Every year I like to stop and think about the future of business communications. There are so many innovations happening so quickly it is important to take stock of which changes have the potential to make an impact and, using this information, to make strategic decisions. There are a number of angles from which it is possible to assess the future – human behavior patterns, emergence of new technology, an overview of mergers and acquisitions activities (for insight into where businesses are investing), whatever Apple (News - Alert) is doing, and what the think-tank academics are predicting. I have stayed away from long-term, science-fiction-like speculation in favor of more practical predictions – some are already in use among early adopters. Here are the trends and technologies I see emerging in the coming 5 to 10 years.
Presence will allow for more phone calls to start without the phone calling part. That is, when you go to make a phone call you will start to see a lot more information that informs you whether it is a good time to call. You will be much more likely to send a quick (text) query about whether now is a good time. Systems that provide basic and advanced presence will allow this to work more smoothly. Presence information now comes from Instant Messenger-type interfaces and data about whether someone is on his or her computer or phone already. Look for more information from additional data sources – calendar (is the person busy), GPS (is the person driving, in motion, etc.), wearables (is the person exercising, sleeping, eating, listening to music).
More Video in Commerce
The first place video calling has gone into heavy use for businesses is on intra-company calls. This makes sense, as all users are generally on a common (read: technology compatible) communications system. However, video calling used on every internal call becomes a distraction and has limited value other than Big Brother-type oversight.
When standardization of video codecs becomes ubiquitous, I foresee video becoming instrumental in customer support calls, website interactions, and interactions where you have historically had an audio-only connection. Visual contact creates empathy and will increase constructive interaction in support and will increase closing rate on ecommerce transactions. It will be a nice (and easy) extension of the prevalent live web-based IM used in many web-based support/sales situations today.
Right now there are still too many digits to dial and not enough graphically driven ways to initiate voice communications. This will change. Already, apps and clients are making the excitement of speed dialing seem like a very dated innovation. Microsoft (News - Alert) Lync, in particular, is raising the bar for ease of use in the business milieu. We should all be thinking of ways to make calling easier by doing away with phone numbers. Numbers will become more embedded in buttons as presence keeps track of where we can be found rather than relying on our phone address.
Clicking Beats Typing Beats Speaking
I think a lot of clicking to communicate is what the future holds. However, business users prefer to search and communicate by privately typing text rather than by speaking words. This hypothesis will be challenged by smart watches in the next 12 to 24 months – the watch interfaces appear too small for typing but will contain microphones. Siri, Cortana, and Google (News - Alert) Now believe that the digital personal assistant is a key ingredient of the future of communications. I agree, but I think we will be sending it text requests.
Media Collection and Storage
It has become standard practice in court cases to refer to emails as recorded evidence. I believe this will also happen with audio calls and video calls – they will be recorded and stored in perpetuity by businesses. In some industries –financial transactions, health care – this is already required; in others, it is useful to create a recorded record. Storage is cheap, and the technology to record everything is pervasive.
There are some great online resources that make more sweeping predictions about the future – I recommend the Hypervoice Consortium. These predictions tend to center on the Internet of Things where much communication happens between the things/devices around based on human settings. While I am a strong believer in this trend, it is still too early for those of us in the hosted PBX (News - Alert) marketplace to incorporate into our service offerings. Hopefully, some of the items I have presented here are relevant immediately to your planning.
Edited by Dominick Sorrentino