The Top 7 Communication Trends of 2014 (Mid-Year Scorecard)

The Summer Solstice has come and gone. We have reached the second half of 2014. Now makes for a particularly good time to take a 6-month review of our projected 2014 communications trends projected in December 2013 and more importantly, where we are going. While the predictions may have been made many months ago, it seems that all have taken on more urgency now.

As the economy continues to improve, we believe that most of the trends were right on target, with some accelerating faster. Supporting the growth of the seven service trends are three dynamic forces: the private cloud, demand for OpEx solutions and desire for the latest applications.

Let’s take a look at the 7 Trends scorecard of hits and misses:

#1: Businesses extend deeper into the cloud… hit!

In the first half of 2014, businesses extended deeper into the cloud, with a real acceleration in private cloud. As mentioned by Avaya CEO Kevin Kennedy, there has been a surge of 5-to-1 customer ratio of interest in private cloud solutions. The largest customers are now inclined to want private cloud because of all that it has to offer, particularly privacy and security. Relationships for private cloud are typically 3 to 5 years with a short onboarding period that used to make the public cloud the preferable option.

Customers requesting private or public cloud fall along the lines of security. Vertical market clients that are sensitive, such as healthcare (with HIPAA enforcement) and financial services (compliance with government regulations), are more likely to maintain their databases and systems in a private environment–sometimes onsite or in a data center.

Public cloud clients are typically smaller- to medium-sized businesses that do not want to invest in a private cloud environment. These clients tend to operate in industries that are more consumer-oriented and do not require as much security.

#2: Purse strings could be loosening… hit!

The whole economy has come out of the 2007-2009 market slowdown. We are seeing lots of IT organizations trying to recover what was lost in a short period of time. To overcome the technology gap made possible by years of dormancy, many are playing catch up with the cloud.

#3: Another major shift in IT focus – from products and services to outcomes… hit!

Leaders of IT organizations are shifting their model, with more focus on agents being effective than just having access and offering accretive value, just as we described in “Why IT Should Spend More Time Focusing on Passengers, and Less Time on the Locomotive.” By moving beyond the mundane functionality of managing daily patch releases, IT managers are serving as strategic sources tapped by the C-suite and marketing.

#4: Crowdsourcing emerges in the support services setting… hit again!

As the social media space continues to grow, companies are more likely to leverage the expertise of customer forums. Companies are now turning to their customers and user bases for crowdsourcing. Individuals are becoming sources that are trusted most, with only the best achieving “Expert” and “Super Genius” status.

#5: The midmarket will expect different treatment… hit!

As can be seen at Enterprise Connect and IAUG, mid-market companies are looking for solutions tailored to their businesses and their needs. Mid-market companies are not looking for scaled down or rebranded enterprise contact center solutions.

#6: Multimodal communications support reaches a tipping point… hit!

One of the more interesting trends is multi-modal, also known to many as omnichannel. Lots of vendors are racing for a multimodal environment to support clients by e-mail, knowledge-based articles, via voice over the Web or video. These are all great for customers, but it can become challenging to decide which channel is best to resolve a problem. For example, you can visually see that a cable should be in port four rather than having to describe it on the phone.

How do you make sure to choose or optimize the right channel while not overwhelming the customer? Ways to clearly identify the best communications channel are now paramount.

#7: The people you need when you need them… hit!

What’s interesting is that we were looking at this trend more than six months ago. More complex networks and IT solutions are requiring more than generalists to maintain and solve them. With fewer part-time IT people available, companies are having a difficult time quickly and easily finding resources to enable them to find the necessary experts in certain areas.

Companies are having mixed results getting tools and access to peer and dedicated resources. More time is being spent trying to get the necessary resources that leverage the right tools at the right time. Many are moving to off-site resources, no longer having to worry about having dedicated resources to deal with deployment of new applications and software.

So overall, we ended up going 7 for 7, which is much better than expected! Since we started in 2008, we have had a pretty good track record: 80% good, 20% languish.

