COVID-19 forces UCC rethink – report

Black swan events inevitably throw the spotlight on risk management and COVID-19 was no different. Many organizations and enterprises did not cover themselves in glory, however, and were well and truly caught on the hop.

According to a new report from analyst firm Omdia, "2021 Trends to Watch: Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC)," only 17% of organizations were "fully prepared" for remote working by having business continuity plans already in place.

Few organizations, it seems, had made sufficient provisions to ensure critical services – such as key business processes, systems and service-delivery technologies – were made accessible outside the office.

Falling short: Only 17% of organizations were 'fully prepared' for remote working when the global coronavirus pandemic hit. (Source: Unsplash)
Falling short: Only 17% of organizations were “fully prepared” for remote working when the global coronavirus pandemic hit. (Source: Unsplash)

Many were forced to rewrite, or write for the very first time, business continuity plans.

The most important lesson to be gleaned from the pandemic, claimed the report, was that many businesses had previously focused on identifying critical technologies that need to be protected (disaster recovery) rather than on the outcome and utility that they deliver (business continuity).

Cue UCC.

"COVID-19 has reshaped and redefined business continuity requirements across the globe," said Tim Banting, Omdia's principal analyst for workspace services. "UCC has now become a strategic platform, vital for the survival of many businesses."

Ride a black swan

Omdia identified several UCC trends emerging in the wake of COVID-19. Among them was a move towards a consolidated suite or platform to improve team productivity, lower costs and easier management and administration. According to Omdia, 55% of businesses will consolidate their UCC tools into a single suite within the next 12 to 24 months.

Vendors will also be challenged to make their UCC offerings more sophisticated, with market segmentation done more along the lines of a user's work style.

The traditional method of UCC segmentation, said Omdia, is "arbitrarily based on customer size to suit the multiple systems vendors had within their portfolios." Continued software and hardware developments are also expected to meet demands of remote working as suppliers vie for greater market share.

The former includes continued development of workflow automation as a way of reducing "human latency" and easing the burden on personnel, while hardware vendors are expected to add more intelligence to their endpoints, so they can be configured to suit the various UCC services they support.

"The combination of hardware intelligence and software services," added Omdia, "offers significant business value in supporting new hybrid work styles."

Friendly UCC advice to CSPs

If communications service providers want to stick out from the UCC crowd and boost their revenue potential, Omdia said they needed to "significantly improve their developer skills and move toward an independent software vendor model."

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The analyst firm said they should also try and create their own intellectual property by leveraging platform APIs and cater for specific use cases, work styles and/or key vertical markets.

Suppporting own-branded, integrative solutions that encompass all UCC workloads and leverage platform APIs to offer differentiation, rather than relying on out-of-the-box functionality from vendors, is another (and related) Omdia suggestion.

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— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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