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PHOTO: Abhijith S Nair

The Unified Communications (UC) market is shifting again. After years developing on-premises based solutions to cover all kinds of enterprise communications, UC is moving to the cloud, and specifically to UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS). According to this year’s UC Magic Quadrant for UCaaS from Gartner (paywall), digital workplace application leaders should deploy UCaaS when possible, because virtually all vendor R&D investment is going to cloud solutions, with little investment for premises-based UC.

Fifteen companies made it into the Magic Quadrant this year. They included:

  • Leaders: RingCentral, Verizon, BT, Orange, 8x8.
  • Challengers: Microsoft, Google, AT&T, Cisco BroadSoft, NTT Group.
  • Niche Players: Masergy, Star2Star.
  • Visionaries: West, Mitel, Fuze.

Gartner defines Unified Communications-as-a-Service as supporting the same functions as its premises-based unified communications counterpart where only the delivery model is altered. Within the UC parameters, there are six different kinds of communications: Voice and telephony, meeting solutions, messaging, presence and IM, clients, communications-enabled business processes

The research also showed that in all enterprises of all sizes, UCaaS is the preferred method of bringing these solutions into the digital workplace, even if some companies are still using tried and tested on-premises solutions.

In general, the report points out virtually all UCaaS vendors are using a multitenant, microservices, infrastructure as a service (IaaS) architecture in some form. Many of those applications also reside in a public IaaS cloud, with the media running in traditional data centers.

These platforms are built, operated and upgraded by the UCaaS vendor in public cloud data centers (such as Amazon Web Services [AWS], Azure and Google Compute Engine), as opposed to a data center controlled by a communications service provider (CSP) or system integrator (SI). 

Enterprises looking at UC platforms should be aware of four significant emerging trends. They include:

  • Improved interfaces: Better dashboards, portals and tools because of heavy investment by UCaaS providers in these areas. 
  • Workstream Collaboration: Most solutions are now offering some form of workstream collaboration capability.
  • Globalization: Most providers have built out their global capacities over the past 12 months.
  • Video-Centric User Experiences: Development of enhanced video capabilities like high-definition resolution, greater numbers of participants for video meetings/call, and collaboration features 

Finally, enterprises need to be aware that integrations for new technologies like virtual assistants, artificial intelligence and Internet of Things are also starting to surface and will have a major impact on the market in the coming year. For any business looking to invest in UC in the coming year, this is a must-read.

7 Emerging Digital Workplace Disruptors

Staying with Gartner, the company has also unveiled seven technologies it says will disrupt the digital workplace over the coming years — and that CIOs are not prepared to handle.

In a statement about the technologies, Daryl Plummer, managing vice president and chief of research said the virtual nature of digital disruptions makes them much more difficult to deal with than past technology-triggered disruptions. “CIOs must work with their business peers to pre-empt digital disruption by becoming experts at recognizing, prioritizing and responding to early indicators,” he said. The technologies include:

  1. Quantum Computing: Computing that is based on the quantum state of subatomic particles. Quantum computers have the potential to run massive amounts of calculations in parallel in seconds. 
  2. Real-Time Language Translation: Devices such as translation earbuds and voice and text translation services can perform translation in real-time.
  3. Nanotechnology: Nanotech is used to create new effects in materials science, electronics, security and manufacturing and will enable a world of small solutions that fill in the gaps in the macroverse.
  4. Swarm Intelligence: Swarm intelligence is the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems, both natural and artificial. A swarm can be scaled up and down easily as needs change. 
  5. Human-Machine Interface (HMI): HMI offers solutions providers the opportunity to differentiate with innovative, multimodal experiences. Wearable devices using myoelectric signals have already hit the consumer market.
  6. Software Distribution Revolution: Software procurement and acquisition is undergoing a fundamental shift. The way in which software is located, bought and updated is now in the province of the software distribution marketplace. 
  7. Smartphone Disintermediation: The use of other devices, such as virtual personal assistants (VPAs), smartwatches and other wearables, may mean a shift in how people continue to use the smartphone. 

We have looked at digital disruption in some detail before. However, it is clear that while technology investments have significant potential to drive growth and operational success, they will only do so if companies make simultaneous investments in strategic learning and developmental roadmaps to upskill employees.       

Gimmal Secures SharePoint 2016

Meanwhile,  Houston-based records management and information governance software developer Gimmal, extended its DoD 5015.2 certification to SharePoint 2016. It already provides it for the 2010 and 2013 editions.

United States Department of Defense standard 5015.2-STD, the Design Criteria Standard for Electronic Records Management Software Applications, was implemented in June 2002. This standard defines requirements for the management of records within the Department of Defense, which has become the accepted standard for many state, county, and local governments.

With Gimmal Records Management, organizations will be able to upgrade their SharePoint environment, transforming it into a reliable, secure, and centralized records repository that is compliant with both baseline and classified standards of the DoD 5015.2 certification. 

Organizations can now keep track of all records stored in SharePoint with a central file plan, customizable document libraries, automatic tagging, and forensic destruction. 

Convo Releases Collaboration Platform for Retail

San Francisco-based Convo released an enterprise social collaboration platform geared specifically for retail. The Retail Social Collaboration Platform consists of a secured social feed accessible via web, desktop or mobile to allow team members to quickly exchange information via an intuitive interface. Employees can share videos, photos or text using groups, hashtags and labels to organize information.

In a statement, CEO Osman Rashid said the solution was an alternative to traditional, ineffective communication with frontline workers: "Retailers are still trying to communicate with associates via old-school methods like email and bulletin boards, when that type of one-way communication is ineffective.” 

The platform stores data in Amazon Web Services, meaning when a team member leaves the company, a company can simply turn off their ID. No data is stored on an individual's phone.

LinkedIn To Buy Employee Engagement Specialist Glint

Finally this week, Microsoft-owned LinkedIn has announced its acquisition of Glint, a start-up whose software helps human resources managers understand how workers feel about their employers. Terms of the deal were not released, but CNBC news channel, citing people familiar with the deal, said it was worth $400 million.

Based in Redwood City, Calif., Glint has more than 300 customers globally. A statement from LinkedIn reads: “LinkedIn’s insight into the larger workforce to find and acquire great people alongside Glint’s visibility into the overall health and productivity of the people within an organization will be a powerful extension of our talent business today.”

Once the deal is closed, Glint CEO and founder, Jim Barnett will report to Dan Shapero, VP of LinkedIn careers, learning and talent solutions, and Glint will operate as a team within LinkedIn so it can maintain and accelerate business momentum.