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Smartphones will accelerate video conferencing across enterprises: Forrester

Smartphones will accelerate video conferencing across enterprises: Forrester

Indian CIOs should involve real users and not just IT and business decision makers while they strategize UC&C blueprints, says Somak Roy at Forrester.

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Collaboration is the must-have technology for modern enterprises to enhance business productivity and increase company growth. Tech-savvy companies continue to leverage multiple benefits of UC&C (Unified Communications and Collaboration) to their advantage in multiple formats. 

Somak Roy, senior analyst, Forrester speaks about the new trends in UC&C and how India Inc. is utilising new age collaboration tools for the benefit of employees and the company. Edited excerpts:

What are the key growth factors – business-wise and technology-wise for Indian enterprises to adopt UC&C?

Well, to begin – there is now much lower tolerance for communication inefficiencies, which is largely due to the surprising effectiveness with which we can communicate in our personal lives outside of work. There are numerous synchronous and asynchronous channels, and segueing from one channel to the next is rather seamless. A lot of that is more contextual; we can communicate and collaborate around a Facebook event, a document, and so on. And all of it is free. Hence, employees often desire the same level of efficiency in their work lives; and consumers demand the same effectiveness and ease when they interact with brands.

In summary, the business driver is the increased consumer expectations stemming from these ubiquitous consumer tools. Technical drivers have not changed much. Credible UC&C tools have existed for some time now. 

What new age collaboration tools are being deployed by companies and why? Which other tools will become popular in the future?

The big trends are consumerization and softwareization (i.e. PC and smartphone-based versus phone network-based). Skype and Gmail make one-to-one and group collaboration easier. Asynchronous group communication becomes a breeze with Yammer. More importantly, their profile has risen. It is no longer unlawful to use Skype and Gmail for ‘serious’ business.

The factors contributing to increased acceptance are ease of use and superior user experience. In 2016, more people are comfortable using Skype than Cisco’s soft phone.

Lastly, WhatsApp has destroyed ‘number centricity’. The basis for all voice communication, which used to be a number, has been changing with the rise of Skype and equivalents. The last nail in the coffin is WhatsApp--it converts the fundamental unit of number identity to a name and opens up the floodgates to even more softwareization.

WhatsApp has destroyed ‘number centricity’. It's the last nail in the coffin that converts the fundamental unit of number identity to a name and opens up the floodgates to even more softwareization.

Also, it needs to be said that enterprise-oriented UC&C tools have not changed much over the years.

Where lies the adoption curve for video conferencing in 2016?  Do you see it moving from room-based to mobile devices and why?

As would be expected, video conferencing (VC) adoption is rising with smartphone adoption. Also, with the ubiquity of smartphones and camera-equipped laptops, video telephony is increasingly getting embedded into the business processes, such as “speak to agent”. In fact, we expect the ‘speak to agent’ functionality to go mainstream soon.  

In sheer numbers, the winner would be mobile, though room-based VC is not going away. The essence of communication is non-verbal communication, and you need large form factor devices to capture the latter. Whenever the stakes are higher, such as negotiations, company employees do request a room for VC, and that is unlikely to go away. VC room facilitates the interplay between people seated around a table at one location. Nobody has figured out a way to enhance that feature with smartphones yet.

Do you see Indian CIOs work up to UCaaS (UC as a service)? Any possible roadblocks with this business model?

As-a-service tends to work best when the standard software works for a multitude of companies, across regions and sectors. Unified communications is by-and-large standard in nature without many industry-wise and region-specific variations. Hence, UCaaS should and does work fine as a business model for companies.

The benefits and challenges are similar to those associated with any other SaaS software. Regarding the downsides of the latter, you got to a put a cap on the spending, or it could quickly get out of hand.

Any Do’s and Don’ts for CIOs and IT managers of India Inc. to strategize a good UC&C blueprint?

The number one ‘don’t’ for CIOs is ignoring the feedback from real users. Another ‘to do’ would be the fact that the technology selection exercise should not be led by IT and business decision makers alone--real users must be involved. At the very least, feedback from real users must be incorporated into the decision. Non-usage of expensive business software is a very real problem with UC&C.  

What role will telcos / service providers like Vodafone, Airtel etcetera play in UC&C?

Service providers and telcos are likely to remain as infrastructure providers to enterprises. The sales process for software and enterprise computing is very different from that used for telephony. Indian telcos have not had major successes with cloud computing or mail boxes, though there are a few cases of success. That is unlikely to change with UC&C.