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RingCentral's new features aimed at improving hybrid work

When the pandemic began, most of the UC-as-a-Service providers--RingCentral included--had basic functions. Since then, there has been a mad dash to add more features.
Written by Zeus Kerravala, Contributor

RingCentral has revealed several new capabilities for its Message Video Phone (MVP) unified communications platform to make meetings more secure, feature-rich, and easier to use. The pandemic drove the adoption of products such as RingCentral's, and the usage of it has remained high as the world remains in an indefinite hybrid work mode. UC apps enable workers to collaborate when they are physically distant, often with better results than if they were in the same room. 

When the pandemic began, most of the UC-as-a-Service (UCaaS) providers -- RingCentral included -- had basic functions. Since then, there has been a mad dash to add more features to improve the products. This set of product updates adds several innovations that address some of the key aspects of remote work.

Specifically, RingCentral announced the following: 

  • Dynamic end-to-end encryption (E2EE): This is a term that has caused great confusion in the UC industry because some vendors stretched the definition. E2EE is not just about encrypting data in flight. It also requires encrypting data at rest and at every point in the journey. There is a debate as to where and when the data should be encrypted. One might think all calls but then some of the vendor tools, such as transcription, may not work because the data is encrypted. RingCentral now offers dynamic E2EE, in which users can turn E2EE on or off mid-meeting across its mobile and desktop clients or through the browser. With other vendors, the user needs to shut down the meeting, turn on encryption, and then start the meeting again. Now it can be used whenever necessary. 
  • C5:2020 certification compliance: The Cloud Computing Compliance Criteria Catalog, or C5, is a set of security controls that was developed by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) in Germany. The certification was first published in 2016 and was BSI's guideline for cloud computing security. With this release, RingCentral announced that its MVP, Video Pro, Video Pro+, Engage Digital, and Engage Voice products are all compliant with C5:2020. Buyers should do their homework on this; most UCaaS providers claim to be C5 compliant, but most only meet the 2016 certification. 
  • RingCentral Add-Ins: This brings a number of leading apps into RingCentral Team Messaging for an integrated workflow. For example, instead of having to download a file from RingCentral and then upload it into DocuSign for a digital signature, users can sign directly in RingCentral through the DocuSign add-in. In addition to DocuSign, RingCentral will have add-ins with Akazio, Asana, BugSnag, Github, Hubspot, Jira, Keeper AI, Prodoscore, RingClone, and Trello with more coming. These are in addition to the more than 250 apps integrations in the RingCentral AppGallery.  Add-in integrations will be available mid-October, but developers can build now. 
  • Microsoft Teams embedded dialer: Microsoft Teams has seen a significant boost in usage with the pandemic, because the bundling with Office 365 made it fast and easy for businesses to adopt it. While Teams is adequate in the areas of messaging and video, its calling function is expensive and lacks many of the key features that businesses now require. RingCentral for Microsoft Teams brings Ring's best-in-class enterprise calling capabilities to Teams. The integration makes the RingCentral dial pad available directly in Teams; this lets customers use Teams for messaging but will have a significantly better calling experience than with Teams calling. 
  • Mobile Heads Up Display (HUD): Earlier this year, RingCentral added HUD functionality to its desktop app enabling power users, such as admins and receptionists, to have a centralized view of all callable extensions. The HUD will be available on the mobile client by year-end. Two years ago, this feature wasn't needed, but now that more of the world is working from home, the ability to manage call queues and other information from a mobile device is necessary. 
  • Team huddle capabilities: This is an interesting extension to MVP, because it enables users to create ad-hoc collaborative spaces in which users can pop in and out as they desire. A good analogy is how Discord works, where gamers can jump into and out of collaborative sessions. This is targeted at use cases where a person or team would want to let people drop in at their leisure. IT service desks, HR departments, or break-out rooms at events are good examples. 
  • Enhancements to immersive experiences: Last year RingCentral launched its own video capabilities as an alternative to the Zoom partnership. Since then, it has quickly added capabilities that have brought it to par with much of the field. This week it added the following video experiences: 
    1. breakout rooms for small group discussions within meetings; 

    2. transparent speaker when overlay mode is used.  Without this, the active speaker can often block on-screen content;  

    3. new immersive scenes such as virtual conference rooms and newsrooms to better replicate an in-person session; 

    4. auto-framing capabilities that continuously center the speaker. While many cameras do this, RingCentral does this in software and will work with any camera; 

    5. touch up appearances, where users can touch up their skin, add virtual makeup, color their lips and whiten their teeth. This is an example where virtual meetings can have an advantage over in person. 

It's been a busy few months for RingCentral, but in a pre-briefing, the company told me to be on the lookout for more news soon. The Enterprise Connect event is at the end of September, and RingCentral is a major sponsor, so I'm expecting news there. Buyers of UCaaS products are the real winners here because RingCentral and its competitors have all stepped on the innovation pedal and are rolling out new features at an unprecedented rate.

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