UC3 News — 29 December 2017
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Our Interesting Times Will Only Get More So in 2018 by Peter Bernstein

To all the readers of BCStrategies here is to a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. 

As the title suggests, not only was 2017 a proof point that we in the real-time business communications community live in interesting times, but as my expert colleagues (please read their 2018 predictions) and I violently agree, 2018 is only going to be more intriguing.  

As a prologue, some background might be useful. For several years, I have expounded on my thesis, long before columnist Thomas Freidman used the term, that we have entered “The Age of Acceleration.” It is an era characterized by the facts that:

  • The only constant going forward is change
  • The speed at which changes are occurring, in no small measure due to our industry, is increasing rapidly and showing signs of accelerating
  • Organizations of all shapes, sizes, locations and vertical markets served that do not embrace and leverage change will suffer swift and potentially catastrophic consequences.

In addition, Marc Andreessen’s famous quote in 2011 that “software is eating the world,” is only part of the story. Realities are that what I call “INFOSTRUCTURE”—a combination of physical and virtual network capabilities and services all now increasingly software-centric—is eating the world. In short, those physical data centers that enable Cloud ubiquity are in fact serving up the next generation of utility. Indeed, there is a double entendre intended by the word “Utility” as it pertains to both the traditional view of a public utility as well as its useful deliverables. 

We are heading at an unprecedented clip into the uncharted territory. Where artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), deep learning, neural networking and speech on steroids and a host of other new technologies take the workplace and our personal interactions is problematic to predict. As a result, as the journey into the unknown proceeds, we need to be cognizant of not just the good, but also the bad all of this entails. It truly will be a brave new world.

I mention this because several years ago I put my year-end prognostication posting exercise on PAUSE. The Age of Acceleration had made predictions with “certainty,” even in the short-term, hazardous. Hence, real-time and near real-time commentary seemed to be a safe haven. That said, I am hitting the prediction RESUME button this year. 2018 looks like a tipping point year, and I am willing to dip my toes back in the prognostication waters. After all, the reversal of Net Neutrality in the U.S., significant industry restructuring, cyber security challenges, the use/abuse of bots, the maturation/deployment of technologies mentioned above and those we are aware are gestating are harbingers as to why 2018 is likely to be a blockbuster.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of reviewing the 2018 outlooks of my BCStrategies colleagues. They are worth bookmarking for reference during the year. I am just going to add two trends to the mix. (There no doubt will be more as the year progresses). They are in some cases similar to those of others, but from a slightly different perspective. What they appear to have are high probability of being major industry trends to think about and watch.

2018 will be a transformative year for VOICE

This will be true on two fronts.

First, while we were sleeping, for most enterprises’ voice communications became not just another app running on a server, but something to embed in almost “E”verything. In fact, while it will not happen any time soon, the notion of making a “call” will be obsolete. It will be replaced by a term related to “real-time interactions” which will be tiered according to the degree of “immersion” desired, i.e., just voice, voice plus chat, video, etc.

Second, voice command systems (VCSs), will become commonplace in the workplace. Think of this as BYOD 2.0. Believe it or not, people saying “ALEXA…” or “GOOGLE…” at work, particularly when working from home, is catching on quickly. Why? The reasons are simple. Think how much easier it is to instruct collaboration tools via voice instead of using keystrokes or touch to do things like check status, notifications, and initiate meetings. 2018 is going to be the year when the digitally adept bring their VCS to work. 

Third, the incredible pace at which speech recognition has become more accurate, less costly and cloud-friendly, particularly speaker-independent recognition, is boosting such things as an explosion of translation services and cutting contact center meantime-to-resolution times impressively.

2018 will be the year when Context is King

From its earliest roots and throughout the various stages of the Internet Age a maxim that all parts of the multiple media worlds have lived by is that “Content is King.”  In 2018 in the business communications sphere of influence, it looks like it is time to declare, “The King is Dead, Long Live the King!” Actually, this is not the best analogy. The King/Queen is not dead. Instead, he/she should no longer be viewed as a divine ruler.
The short answer as to the rise of CONTEXT as a co-equal consideration in business process transformations, collaborations and enhancing the customer journey is straightforward. The more real-time communicators, processes along with people, know about each other the more compelling the outcome of the interactions. It should also be observed as critical in this is the reality that authentication is a key part of context.

The biggest threat to the future of ecommerce is the erosion of trust. If sellers cannot verify the identity of those contacting them, and buyers cannot be assured they are dealing with a “reputable” entity or the true entity with which they wish to interact, ecommerce becomes untrustworthy. 

Context taken too far in the form of non-permission based use of personal information presents a dark side to all of this. However, context when used appropriately, as documented by independent research, is a proven enabler for creating a safer interactive “E”vironments, more satisfied customers, and sustainable competitive advantage. What 2018 will highlight to C-levels is that investment in context tools—putting the best information in front of the right people at the right time—is a good short-term as well as long-term tactic and strategy.

So buckle up. It is going to be a bumpy and exciting ride. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

 

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