Each year, Nemertes Research Group conducts a study on unified communications (UC) and collaboration, providing valuable insights into UC adoption, drivers, use cases, technologies, vendors and more. Here are some of the key trends from the 2018-2019 report that organizations using or considering UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS) should continue to follow.

The new study paints a picture of a UCaaS market that is changing quickly with the emergence of new vendors, mergers and acquisitions between existing vendors, and vendors of on-premises platforms that are shifting to the cloud.

Many of the more than 600 IT leaders interviewed view moving UC to the cloud as a matter of “when,” not “if.” Two-thirds of organizations are using the cloud for at least a portion of their UC and collaboration applications. Almost a third (29 percent) of organizations are using the cloud for all collaboration functions, including real-time services such as instant messaging and voice, as well as file sharing, email and calendars. Fourteen percent are using UCaaS, which is the preferred model for smaller organizations, while the remainder are using hosted, custom-built UC platforms.

In addition to a changing market, UCaaS technology is evolving as vendors add new features and integrate different tools with their solutions. Also, integration with the software-defined WAN is making it possible to access vendor services via lower-cost Internet connections. As a result, organizations are changing how they manage and take advantage of collaboration applications.

New team and workstream collaboration features have been incorporated into UCaaS to enable persistent workspaces, one-on-one and group chat, and the integration of applications and workflows. The emergence of the team space as a hub of internal and external collaboration activities has led to an increase in adoption of these applications.

The Nemertes study found that nearly half of organizations are now using team collaboration tools, although many users view them as little more than instant messaging. However, vendors are expected to prioritize team collaboration to enhance the UC experience, which is expected to drive further adoption.

The continued integration of collaboration tools, workflows, customer service, and other applications is important to not only the value of UC, but bigger digital transformation initiatives. Deeper integrations with contact centers, customer relationship management, survey capabilities and other functions can create efficiencies in management and operations. Some vendors offer the ability to use APIs or development platforms to create custom applications and workflows.

Of course, the intelligent optimization of UC functions such as call routing, team collaboration, scheduling and real-time language translation can create competitive business advantages by improving the customer experience and streamlining business processes. As a result, the growth of artificial intelligence is a trend to watch in UCaaS as four in 10 organizations plan to use AI in their UC applications by the end of this year.

Finally, the use of video in UCaaS is expanding beyond videoconferencing. The ability to stream live video has a number of use cases, including the contact center, where agents can see the customer face-to-face and see what the customer is experiencing. Twenty percent of organizations support streaming video, and another 14 percent plan to add streaming capabilities this year.

The UCaaS space is changing quickly, and organizations that are able to improve collaboration by leveraging new capabilities will be well-positioned for success. Contact us to learn more about new developments in UCaaS and discuss how to strategically integrate them with your business processes.