Even though the global hosted PBX market was expected to grow by $7.6 billion during the 2019 to 2025 period, the pandemic will likely result in an even higher adoption rate by corporates looking to digitalise existing processes. Part of this can be attributed to the increase in remote working while rapidly evolving technology has made the transition to a hosted PBX environment much easier than before.
Today, the PBX has become a complete communications platform. Organisations can leverage it to engage with their stakeholders with more context, at improved speeds, and greater accuracy. Thanks to the unprecedented demand for data and the need to use the high performance computing capabilities of the cloud to unlock its potential for the organisation, companies are more open to embarking on such a hosted journey.
Terms like VoIP and PBX will be replaced by a new approach – one built on the principles of a communications platform as a service (CPaaS). Already, every major internet browser has WebRTC built in. This open framework enables real-time communications on browsers and even mobile apps. In such a dynamic environment, the use of VoIP (that provides a singular voice call service) is becoming outdated.
What began with PBX has turned into a richer, more powerful communication environment. In fact, the CPaaS segment is forecast to top $17 billion globally by 2023. This cloud-based platform enables developers to add real-time communications features to their own applications without needing to build back-end infrastructure and interfaces. Fundamentally, CPaaS will integrate communications directly into key business applications, leapfrogging the nebulous ‘unified’ communications and delivering a rich quality of engagement.
Just consider how the data generated in such a business application can help bring better insights into customer requirements and even product development. When used in conjunction with smarter and more useful artificial intelligence and machine learning, this data can be mined, understood, and analysed. Businesses and their customers will now be able to benefit from greater speed and accuracy.
Take for example the dreaded auto-complete feature. Instead of missing the context in which a message is written (inevitably resulting in the wrong word choice), it becomes a useful ally in more effective communication. Smarter and more accurate virtual assistants will not only suggest the correct word, but also entire sentences. Applications like Grammarly could become embedded into all forms of communication. And with their enhanced natural language processing capabilities, people might not even have to type anymore.
New ways of working
Relevant to the current crisis, the growth of contactless technologies will also impact on communications. From voice recognition, biometrics, and proximity systems, all the way through to a smartwatch reminding a person to wash their hands regularly (and timing it for 20 seconds), the drive to make daily tasks as contactless as possible will intensify.
Of course, as more data is generated through this rich communication and engagement environment, concerns will inevitably turn to its security and the privacy of users. This is where the likes of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) are critical. Those local organisations not prepared for POPI best act now as the penalties for non-compliance are severe, ranging from millions of Rands to even jail time for executives. Fortunately, as data becomes integrated into all aspects of a business, the need to adhere to compliance will be instrumental for organisational success.
Providing a much-needed link in the new communications chain is that of the API (application programming interface). In simplistic terms, an API defines interactions between multiple software intermediaries. For example, by facilitating interoperability with CRM systems, APIs are becoming key enablers to the much-vaunted omni-channel environment. These allow disparate systems to communicate with each other and are vital to all communication, data processing, and interactions with all cloud services.
All told, the way communication is managed at an organisational level has changed to better reflect the requirements of business today. And it is only through the scalability and capabilities of a cloud environment where it can truly be unlocked for decision-makers.