UC&C in 2023: What to Expect for Communications Technology

UC&C in 2023: What to Expect for Communications Technology

At last, 2022 is winding down — a year of chaos, of disruption in the worst of ways, but also one of coming together and doing good in response.

Going into 2023, there are going to be still more hardships worldwide. I won’t go through them all here, but in the world of UC&C, those in the know are becoming more anxious about market homogenization and, of course, the growing risk of economic recession. Not only do opportunities for MSPs seem to be growing fewer, but the larger global market is in a place of extreme instability, which is making end-users just as anxious. Now, everyone simply wants to know what will come next.

Unfortunately, it’s never possible to say exactly what will happen in the future. If I had those kinds of answers, well, I would probably be earning more money at a casino than selling UC&C partnerships.

But what I can tell you is that business at its core will not change, even moving into whatever revolt 2023 will bring. To find success amid the coming chaos, you must hold fast to the central promise of unified communications: using the transfer of knowledge to make everyone’s job easier.

The Big Trend: CEBP

I’m sure what everyone wants to know about the coming year is how trends will shake up and shake out. Will videoconferencing remain as big as it was? Will smart working stay an important factor in the labor market?

Although I can offer a meager prediction for factors such as these, the reality is we already have enough data to demonstrate what components of UC&C matter most in business. And in 2023, these components will not change. Workers will still want to work outside the office, and the cloud will continue to grow in popularity and stability. The direction of the market has solidified in this direction quite thoroughly.

And the reason why is explained in what will actually be the biggest UC&C trend of 2023: communication-enabled business processes (CEBP).

Yes, I may sound like a broken record, repeating this topic from when I discussed current trends in UC&C. But I only emphasize it this much because CEBP, this idea of making business processes leaner and simpler through communications, is central to the value of UC&C. We all need information to do our jobs, and we benefit from receiving new, unexpected ideas from new, unexpected places. Both of these are things that UC&C technology accomplishes better than any system to date: these solutions let any user quickly and instantly share knowledge from anywhere. When staff can add their input to anything from project updates to sharing brainstorms at a moment’s notice, processes work more smoothly, and the entire organization benefits.

Highlighting this trend over something such as, say, AI or self-driving cars, probably isn’t the most exciting answer. However, we just don’t have those advanced technologies yet; right now, we can’t be sure of their precise value to businesses. Meanwhile, at this very moment we have the means to connect distant experts and advisors — to instantly gather feedback, updates and ideas from any collaborator we choose. Communications are more accessible and more useful than ever before, and as a result, smart organizations don’t need to wait on anything new to improve their business procedures. After all, they have the perfect means of doing that already!

Whether everyone will use CEBP to make the most of their business in the coming year, I can’t truly say. All I can emphasize is that the most successful organizations in 2023 will be those who make the most of this principle and the technology that already exists to support it.

Competition & The Big UC&C Vendors

But this is looking at UC&C in a vacuum. In a wider context, end-users have many vendors to choose from, and MSPs have many sources of competition. Looking at the biggest such vendors today, it’s natural to wonder how they will act in the coming year.

Microsoft is of course the big name on everyone’s lips. They made an undeniable impact on UC&C by bringing Teams into their greater software ecosystem just before the pandemic, and their support for that platform has made Teams a leading solution in digital communications. Realistically, it’s hard to imagine that position changing in 2023, because Microsoft is not just a vendor, but a conglomerate; their power and influence are some of the most towering in tech today, and it’s unlikely their established position in communications will be shaken.

That said, because Microsoft is a conglomerate, it’s also hard to predict what new directions (if any) they will take Teams. Most likely, Microsoft themselves don’t know how they’ll change their business or Teams alone in the coming year. The company is big enough that a pivot in direction, even a failed one, won’t cause many issues for them. Maybe they’ll shift strategies knowing that, and maybe they won’t — their case is very difficult to predict, aside from assuming they will still dominate in large part due to their established reputation.

But it’s easier to analyze two other names that loom large in the UC&C space: Zoom and RingCentral. What will they bring to 2023?

To start, let’s look at Zoom right now. Though they claim market dominance and a recognized brand name, their attempts at growth haven’t gone too smoothly. To consumers, the Zoom brand has lost focus and hype; what was once just a basic-yet-reliable tool for videoconferencing has spiraled out of control into full communication suites and digital PBXs. From an end-user’s point of view, the mission statement of the brand is no longer clear. Are they here just for video meetings, like we remember them? What’s the purpose of all this stuff they’ve added on top of that? Without the tight focus from before, the value of the platform is far less certain, and as we know, uncertainty is never a good feeling to leave customers with.

