Jed Hewson, joint-CEO and co-founder of 1Stream, examines the knowledge gleaned from last year to predict some of the business trends and influences that will impact on the economy.
* Fibre – South Africans are finally having fibre delivered to them. With the rollout of fibre across the country, the full potential of cloud technology and connectivity can permeate our lives: both in the home and at work. 2017 showcased a fundamental shift in the cloud marketplace thanks to the accessibility of fibre and the potential it unlocks for the enterprise.
* SD-WAN – SD-WAN is the next layer of fibre ubiquity that allows the business to free itself from the complexities of multiprotocol label switching (MPLS). It is agile, introduces an additional layer of security and high availability on the router, is link agnostic, and allows the user to configure and manage systems rather than hire specialist engineers. SD-WAN is, quite simply, a better way to use fibre.
* Artificial intelligence and chatbots – 2017 taught us is that there are number of players in the artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbot arena. Until now, connectivity limitations and infrastructure in South Africa have slowed its uptake, but it seems very likely that these services will soon be far more accessible.
* Integration – In the past, integration in the call centre meant lengthy and expensive projects to connect on-site proprietary systems and usually needed the involvement of highly specialised developers. The cost and effort to implement and maintain integrations made the business case for smaller call centres hard to justify. As modern cloud technologies are designed for remote connection and generally offer “open-Standard” APIs such as Web Services, integration today is faster and less expensive to deploy. With the rise of cloud-based integration systems, 2017 saw a resurgence of integration in contact centres of all sizes. These systems are designed to use agile methodologies, open and industry standards, with remote connectivity. The integrations of the past year have been more flexible and efficient, faster, cheaper, and designed with more modern technology in mind.
* The omnichannel – As the call centre adopts an increasing array of channels through which to communicate and collaborate with customers and employees, it is also adopting an increasingly complicated ecosystem that demands improved management accessibility and capability. In 2017, the omnichannel demonstrated both its relevance and its high maintenance. There is a growing number of companies looking for solutions that can streamline all these channels with central reporting and real-time data functionality.
* The hypercloud – The big four hyperclouds are here at last. Amazon, Azure, IBM and Google are coming to Africa, and with them brings a bevy of services that will see competition for cloud dominance hit an all-time African high. In the past, cloud offerings were limited as the hypercloud leaders were unavailable and the cost and complexities involved in bringing tools to Africa were prohibitive. Now, however, this is all about to change, and the next step is anyone’s guess.
* The end of on-premise – This past year has shown how businesses are finding it increasingly difficult to justify on-premise solutions. This is being further influenced by shadow cloud or stealth-cloud, where employees and individuals are introducing their own cloud solutions and IT environments, without the influence of IT. This trend was firmly entrenched throughout 2017 and triggered the corporate understanding that they will have to move off-premise at some point. However, in order to proceed, they will need a clear strategy to define how they manage their providers within their infrastructure.