The Top 7 Communications Trends for 2014

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Each year brings breakthroughs, evolutions and benchmarks in equipping organizations and individuals through technology.

These new developments have implications for IT departments and the broader enterprise, in terms of services the IT department provides, and how those services are acquired and deployed.

Heading into 2014, Avaya has for the fifth time turned to its cadre of leading thinkers for observations on the year ahead in information and communications technology. It has led to these Seven Communications Trends for 2014:

#1: Businesses extend deeper into the cloud

Most early cloud initiatives were tactical, focused on vetting vendor capabilities and testing discrete, non-core processes in the cloud. Now, as more businesses make capital expense (capex) vs. operating expense (opex) spending decisions, organizations that choose the cloud option–whether through a private, public, or hybrid model–will see a shift in how their IT organizations operate. IT functions will focus less on delivery and support of technology and instead spend more time as technology advisers and enablers.

#2: Purse strings could be loosening

Signs of invigorated business spending in 2014 are evident in double-digit capex growth predictions by leading global asset managers. However, many organizations face tough rent vs. own decisions when it comes to IT–especially at companies that have underspent on technology and communications since the recession and desperately need to catch up. Deciding whether to build and own IT solutions themselves or migrate to opex solutions from service providers, often involving cloud options, could prove perplexing.

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

The expectation among internal customers is for IT to deliver outcomes rather than products and services. For example, instead of being asked to deploy an interactive voice response system, IT’s charge might be to help increase call containment rates or reduce agent expense across call centers. This shift in emphasis will create new demands on both IT organizations in terms of business knowledge and consulting skills, as well as the service providers they rely on.

#4: Crowdsourcing emerges in the support services setting

Businesses are discovering that customers are demanding a more robust support experience in general, and not just function- or product-specific support – all support. Going forward, companies that provide a community structure in which customers and company employees, especially subject matter experts, can more easily comingle will have a unique opportunity to create a more fulfilling support experience. Using group problem-solving and reward tools like gamification, as well as sophisticated performance tracking and analytics tools, forward-looking companies will supercharge these highly interactive support environments.

#5: The midmarket will expect different treatment

New technologies are powerful drivers of middle market empowerment. Midmarket leaders are no longer satisfied with solutions that are scaled down versions of larger systems. Instead, they want solutions designed to meet their specific business needs, as well as the ability of their IT people to manage them. Support excellence will increasingly mean providing the right information in a tempo and volume that a smaller operation can handle, along with the tools needed to put that information to use.

#6: Multimodal communications support reaches a tipping point

Businesses everywhere are experimenting with different communication modes for customer support. For example, Avaya Global Support Services has significantly shortened issue resolution times by escalating up and down in various modes – voice alone is often inadequate; voice-plus-web is only marginally better; so voice-plus-web-plus-chat-plus-video can put customers and support resources on the same page.

However, businesses deploying multiple modes will need to monitor and measure customer experience to determine when switching across modes becomes frustrating for customers – recent research indicates customer effort is becoming as important as customer satisfaction. With this realization, companies will seek help to orchestrate their different modes and to coordinate contextual information and analytics capabilities so they can monitor and measure customer effort.

#7: The people you need when you need them

Vendors are continuously creating new applications, some of which are transforming how organizations deploy and capitalize on technology. While this innovation can help boost business growth and improve efficiency, new solutions can further burden IT organizations that are already being compelled to handle growing service demand with shrinking staff resources.

New applications and business-consulting demands may also require skill sets beyond those of existing staff. This imbalance between requirements and resources could prompt organizations to explore staff augmentation options beyond the typical “manage my switch” arrangements. They will also seek help from technology management tools that smoothly integrate into their existing operations.

Thanks to this year’s trend spotters for helping pull together another year of guidance.
• Mike Runda senior vice president and president, Avaya Client Services
• Linda Hartig vice president, Avaya Global Support Services
• Ed Nalbandian vice president, Avaya Operations Services
• Mark Baines managing director Global Strategic Consulting, Avaya Professional Services
• Todd Ronnau senior product manager, Avaya Operations Services

What do you see as the top trend that affects IT services in 2014?

Follow me on Twitter at @Pat_Patterson_V

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