UCaaS: Building a future-proof comms and collaboration backbone for your business

We’ve come a long way since the rush to enable everyone to work remotely during the first lockdowns in 2020. But, it’s fair to say that most organisations still have some gaps in the infrastructure and applications they provide to their teams for collaboration and communication. Many still face high costs in maintaining legacy architectures, while the promise of truly unified communication and collaboration is yet to be fulfilled.

In many workplaces, the communication and collaboration experience is still fragmented, with inconsistencies between remote and office workers; between mobile, fixed-line and PC experiences; and between different applications and tools employees use to get their work done. And while voice and video call quality have improved in leaps and bounds, choppy audio and pixelated visuals can sometimes impair the user experience.

As companies increase their focus on employee engagement and customer experience, they need to embrace modern communications and collaboration platforms that support the worlds of hybrid work and customer self-service. For many, the optimal solution lies in unified communications & collaboration as a service (UCaaS), which turns communications into a cloud-based offering.

A cloud-based unified comms and collaboration platform will offer an integrated solution spanning three major components: traditional telephone features such as voicemail, call routing, and call recording; collaboration and messaging tools such as instant messaging, presence information, file sharing, and audio/video conferencing; and integration of comms tools into other business applications, such as CRM and ERP systems.

Market to grow to $211 billion by 2027

Though unified communications and as-a-service offerings are not new ideas, the pandemic has accelerated adoption around the world. According to one research report, the global market for UCaaS is forecast to grow from $57.3 billion in 2020 to $211.4 billion by 2027, recording a compound annual growth rate of 20.5% over the period. By the end of the year, 70% of organisations worldwide are expected to be using some form of UCaaS.

The benefits of UCaaS echo those of many other as-a-service solutions, such as software as a service (SaaS) and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). UCaaS turns unified communication and collaboration into a secure managed service, hosted in the public or private cloud. Companies are freed from needing to maintain hardware and software infrastructure themselves; furthermore, they turn comms from a capital expense into an operational cost.

Above all, UCaaS enables companies to rapidly modernise their communications and collaboration environment with a single, scalable platform that will evolve with the latest developments in the market. UCaaS enables companies to deploy a single platform with a wide range of capabilities within one easy-to-use interface. As a cloud-based service, it should ideally be easy to access from any device.

This supports the imperative of improving productivity and the employee experience in a time of remote and hybrid work. One area on which vendors and enterprises alike are focusing is improving the end-user experience in virtual and mixed (virtual and real-world attendee) meetings. For example, there is growing interest in artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that use noise cancellation or automatically record and transcribe conversations.

Helping out hybrid teams

Meanwhile, collaboration solutions spanning instant chat, file sharing, real-time whiteboarding tools and more, have become a basic requirement. Solutions such as these can help hybrid teams to feel more connected when some of them are together in the office boardroom and others are logging in from their desks at home. Personalisation of UCaaS tools to cater for different remote, hybrid and in-office worker profiles is also key.

For example, many solutions already allow users to customise their UCaaS chat app theme or add virtual backgrounds to video conferencing. Personalisation increasingly also means offering users features such as the ability to build to-do lists into their collaboration hub or to integrate UCaaS tools and features with approved apps to boost productivity.

A key part of the appeal of UCaaS solutions is that they are future-proof. Most offer open application programming interfaces (APIs) to support integration of an enterprise’s existing applications as well as of new features and applications it might want to add down the line. With innovations like AI and virtual reality waiting in the wings, companies will want to be ready.

In a modern enterprise, a robust communications backbone is essential to productivity and customer experience. UCaaS puts tools in the workforce’s hands that enable them to gain an omni-channel view of the customer, so that they can offer great experiences and service. In future, this will encompass self-service channels that offer a lower cost to service, but without losing the human touch.

UCaaS is a foundational technology for digital transformation. It enables companies to fast-track the deployment of modern collaboration solutions that, in turn, enable them to transform their operations and offerings. It enables enterprises to not only meet employee expectations for modern working tools, but also to elevate their customer experience.