It seems that every year since Marc Andreessen famously declared “software is eating the world” in a Wall Street Journal essay, we’ve moved closer and closer to a world where every company is a software company and all of our data lives in the cloud. And 2019 will, on the surface, be no different. But I suspect the year ahead will be more impactful than we might initially think.
Of course, enterprises will continue to modernize their infrastructure and networks to reap significant business value, but many of these changes will also positively impact consumers in ways we haven’t seen before. For example, software and cloud will play an even bigger role in the customer experience (CX) space, where automation and real time communications will be combined with AI to improve every aspect of CX and meet the demands of consumers. Further, thanks to the ongoing rise in applications and software, people will be more connected to “things” than ever before.
Here are my top three predictions for 2019:
Bringing People and Things Closer Together with Applications
This year will be the breakout year for applications that combine people and things, communicating with each other, whether through voice activated commands (“Alexa, call Mom”) or messaging alerts (“A stranger is on your doorstep”). The lines will blur and tremendous value will be created when companies design applications, connected on secure networks, that make it as easy to develop a relationship with your smart car, smart home, or smart campus as it is to develop a relationship with human beings. The impact will be substantial and meaningful, with applications that leverage sensors to help us monitor medical conditions remotely without having to visit the doctor or hospital, get to and from work more conveniently, and to generally reduce the “friction” that today’s fast-paced world can cause. Look for major changes to the contact center industry, as virtual and human assistants help millions of people navigate this brave, new hyperconnected world, and look for value creation in securing communications throughout.
All Software, All the Time
The move to network functions virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) is well underway, but we are not there yet. In 2019, tremendous progress will be made when the industry “delaminates” as the personal computer industry did, abstracting software from hardware, and delivering software loads for everything from Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to messaging to video-collaboration in the real-time communications (RTC) world on “bare metal servers.” The winners will be the companies who understand their strengths and can seamlessly work with other ecosystem partners to deliver software-based solutions that are non-proprietary and easy to access and deploy, to help enterprises keep up with today’s demanding, tech savvy end users.
Omni-channel Engagement for Awesome Customer Experience
Customer Experience or “CX” is becoming the main differentiator for brands when their customers value the experience of better service, whether they are making a decision to buy something, or need help along the way. But providing great experiences across all channels (mobile, social, voice, messaging, self-help and more) is harder than it seems, especially when budgets are under pressure. There is no option when it comes to CX. Customers are getting used to enhanced experiences and want better and better service, in a shorter period of time, with more accurate answers, and better outcomes. Companies will need to keep up with these expectations or fall farther behind. The right real-time communications technology and automation advance the customer experience when combined with great human agents. AI helps make this easier, with hundreds of innovators in the emerging CX and contact center industry inventing new ways to interact with the customer, reinventing business processes, and otherwise completely changing the game for brands and consumers. AI is not easy. But once it is planned, deployed, and leveraged through new management and coaching models, huge benefits accrue including more business insight – and better compliance.
While enterprises will certainly achieve these milestones at differing times – including adopting disruptive technologies such as AI, IoT and SDN in varying degrees and success rates – these ideas and trends ultimately lead to one thing: enterprises that can operate more effectively and efficiently, and deliver better services, solutions and outcomes to their customers.
Patrick Joggerst is CMO & EVP of Business Development for Ribbon Communications