Garry Veale, president of Avaya in Europe, places his bets on the communications trends he thinks will make it big in 2014.
In my mind, the trends we’ll see emerging in 2014 will be driven largely by the desires and expectations of a new kind of workforce.
This workforce doesn’t know a world without the internet, expects answers instantly, seeks constant engagement, and is comfortable with "connected" technologies like no other generation. It will have a profound impact on business and the way it operates in the future. Businesses will start to appreciate the limitations of mature networks.
To accommodate this hyper-connected generation, networks need to be fully prepared. Typical working environments weren’t built to withstand the consumerisation of IT, BYOD, and BYOA, and enterprise technology often isn’t capable of delivering the experience we’re used to getting at home.
Next year more businesses will come to realise that relying on existing, and often mature networks will limit their ability to communicate in ways now expected. The network is key to enabling device and application flexibly and businesses will focus increasingly on creating environments that are flexible enough to embrace and enable the new era of communications. To do this, they must put in place clear and effective strategies that enable them to achieve simplicity of deployment and management.
The Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games is a prime example of this: the 75,000 mobility-hungry, hyper-connected spectators visiting the park each day will place unprecedented demands on the network.
This requires a flexible, secure and robust infrastructure capable of carrying vast amounts of data and coping with huge spikes in traffic during flagship events.
Society’s appetite for cutting-edge technologies will impact infrastructure investment at all levels – whether that’s an Olympics or a small business implementation. Regardless of the scale and profile of the project, organisations of all sizes face many of the same challenges, and that’s the key takeaway for 2014.
We’ll see the emergence of smarter offices through communications-enabled technologies.
Getting more done
We’re progressively moving towards much more functional and productive ways of working. Concepts like the ‘Internet of Things’ or ‘machine to machine communications’, which are trending now, will soon become major influencing factors in the future of business.
In fact, communications-enabled technology will begin to enforce change on business processes as companies are presented with more timely and relevant information about customers. Technology and networks that are self-aware will rise up the agenda as the cost of the sensor technology which enables this reaches an all-time low.
In fact, Gartner predicts that we’ll soon reach the point where it’s cheaper to have a communications-enabled system than not. This will lead to a fundamental change in the way companies work – from new ways of developing technology, to better facilities management through an increase in pay-as-you-go billing models for office utilities.
Video will come to be recognised as a real cost-saving tool.
One of the most talked about communications technologies, video has been rising up the agenda for some time now. I think in 2014, however, we’ll really start to see businesses realising the cost and productivity benefits of video solutions. In fact, we’ve already started to see that happening in 2013.
Video is benefiting from more advanced hardware, employee hunger for collaboration, more sophisticated networks, and more interoperability. Solutions are now accessible and affordable and the advantages of lower travel costs and higher productivity are grabbing the attention of more and more customers.
In addition, videoconferencing is no longer reserved for typical office-based businesses; it’s also filtering through vertical industries such as retail.
If we take the example of SPAR UK, the successful convenience store chain, it chose Avaya’s Scopia solution because the company needed a reliable, scalable, collaborative video solution to ensure that employees of all seven business units were able to communicate effectively without losing time and money to travelling for meetings.
SPAR UK saw an immediate return on that investment as employees no longer have to commute from branch to branch for meetings, and they’re now more organised and productive in those meetings. We’re starting to see a true democratisation of video and this trend will continue in 2014.
The contact centre will adapt even more to the next generation
The rise of this hyper-connected generation will continue to impact the contact centre in a major way. Consumers who contact companies via digital and social channels expect outstanding customer service regardless of the platform they choose.
The customer service industry is changing dramatically as a result; businesses need to have the capability to allow customers to move seamlessly from one channel to another, without losing the thread of the interaction. And they need to provide a consistent service across all channels.
We’ll see this trend persist in 2014 as it forces companies to re-evaluate their customer experience strategy to include those new platforms.
Companies are already looking to the contact centre to find ways to generate additional revenue without adding cost to the operation. Similarly, they are looking at how to automate more of the customer services model and drive more customers to self-service options to reduce time.
Integration and application development will therefore be an area of rapid growth in 2014, particularly as companies look to develop a customer service experience on new devices such as mobile applications, video or social networks.
Moving into 2014 – as our uptake of smart devices, and digital and social applications continues to intensify – I believe businesses will above all need to focus on investing in technologies that embrace and enable the new era of communications we live in today. It’s an exciting time for the communications technology industry, and I’m eager to find out what next year has in store.