Much the same can be said for RingCentral. Once, they were also a focused company, simply providing PBXs to businesses — and though they’re my competitor, I have to say they did a good job of it. But lately, they’ve piled on too many debts and promises, and they’ve made a mess of that initial goal. Now, RingCentral is trying to do everything, and as a result, ending up doing very little at all. It’s really a shame to see a company that ran so beautifully floundering in the stock market, but if nothing else, it’s a valuable case study on why going outside your core value statement brings trouble.

So, what will 2023 hold for Zoom and RingCentral? If I were running either of them, the year would bring a lot of scaling back — because to be successful, both must return to their original source of value. In other words, the smartest change would be for Zoom to refocus back just on videoconferencing and give up being a PBX provider; likewise, RingCentral should scale back their attempts at growth and prioritize what they know they do well: selling PBXs. I’d expect both to take this direction, but if they don’t, they’re not likely to remain very stable in the market.

More broadly, it’s important to remember that for companies as big as Zoom or RingCentral, year-over-year growth rates of 30% simply aren’t needed, nor are they feasible. Yes, it’s easy to understand that they want more money and to make shareholders happy. But these companies are not startups — they already have a lot of market presence, even without buying up all their competition. They have zero need to prove themselves in the industry, and yet they’re acting as if they need to conquer the world overnight. In trying to achieve that level of growth, all they’re accomplishing is tearing themselves apart.

As large as vendors like Zoom and RingCentral have become, the only way to have that status last into 2023 is to continue creating products that consumers both need and understand. And because of that, it’s hard for me to imagine their current strategies bringing more revenue as we continue through the next year.

UC&C Security: The Future and the Here-and-Now

Talking about security in communications, meanwhile, is the easiest topic of all.

To start, it’s always a given in IT that hackers will get more creative and threats will become more complicated. How, nobody can say for sure. But even as bad as cybersecurity has been in the past year, we must expect it to become an even more severe issue in 2023.

And yes, in that forecast, we can expect more ransomware, more vulnerability exploitations, more break-ins on encrypted communications. Except, of course, we’ve seen all of these problems ruin businesses and lives this past year already — do we truly need the threat of even more problems to start building protection into solutions routinely?

My point is that, in so few words, we shouldn’t need to be worried about what’s to come to make security a top priority. There are far too many threats already to ignore safeguarding your IT!

The only true way to achieve that security, of course, is to entrust your IT to an organization that has security as their one and only job. This means using on-premises systems as little as possible and shifting to the cloud and SaaS — entrusting your digital infrastructure not to your own in-house teams, who have plenty of work to do already, but to organizations that already have secure systems and 24/7 surveillance set up in case of any problems. Just as an experienced security contractor will be better able to install a better security system than an average Joe, a managed cloud system will protect your data better than your own organization.

But, again, it should not take new threats from the new year to bring on this step. The enemy is already at the door, and if you haven’t put your system in the hands of experts, that door has been left open.

What to Expect From 2023

As markets grow tenser and more competitive next year, plan to use more from CEBP, because we can certainly expect the most successful players to make use of it. Now that UC&C has become a standard in business, the question of business efficiency will not be a matter of who has the best technology, but who is using their technology to best improve processes. In communications, that means bringing data to everyone in your organization more quickly and in a more easily comprehensible way.

I say “comprehensible” because it’s important to remember how much time is wasted trying to understand raw data and forms. To make the most of data, we have to quickly understand it and its meaning — such as seeing it through the user-friendly presentation of a CRM, or with the help of AI that automatically highlights important data points. Now, UC&C makes this part of work easy (so long as you use the right solution with the right integrations), and those who use UC&C only to talk will be at a disadvantage as a result.

What we should focus most on, then, is improving the connection between people and IT. We already have the technology to do so much in communications; the most important thing now is to find better ways of utilizing it, of ensuring its main purpose is to improve the ways we do our current jobs. We must approach our technology from how it can help us do what we are already skilled at.

But this is only half of the ideal role of UC&C in 2023. The other “C” in that acronym is “collaboration,” after all, and the technology should do just as much to help how we collaborate. With a greater number of voices from greater distances away, we learn more perspectives and gather greater insight. To use UC&C without making use of knowledge beyond your backyard is to waste half of the technology’s potential!

For a successful 2023, then, look at communication technology as support not just for your organization, but in particular for the people within it (and without!). If people are smart in the next year, they will flock to using this part of IT for their people and their processes above all.

No matter how accurate any of these predictions prove to be, it will be that way of using technology for processes first that will determine success in the coming months and beyond.

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