Our in-person and virtual partner event towards the end of last year gave us a chance to hear from service providers, analysts, media and colleagues from all over Europe what they believe 2022 has in store for the UC industry.
ONE: The cloud communications market will continue to expand rapidly
While 2020 and 2021 were both massive growth years, market penetration across the region currently stands at around 20 per cent on average, according to the Cavell Group. So, partners have vast potential to grow their UC services and revenue, particularly as Cavell’s research also found that 35% of technology decision-makers intend to change their communications provider in the next year. Local markets vary, of course, but the message is clear: the business is there for partners if they can find the right strategy.
Never has the need to stand out from the crowd been so critical. In a marketplace that is becoming increasingly competitive, partners must find ways to customise their offerings, including the creation of vertical-market specific services and packages. This means choosing UC technology that gives partners the necessary control and flexibility and not simply offering UC services identical to their competitors. This includes having a strong focus on an open API architecture.
THREE: Service, presence and sustainability are driving decisions
As well as product differentiation, offering a superior level of service is becoming more important, with businesses wanting friction-free suppliers, able to provide them with a one-stop-shop and comprehensive support. Cavell’s research also found that, apart from customer and support reviews, local presence in Europe and sustainability are the two other leading factors driving decision-making right now.
FOUR: IT and comms are stronger together
As UC continues to evolve, integrations with productivity tools, including Microsoft products, CRMs and ERPs, are on the rise. As a result, there is a chance for comms partners to expand into the broader ICT market, and conversely, IT resellers can start to explore new comms opportunities. Therefore, choosing UC platforms and cloud services with robust support for third party integrations and an open API approach is vital.
FIVE: UCaaS and CCaaS will continue to blend
We have seen a shift towards a greater focus on the role of UC in external communications, especially as end-user businesses require ways to enhance the customer experience both in-person and remotely. However, for SMBs, this needs to be as streamlined and straightforward as possible, which is why we have seen considerable interest in the ‘casual contact centre’ concept. By embedding contact centre-style features within UC platforms, businesses can engage with customers from any device or location, even without leaving the app in which they are working. Similarly, marketing automation, conversational AI and other innovations are making their way into UC to enhance the CX.
SIX: everywhere is mobile
The increasing use of mobile devices for business communications has accelerated throughout the pandemic: people still chose to use their smartphones when working from home under lockdown. What is critical, however, is to integrate mobility with fixed voice services, as well as business applications. We expect focus on fixed mobile integration (FMC) to grow in 2022.
SEVEN: Longer-term planning
Now it is becoming increasingly clear that hybrid working is here to stay, businesses are looking at future-facing foundations for flexible communications and IT that supports users regardless of location or device. Partners can play a significant role in helping businesses devise longer-term strategies to respond to unpredictable events with minimal interruption while enabling a better work-life balance for employees.
Simultaneously, businesses by necessity are progressing their digital transformation journeys, with emerging areas including greater automation and self-service, as well as business process integration.
Predictions can be tricky — after all, at the beginning of 2020 we had no idea of what was ahead — but these are all trends we are hearing from multiple sources time and again. 2022 may bring various challenges, but it provides many opportunities too.