It has been a transformational year for unified communications and collaboration. Key trends such as rationalization, security and compliance, and support for hybrid work were indeed paramount in 2023. Looking ahead to 2024, these concerns -- and others -- will reshape the market. Here are my top five UC trends for 2024.
1. Generative AI
Generative AI became the buzzword in 2023. Just about every vendor in the UC (and contact center) space introduced some form of generative AI assistant (or companion) with features ranging from meeting and chat summarization to personal feedback and content creation assistance. Metrigy's "Customer Experience Optimization: 2023-24: Consumer Perspective" study of more than 500 end-users found that almost half were using generative AI tools as part of their daily work efforts. Going into 2024 I expect two significant areas of focus:
- Defining the business case: Some vendors, like Cisco and Zoom, are giving away their generative AI assistants to existing customers. Others, like Google and Microsoft, are charging extra. For companies to invest in these tools they must analyze the ROI. Typically this will be through measuring gains in productivity, revenue or cost minimization.
- Ensuring security and compliance: Generative AI, as the name suggests, generates content. Examples include the automatic creation of meeting transcripts and summaries, documents, emails and much more. Companies using these tools must manage this content in accordance with governance policies. Regulated companies must ensure appropriate retention while international organizations must adhere to data location requirements for the countries in which they operate.
Rationalization will continue to gain traction in 2024. As opposed to islands of separate tools, companies are seeking a single generative AI tool that's capable of meshing with their existing collaboration and communications applications.
Metrigy's "Workplace Collaboration: 2023-24" study found that nearly half of the 440 companies surveyed are focusing on a single-vendor strategy for their UC needs. Of those with a multi-vendor approach, about 22% are planning to converge down to a single vendor. We do expect some companies to support multiple vendors where they have a demonstrated requirement that can't be met by the primary vendor, or where they find primary vendor features and ease of use to be lacking.
This article is part of
3. Contact center and UC convergence
Our workplace collaboration study also found that about 76% of companies said they were planning to move to a unified platform for customer and employee communications. About 23% had already done so. Converging UC and contact center offers measurable benefits. First, it reduces administrative and training costs for IT and end-users. Second, it eliminates the barriers between front and back offices in responding to customer inquiries, problems or opportunities. Today, every leading UC vendor either offers a contact center platform of its own or provides certified options to integrate third-party contact center platforms.
4. Workplace evolution
As we head into 2024, companies are working to figure out how to match their UC and collaboration strategy to their work location policies. We have tracked in the last year how companies are reshaping their offices, focusing on shared hot-desking workspaces for individuals and increasing the amount of meeting space for groups. Optimizing the shared work model will continue to drive investments in hardware and software.
In the conference room, for example, about 64% of companies are expanding and updating their video conferencing capabilities. Key areas of investment include one-touch-join systems that enable participants to easily start a meeting through an in-room device.
Another popular tool is touch-screen devices that enable remote and in-room participants to collaborate through virtual whiteboard apps. Finally, about 45% of companies are taking advantage of meeting app features that offer a consistent image of individual attendees -- whether they are in-office or remote. We expect to see significant investment in these types of tools, among them center-room or multiple camera systems as well as AI-driven cameras, which do an even better job of capturing the images of in-room participants.
5. Security, governance and compliance concerns remain
This is a key trend for 2024. I've already discussed the concerns related to adoption of generative AI, but security, governance and compliance issues apply to all UC and collaboration apps. Metrigy's workplace collaboration study showed, sadly, that just 37% of companies had a proactive security strategy covering all collaboration apps. Most organizations are still focused on protecting voice networks from toll fraud. But new threats, such as voice impersonation, attacks on messaging apps and attacks through APIs, are likely to continue from both standalone hackers as well as nation states.
2024 is likely to be both a period of evolving UC trends and -- thanks to generative AI -- a dramatic reshaping of how people work with their UC apps. At the same time, work locations and experiences continue to be redefined. This will lead organizations to invest in tools that ensure equity between remote and in-office workers. Blanketing all of these trends is the need to keep communications services and apps secure.
Irwin Lazar is president and principal analyst at Metrigy, where he leads coverage on the digital workplace. His research focus includes unified communications, VoIP, video conferencing and team collaboration.