In 2021, with the pandemic dragging on, workforces everywhere relied on digital tools to communicate and collaborate -- voice, chat, and video apps were a part of everyday workflows. For certain users, however, those tools didn't really fit their needs. In 2022, they can expect a better experience, predicts Hunter Middleton, chief product officer for 8x8.
"The next big innovation for unified communications users will not be a technical innovation," he said to reporters this week. "It will be a focus on the user experience."
There are whole segments of users, Middleton said, "that have more needs than the traditional back-office worker, but not so many needs that they require a fancy omnichannel contact center app."
That could include sales teams collaborating around opportunities, event staff organized and reorganized each day into project teams, retail floor staff that are tag-teaming curbside pickup SMS notifications, or caseworker teams serving constituents.
Those users have been poorly served by the market so far, Middleton argued, even with several companies competing for their business -- 8x8, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Avaya, Webex, RingCentral, and LogMeIn, to name a few.
"This is the year you will start to see use-case focused, composed user experiences take the forefront in the evolution of collaboration and communications applications, not the next technology innovation," Middleton said.
Composed user experiences were one of eight trends that 8x8 expects to see within the cloud communications sector in 2022.
Perhaps the most anticipated trend is the adoption of the agile workplace. "In less than two years, we've done a collective 180, and then another and then another, in terms of where, when, and how we work," Middleton said.
Instead of thinking about embracing hybrid work, he said, organizations should be thinking about building agile workplaces that allow workers to "move seamlessly between a remote model and a hybrid or in-office model without missing a beat."
That entails providing agile technology, Middleton continued. "From cloud-based connectivity to integrated collaboration tools, the ability to easily switch between devices... This will empower people to perform their best no matter where they are."
Next, as organizations embrace agile workplaces, they'll have to embrace a connected culture, Middleton said.
"The good news is hybrid work and the agile workplace are inherently digital and thus inherently friendly to advances in analytical techniques, engagement and collaboration tools, workforce behavior support tools, two-way communication channels, and other technologies designed to help companies with their employee engagement."
These tools -- many of which simply weren't available just a few years ago -- should take off this year.
At the same time, Middleton predicted organizations this year will gravitate toward integrated communications tools, rather than adopting a collection of applications from different vendors. "We are entering the era of truly integrated single platform cloud communications," he said.
The next trend Middleton foresees is the adoption of hyper-communication -- the ability to engage with customers in real time. Along with that, he expects organizations to adopt hyper-automation -- the use of data and AI to automatically adjust how an organization prioritizes its customer communications.
"A key part of this a flexible integrated communication platform with strong APIs to enable dynamic integration with your workflow automation," Middleton said. "The bar has moved well beyond the automated message saying we can call you back in 60 seconds."
Predictably, security will be top of mind for CIOs and IT leaders this year as they think about communications, Middleton said. And lastly, 2022 will only accelerate the digital transformation trend.
"There's still a large on-premise install base of communications capabilities," he said. "In 2022 we will see cloud adoption move beyond video and chat to the full communications landscape."