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Seven Unified Communications and Collaboration Trends for 2013

Mobile, social and visual communications are reshaping how people communicate and collaborate. Here are seven trends certain to continue brewing in 2013.

  • Mad for mobile. Walking down the street with your eyes glued to your phone. Secretly checking email and texting under the table. These behaviors aren’t for teenagers only anymore. It seems everyone is doing it, and that the world has gone mad for mobile. IDC predicts that 1.7 billion mobile phones will ship by the end of the year, up nearly 9 percent from last year. The tablet market is on track to exceed 100 million shipments this year, says ABI Research. Mobile isn’t only a personal convenience. Mobile devices allow workers to be more productive. According to a U.K. study, people with email on their smartphones and tablets work two more hours a day — that’s 460 hours a year.

  • BYOD bursts out. People want the convenience of using one smartphone and one tablet for both business and personal use, while maintaining separate work and personal identities. Bring your own device (BYOD) means fewer mobile devices to carry and maintain. According to Aberdeen Research, more than 80 percent of companies allowed workers to use personal mobile devices to access business applications and information as of this summer. As BYOD takes firm root, managing, securing and controlling personally owned mobile devices as well as their applications and information will be a major focus for organizations in 2013.

  • Work is an activity, not a place. Using social, mobile and visual communications makes it easier to work from anywhere and at any time. Incorporating real-time collaboration tools into the workflow becomes even more important as the next generation of workers — often called Millennials — come into the workforce en masse. Millennials expect to use smartphones, tablets and laptops for work, just as they did in school. And be it texting or video chat, they want communications methods that are immediate and interactive. An increasingly virtual workplace also benefits the sandwich generation of workers, who are trying to balance work and family in their own way.

  • Cloud blows in. As companies look to shift IT costs to a predictable operational expense, not a periodic and big capital investment, cloud services, hosted solutions and managed services are taking fast flight. Cloud has captured the imagination of businesses of all sizes. Almost half of small and midsize businesses (SMB) use cloud services today, according to Spiceworks. Web hosting and email top the list today, but look for collaboration and IP telephony to migrate to the cloud in 2013 and beyond.

  • Social customer service emerges. Leveraging social media in the enterprise and with customers was named one of the most important UCC challenges of 2013 by Frost & Sullivan. Social media is reshaping the customer experience. People can tap into their social media circles and give your company a rave review — or a negative one — in a highly visible way. And if that person is a celebrity or has a large following online, the word can spread like wildfire. Companies that can successfully integrate social media into their traditional sales, service and support channels can open up the conversation in new and exciting ways.

  • Videoconferencing turns up. When you think of video, you may think of an immersive experience with a telepresence system in a fancy boardroom. But videoconferencing doesn’t have to cost big bucks. People are videoconferencing right from their mobile phones, tablets and laptops for casual collaboration. Look for videoconference and video chat to be used more widely for collaboration on the fly.

  • Virtualization comes to UC. Most organizations have virtualized many applications and servers in their data centers, but they have been slow to virtualize UC applications. But with today’s mature solutions, companies can virtualize communications and collaboration applications without concerns about the impact to smooth business operations. If you haven’t virtualized your UC applications, put it on your IT to-do list for 2013. It’s an easy first step to squeezing out more efficiencies and improving business continuity.