Video conferences have become the new way to stay connected with your teams and your clients since the coronavirus pandemic started to spread around the world—and panelists at an Enterprise Connect session this week expect that change will be among those that stick whenever we all return to work.
“The cloud was clearly a great place to be to allow your workers to work remotely,” said Melissa Swartz of Swartz Consulting in the session, “Are Today’s Transformations the Model for the Long Term?” “It allowed them to be much more nimble. It was perfect for this crisis.
“People who weren’t there yet or weren’t convinced yet certainly had their minds changed,” she said.
Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research notes there are “different flavors of cloud,” from private (controlled internally), public (controlled externally through an off-site server) or a hybrid of the two approaches that melds characteristics of each at varying levels depending on client preferences.
It ranges from everything from Software as a Service to private cloud offerings, he said.
Another way unified communication can take a leap forward with the continued refinement of embedded video communication tools and platforms, said Jim Burton of C-T Link and BCStrategies.
“We’re at the very, very beginning of vendors coming out with (Communication Platform as a Service) solutions,” he said.
Side note: AV integrators who haven’t noticed yet should probably realize their IT counterparts and competitors are way ahead of them when it comes to as-a-service offerings in just about every size, shape and type—and it’s what their customers not only expect but want to simplify their lives.
“Larger vendors are looking to integrate communications into their operations,” said Burton.
“It’s a much more efficient way of working,” said Kerravala.
While small companies can’t always afford to go with the best-of-breed offerings with all the bells and whistles, said Swartz, “large companies want to have everything working on the same platform,” said Burton.
“The integrated experience extends past the desktop to rooms, meeting spaces and more,” said Kerravala. “We used to think of video as a separate thing but now it’s part of what we all do.”
Even the customer service contact center that was once thought of an aspect of businesses that’s never seen has experience a bit of a renaissance.
“It’s no longer a walled garden,” said Swartz. “It’s more of an integrated operation.”
So, with all the video communication and collaboration tools, surely the companies developing them will figure out a way to work together and deliver them in a way that allows customers to have some level of interoperability among them, right? Kerravala is skeptical, but Burton knows what it’ll take.
“If there’s pressure from customers, they’ll get around to it,” he said.
Artificial Intelligence & Other Tech Trends
Burton believes artificial intelligence is “here to stay, but we’re very, very early. It’s not as easy to implement as you want, but it offers a lot,” he said.
Kerravala sees AI as a tool that “helps us do the hard stuff much better,” such as anticipating what customers need and delivering it to them much more effectively.
“IT leaders need to be investing more money and figuring out long-term strategies now for improving communications and security,” he said.
Swartz noted the pandemic “has helped us all embrace working from home, but the next crisis may have nothing to do with this. We need a platform that gives us flexibility in the next crisis.”
The digital divide between those who have robust technology setups and those who find themselves at serious risk when they have limited or no access to technology or the Internet has become more pronounced because of how quickly the pandemic flipped the switch on remote work, said Burton.
“The pandemic has brought out those issues and now we all need to think about how to address them,” he said.