I recently attended a briefing held by UCC provider 8×8. Hunter Middleton, Chief Product Officer, 8×8, kicked things off by talking about some of the high-level trends the company foresees in 2022.
The timing of the briefing coincided with the drop of 8×8’s latest album, and by ‘album’ I mean its latest e-book, but it is pretty much the same thing, right? In all seriousness, in the research report called the “2022 Business Communications Trends” – 8×8 dives deep into the trends set to impact the UCC industry in 2022.
This includes a more agile workplace, a more connected culture, an era of integrated communications, hyper-communication, hyper-automation, security advancement, and digital transformation acceleration.
Qualifying the Source
Middleton leads product management and design at 8×8, which encompasses all the company’s integrated cloud communications, video collaboration, and contact center solutions. With over 21 plus years of experience as a product management leader – Middleton joined 8×8 from ‘Jive Software.’
There he previously served as Vice President and Head of Product Management and led the innovation of the enterprise social collaboration application. Before working at Jive, he held another leadership position as Head of Product Management at Google for Work Systems. Middleton also led the Google Apps Enterprise product team as it became G-Suite.
Eventually, under Middleton’s leadership, the product expanded to serve over one million companies across the globe. Earning his Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton University, Middleton also holds a Master’s degree in management from the Kellogg Graduate School of Business at Northwestern University.
The brainy nature of the leader of 8×8’s product efforts makes his commentary on the trends all the more insightful.
A More Agile Workplace
We have seen a continued need for agility in the workplace and business overall. Customers and employees are craving more agility ushered in by the Coronavirus Pandemic, to which Middleton said:
“In the frantic early months of the pandemic, public and private sector organizations had to show unprecedented levels of agility. They built entire virtual call centers.”
They did a lot more than this – having reconfigured networks to enable secure home and hybrid work. Businesses, according to the report: digitized fulfillment systems, trained people on new software, and discovered new ways to recruit and integrate new employees without ever meeting them face-to-face.
“The list goes on and on. And all of it happened almost overnight.”
Some organizations had the infrastructure in place at the onset of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Others struggled to keep up in some cases. It is, however, a trend we can expect to thrive in 2022 – especially as more workers head (back) home and UCC providers like Zoom tell ‘staffers’ they can work from home indefinitely.
A More Connected Culture
Whatever a return to work or “normal” looks like today – it is littered with opportunities for employers to curate new and different kinds of workplace experiences.
According to a report cited by Middleton, called the “Employee Experience – Moving to a Decisive New Model for the Future of Work: Dion Hinchcliffe, Vice President, Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, commented on the (connected) nature of the workplace, noting:
“On average, companies are using seven different tools for messaging, collaboration, file sharing, and meeting management.”
An Era of Integrated Communications
According to Middleton, change will be the only constant of 2022. Leaders will have to change staffing models and locations as work shifts to something we do, not somewhere we have to (physically) go.
“We can expect to see changing customer expectations and changing employee demands as events such as the Great Resignation and Great Reprioritization continue.”
Middleton continued, noting: as workers leave by the millions each month with expectations for better work/life balance, better pay, better culture, better technology, better you name it, customers, despite the disruption, will continue to expect more, more, more.
“This means changing customer and employee experiences, as business and talent – are no longer limited by time or place. Employees will expect to work any time from anywhere, and customers will expect the same 24/7 engagement.”
He added this implies that giving them access to integrated tools for increased productivity is increasingly necessary. A staggering 84% of organizations that deployed integrated cloud communications platforms (UC + CC) say they have reaped the benefit of greater employee productivity. This, according to the State of Business Communications Report.’
The Coronavirus Pandemic also brought on an era of ultra-automation, or hyper-automation, as 8×8 put it. What exactly is it? According to Middleton:
“The word hyper comes from Greek and is translated to: over, beyond, or above. Hyper-automation quite literally means accelerating your automation efforts to the next level using tools like Artificial Intelligence (AI).”
There is also single data source data mart, data lake, business process automation, and low-code/no-code tools. According to the PwC Future of Work Pulse Survey, 33% One-third of technology executives say they prioritize AI capabilities to personalize aspects of their business from products to services; and even experiences for customers and employees.
Customers are on every platform, and if they want to reach out via Twitter for technical support – they should be able to. With options for customer contact that range from SMS, voice, chatbots, live chat, etc., instant gratification is also everpresent and expexted.
Founder and Principal Analyst; Sheila McGee-Smith, Analytics, notes in the trends report: the expectation for instant CX is growing. Voice can no longer be the only option for certain transactions, she said, and continued, that companies often use digital options like chat or messaging to ensure they do not lose a sales lead, for instance.
Security Advancement & Digital Transformation Acceleration
On the two topics, 8×8 notes that your home office is now a threat vector; and that it is all the more reason for companies to remain extra vigilant about IT security in 2022. Omdia Future of Work Report supports the notion, adding:
“The top two enterprise priorities are now cyber security (58%) and hybrid working 55%, with customer experience, business processes, and better empowering frontline workers tied in third place at 49%.”
Finally, 8×8 highlights something we have all witnessed and undergone during the Coronavirus Pandemic – digital transformation. It doesn’t seem that we have had the chance to process just how much we have undergone, however.
By some projections, businesses underwent nearly a decade of digital transformation during the Coronavirus Pandemic. And Metrigy’s Workplace Collaboration outlook for 2021/2022 notes that more than 47% of companies now use, or plan to use, UCaaS to fuel calls. Eighty-two percent say they use video for all or most meetings.
You can download the full report here.