Scott Goodwin, Director, Cloud Voice Services, Exponential-e
It’s that time of year when we start to reflect on 2017 and start to look forward to what the New Year will bring. Technology is changing the world we live in at such a rapid pace. This might seem like a pretty obvious statement, but for businesses the challenge is keeping pace with these advancements. Responding to disruptive forces and integrating them into your operational processes is not always straightforward.
Here are the key trends I see impacting businesses across multiple industries in 2018:
Platform economies disrupting communication providers
Over the last few years, we’ve seen some significant, unavoidable trends forming. A major one of these is the disruption being brought to industries by the enormous, platform economies dominating the tech landscape. Amazon, Google and Facebook. These can jump into sectors almost instantaneously and quickly become one of the leading lights in it, such is the wealth of resource they are backed by. Truly, this is revenge of the nerds!
They also have a great deal of customer data and understanding, allowing them to tailor their outreach to match buying behaviours of their customers. This is driving smarter and quicker ways to do existing jobs, and an understanding of customers on such a granular level that they are already outstripping competitors. In unified communications, these massive organisations will continue to insert themselves into the industry. Skype for business, Google Hangouts, Amazon Chime; we are only going to see more of these products being used over the coming twelve months.
Service Providers fight back through personalisation
In response to major organisations entering into the market, existing communications providers are going to have to lean on their strengths – and their opponent’s weaknesses. For this, it’s the customisation and tailoring of the solutions requested where smaller, more nimble companies can add value to the mid-market. If you’re buying from billion-dollar, international organisations, you can have it in any colour you want – as long as it’s white.
In 2018, that focus on tailored services – especially in the mid-market – will see a renewed focus in response to new players in the industry.
Human employment becoming deeper – and narrower
Products such as chatbots are, of course, going to become more widespread through the expanding availability of AI. However, they are still, effectively, commoditised human interactions. They are cheaper than paying a salary, but will still be relatively unskilled. So, what we’ll see happen is that human employees will become far narrower in scope and focus, but vastly deeper in knowledge of that area, alongside greater experience too. This is where we, as experts, will derive our value. Computing will take away the commoditised ‘heavy lifting’, then direct you to the subject matter experts.
Another important point to note is that computing systems can’t offer empathy; this is what differentiates employees from computer systems as we move into 2018.
Companies continuing to fragment
The traditional talent pool is drawn from people within commuting distance. That is no longer the case. Nowadays, an organisation can be made up of anyone that can connect to the internet, and will increasingly do so on a contract basis. Companies are in the position that moving forward, it may well be more economical to pay the wages of a Dutch employee and pay for their regular flights over, than hire from London.
But that relies on the right tools being in place and therefore we’ll see a continued demand for collaboration tools and unified communications networks powerful enough to underpin these. There is also a clamour for employees that have the skills in these respective areas of IP engineering and UC engineering, so that organisations can get these technologies up and running. 2018 looks set to continue this.
A renewed security focus
The advent of legislation such as MiFID II and GDPR lands in the next 12 months, and with it a renewed sense of urgency around security and compliance. These will affect providers just as much as those that store and own the data, as people become savvy to the importance of protecting data in transit too. It’s a fallacy that security can be ‘finished’, so both attacks and ways of defending data will continue to escalate – helped in no short part by the rise of state-sanctioned hacking.
Technology is already widely used for security – what 2018 will bring will be a revised focus on education and ensuring employees understand the risks they face, rather than just relying on the tech safety net.
The increasingly vital role of networks
Throughout the trends that will affect the wider technology sector in 2018, there is one constant: the importance of the underpinning network. Offering customisation, increasing voice recognition and chatbot use, connecting to employees across different continents and collaborating on projects; all of these are merely a pipedream without a reliable, powerful and flexible network. Some companies are putting these networks in place, but in 2018, those that have not will simply be left behind.