What trends did we miss?

What do you expect to be hot in 2015?

Follow me on Twitter: @Pat_Patterson_V

Related Articles:

A totally new way to approach customers—and a million reasons to do so

Last month, Laurent Philonenko wrote about some of the exciting work being done with the Avaya Breeze™ Platform, noting that many of our 2016 DevConnect Excellence Award winners were making the creation of Avaya Snap-ins a center point of their strategies.

There is perhaps no better proof point for this than the efforts of Engelbart Software GmbH, our 2016 DevConnect Partner of the Year.

DevConnect business development manager Bill Petty recently sat down with Dirk Engelbart, founder and owner of Engelbart Software, as part of our new DevConnect 8-and-Out podcast series, and talked about their experiences with Avaya Breeze. Avaya Breeze represents “a totally new way to approach customers,” according to Dirk.

In the interview, Dirk speaks directly to the opportunities his company is able to pursue through Avaya Breeze, with “millions of use cases” solvable at his fingertips through Avaya Breeze. His examples, including a manufacturing-related solution to enable warehouse workers to reach suppliers by mapping part numbers via SAP integration, clearly demonstrate the power of this platform.

But most impressive is his story of delivering a deal-winning proof-of-concept implementation in less than two days. This isn’t just a mockup, or some fancy slideware that shows what could be done, but rather a demonstrable, tangible example of how it is actually implemented.

We’ve been hearing this speed-to-market feedback from Avaya customers and partners alike, as we’ve been running bootcamps and training programs on Avaya Breeze and related tools like Avaya Engagement Designer. Avaya Breeze simply makes it easy and quick to create solutions that, using more traditional CTI methods, would have taken weeks to months to complete.

So grab a cup of coffee/soda/tea, and have a listen to what Dirk has to say about Avaya Breeze and why Engelbart has shifted all of their development focus towards leveraging Avaya Breeze.

Why Healthcare Providers Need to Deliver Uber-Like Service

I have a confession to make: I’ve never used Uber. Personally, I like to order my taxis the old fashioned way – by calling the local service on my smartphone and paying via credit card. I know, so 2009.

But while seemingly all my friends are now Uber converts, I’ve yet to download the app, because I know it would be used once, or never, and then just sit on my phone. While there are now literally millions of apps available to us, not many of them actually get used. According to data from Nielsen, the average U.S. smartphone user accesses less than 30 apps per month, with 70 percent of total app usage coming from the top 200 apps.

So, which app would get my vote? A recent unfortunate event has made up my mind for me. The event was my son breaking his arm, and the dream app for me would be one that simplified my healthcare journey.

That dream healthcare smartphone app is yet to be created. After we rushed my son to the emergency room, we had to present his insurance card, answer questions about his previous medical history, any allergies to medication, list his emergency contacts and so on, all before he could be admitted to see a physician. By the time he did actually see a doctor, he was in so much pain his screams echoed through the hospital, and I was in tears.

Even worse, when we got to the operating room, the doctor went through the same list of questions. Fast forward another few hours and my son has now been transferred to a hospital room for two days of observation. With each doctor and nurse on duty, most of the questions asked before are asked again.

Now, if I had my dream app available, we would have clicked a single button to instantly talk to emergency responders, who could access my son’s up-to-date medical and healthcare profile. My phone could be geolocated and an ambulance dispatched, with skilled medical staff available who could relay information about my son’s condition to physicians while en route to the hospital. That information might prompt the hospital to make an emergency room available and prep the surgical team for an immediate operation–with the entire procedure being completed in a few hours, and questions restricted to immediate medical issues.

Admittedly, this is expecting a lot from one app: Uber doesn’t especially care about what happens to you once you reach your destination, after all. Is it too much to expect our healthcare providers to focus on providing a seamless experience for their users? The ordeal I suffered with my son recently was made worse because the hospital hadn’t done enough to ensure that I wasn’t frustrated as I progressed through the system, and to link its various points of contact… it lacked an omnichannel customer experience.

