO buy-in on the path to digital transformation. Secure UX enables companies to achieve return on investment (ROI) and risk management objectives, and is directly correlated with financial and stock market performance.
This post takes a more tactical approach by focusing on unified communications and collaboration (UC). Most senior executives recognize that UC are integral applications on the digital transformation path. As a result, many companies are in the process of replacing legacy voice and video infrastructure and disparate messaging and collaboration tools with next-generation UC systems, including cloud-based unified communication as a service (UCaaS).
These apps are key enablers for engaging employees to deliver enhanced customer experiences. With UC, companies can accelerate time-to-revenue, improve productivity and reduce capex and opex – the three pillars of return on investment (ROI) that drive corporate strategy.
For those not familiar, UC is a suite of fully integrated communication tools that help employees stay connected and collaborate effectively. UC systems offer synchronized communication methods that are all accessible in one real-time solution, including:
■ Voice - Most UC offerings are voice-centric because the leading vendors have deep roots in telephony. But other services have become preferred means of communication.
■ Conferencing and collaboration - In addition to audio, video and Web conferencing, these components include collaboration features such as shared virtual workspaces, whiteboarding, file sharing and document sharing.
■ Presence technology - Presence servers gather presence information from various sources and provide unified presence information to end users or applications.
■ Instant messaging - Enterprise IM systems offer security and privacy that public IM services cannot.
■ Speech access and virtual assistants - Virtual assistants provide intelligent screening and allow end users to filter messages and access calendars, contacts, voice and video through voice command.
■ Mobility - Integrating the mobile users' voice and real-time communications services with core enterprise communications lets them do their jobs regardless of location.
■ Unified messaging - Unified messaging (UM) integrates voice, fax and email messages and message notification. Most UM products add a variety of advanced call and message management functions, including desktop call screening of inbound calls, find me/follow me, live reply or call return, and cross-media messaging.
According to IDC, 41 percent of organizations currently use UC, while another 22 percent plan to deploy UC in the next year. Despite being a mature market, investments in UC are expected to increase by 12.3 percent next year. While voice, instant messaging and presence are well-established services, incorporating team collaboration, artificial intelligence and machine learning into business processes and workflows apps is driving category growth.
UC systems can be deployed in-house, in the cloud or as hybrid services. In a UCaaS delivery model, communication and collaboration applications and services are purchased from a software vendor, in similar fashion to any other SaaS application.
Today, 70 percent of deployments are still on-premises in midsize and large enterprises. However, the UCaaS segment of the market is growing much faster.
That’s because UCaaS now provides high levels of availability and can scale to meet the needs of a global enterprise. Companies also view UCaaS as offering superior integration, better service assurance, and being more secure than their on-premises deployments. Some UCaaS providers offer encryption models that allow customers to hold their own encryption keys, meaning that the cloud provider has no means to access customer information.
UC is a Growth Opportunity for UX Vendors
Distributed and mobile users are collaborating on more projects and communicating with each other across multiple continents and time zones. This is driving more organizations to invest in new infrastructure to support UC apps. This includes integrating contact centers with employee and customer communications to improve engagement and UX.
UX is paramount in such latency-sensitive apps as UC. A unified UX platform helps companies to track UC app performance, including uptime and root cause analysis. It also drives uptake within the organization, enabling the company to realize ROI on their UC investments.
A secure UX platform enables UC benefits. It provides IT with visibility and intelligence across the entire application delivery chain – from on-premises to the cloud and across a variety of devices. In addition to advanced behavioral analytics against key performance indicators, the platform can leverage automated continuous monitoring and machine learning for early incident detection and response.
In the future, UC will likely integrate with IoT networks and devices, incorporating machine-to-machine communications. That scenario only increases the strategic value of a secure UX platform to the enterprise.
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