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

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