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How demand is pushing the boundaries of unified communications

(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ruslan Satsuik)

In the turbulent times we are all living through, the demand for unified communications (UC) is greater than ever. With many of us home-working for the most sustained period of time in our professional lives, UC is being pushed to the very limits of its own capabilities, and the demand for evolution and constant progression is massive. In many ways, the successful integration of new UC solutions is keeping many industries moving forwards through the Covid-19 isolation period.

This, of course, has not only driven demand, but forced UC developers to fortify their solutions to ensure they are robust enough to perform under such heavy uptake. As we rightly become more conscious of employee welfare and satisfaction, we’ve seen this go one step further. Events beyond our control are preventing employees from getting into the office. Today’s professionals need to be able to ensure that they can remain productive and happy through any potential stumbling blocks. These factors are inevitably pushing the needle for innovation in a number of ways.

The holy grail of UC

UC as a tool for user mobility regardless of time, location or circumstance is now more vital than ever. It is a fundamental building block for effective collaboration among an increasingly remote workforce and will continue to grow in line with demand. As a result, UC developers are facing pressures to ensure the success of two critical elements: reliability and usability.

Reliability is a key aspect of any collaboration platform. The user has to be able to trust that the technology will work when required and isn’t going to cause unnecessary problems. Enhancements which gratify this level of performance and assurance even during times of peak use will be a key differentiator which sets the leaders apart from the rest. 

Usability is also a key focus. Not only does the solution have to work perfectly,  it must also be simple to use. If the interfacing and technology is too difficult or complicated to operate, user experience (UX) will inevitably falter and, in turn, drive down demand. In a time where competition is high, UC providers cannot afford the risk of a damaged user journey within their platforms and should have both eyes on improving the UX at all times.

Why security is key to UC

Security is a vital aspect of Unified Communications. Whilst usability and reliability are vital, they cannot be judged on a higher plane than security. If a user doesn’t feel comfortable that their data is safe and secure when using your service, then the likelihood of them returning to use is virtually zero. Trusting an application is vital to its continued usage, and not being secure will not only lead to a loss of customers, but could also push you into a legal minefield. Recent breaches are indicators of how much of a serious issue UC cybersecurity is, and how it needs to be taken seriously in modern developments.

COVID-19 has undeniably caused the UC industry to rapidly innovate, but in many ways the crisis and subsequent rapid development has also led to weaker security systems. With a greater reliance being placed upon technology and communication systems, it makes it a focal point for cybercriminals to focus their attacks.

A prime example of Unified Communications being on the receiving end of cyberattacks is a phishing campaign surrounding popular video-conferencing services. Researchers have uncovered campaigns designed to steal user credentials and attempt to trick email recipients into thinking they are about to be laid off amid the pandemic. The attackers hope potential victims will click on a malicious link that supposedly leads to a video-meeting hosted by human resources. This is just one example of how pushing the boundaries of UC is causing security issues, and how many cybercriminals are taking advantage of the pandemic.

Ensuring that your developments are secure and taking every possible step to avoid data loss is a basic element of designing a new product or development. Failing this would be a catastrophic error of judgement. Security protocols will continue to develop in quick response with hacking and breach trends. Platforms must ensure they are ‘ahead of the game’ in combating new threats, whilst ensuring security holes and entry points are carefully monitored to detect any outside activity. Your security must be fluid, flexible, and ever-evolving. Anything less will simply leave platforms and users  vulnerable to attack.

Enabling seamless remote customer contact

UC is also being driven by the demand for more streamlined and convenient means of maintaining customer contact and delivering any required support. This demand is driving innovation in the UC space at a faster rate than ever before. Ten years ago, web conferencing was in its infancy and email was completely dominant in written communication. Fast forward to today and only a decade later, instant messaging and advanced video conferencing have become the established norm in the business sphere.

The drive for employees to be able to interface with customers on a remote level is one which large-scale organisations rely heavily upon, ensuring that businesses are still able to function remotely and deliver the same high quality service as usual. The demand for UC is constantly increasing, with businesses looking to bridge the gap and work seamlessly between being office based and working remotely.

This, of course, has all been pushed forward by the need for better tools from the professionals using them and unifying the contact center through a myriad of cross-channel customer communication. As we find ourselves in a sustained period of remote working, an increase in support from end-users across all industries is almost inevitable. Professionals are navigating new ways of working and living and UC is a fundamental way to connect, in order to deliver support from anywhere when more traditional means are not possible.

Where next for the development of UC?

Evolution is defined as “the gradual development of something” and this is no different for Unified Communications - it must continue to progress and move forwards, improving at every development.

UC is arguably going through the biggest and most rapid development phase in history, and the onus is on providers to deliver the solutions that can keep people and employees connected in a time where the physical is taking a back seat. By continually testing the limits of their solutions and listening to their community of users, UC developers can remain ahead of the curve on issues such as security and customer demand.

James McGough is Managing Director at UC Expo