This seamless experience in healthcare is what each one of us should expect and healthcare providers should aspire to deliver. We take for granted that when we use Uber, we are going to get a reliable and safe journey that will get us to where we want to be. In the future, healthcare providers that don’t deliver the best possible experience to their customers are going to find themselves left behind by those providers who do.

How Enterprise Virtualization Will Save Your Business in the Era of IoT

Having a backyard full of trees is quite therapeutic during a marathon day of conference calls, but it also comes with a fair share of maintenance: picking up the fallen limbs from the elms, keeping the invasive cedars from choking out other species, and trimming up the oaks to keep them healthy and the fireplace burning through the winter. On those maintenance days, it’s easy to get obsessed with a tree or set of trees that are causing a problem … say, dropping large limbs dangerously close to your daughters’ trampoline. When you’re fixing up your backyard, one problem – one tree – at a time, the solution to the problem at hand often fails to take into account the needs of the larger ecosystem. Unfortunately, for many networking professionals, every day feels like a maintenance day.

We see problems with mobility and service chaining in and across data centers. We see problems with cost and reliability in the WAN. We see problems with scalability and security in the campus. In a nutshell, we see problems. Fortunately, for every problem, there’s a good ol’ fashioned snake oil salesman. We’re inundated with the latest and greatest technologies to solve our woes … even some we didn’t know we had.

The problem is that we’re putting Band-Aids on bullet holes. The bleeding stops, but the real problem is still lurking beneath the surface. It’s not that these fixes are bad. The problem is that they’re being positioned as a cure-all instead of simply tools to address localized side effects of the problem.

The problem is broader. The data center exists to host applications. Those applications exist to enable users. The WAN exists to connect the data center to the campus, which exists for the users. And, of course, the users exist to run the business.

Since the business is the thing we’re looking to keep alive and thriving, those users need to be productive. That means that they need fast, efficient access to the applications that enable their jobs. So, those problems we rattled off earlier are really just symptoms that have emerged as we tried to create enterprise services across silos of control.

If we want to remove the bullet and save the patient, we must recognize the need for end-to-end services and look holistically at Enterprise Virtualization methods that will securely extend services from user to application at scale with on-demand mobility and business continuity. Otherwise, the problem is only going to get worse.

With the Internet of Things (IoT) becoming an ever-increasing reality in the enterprise, the need for services from device to application is going to multiply exponentially. Without Enterprise Virtualization, the burden on IT to deal with every little problem across the islands of campus, WAN and data center will be overwhelming. They simply won’t be able to keep pace, and, as a result, neither will the business. The users will be limited and become frustrated, and productivity will suffer in turn. It’s a bleak picture, but it doesn’t have to be.

Enterprise Virtualization provides a number of advantages that have long been unattainable to the general enterprise. While we’ve managed to achieve “micro-segmentation” down to the virtual machine layer for applications, the very same data is set free at the data center doors and left vulnerable in the less secure world beyond.

Enterprise Virtualization enables you to extend the segmentation in the data center to the very edges of the network, where the data is consumed by users. Not only can you extend isolation, you can also view it as one contiguous service from server node to user node.

All of the tools available for measuring quality and performance have a clear view from end-to-end, rather than requiring additional tools to aggregate and correlate metrics across the three different islands of technology. Not to mention, Enterprise Virtualization allows you to significantly reduce the number of touch points while provisioning and troubleshooting, thus minimizing the likelihood of down time due to human error.

Just like that limb-dropping elm can avoid the chainsaw, your enterprise can avoid being cut down in its prime. You see, it was a problem in the ecosystem that would have eventually killed all the trees through their intertwined root systems. It was lurking beneath the surface, but the arborist took a step back to see the whole forest, and then recognized and treated the real issue. Likewise, you need to make sure that someone is looking at your forest of IT challenges … not just banging their head on a single tree.