After all the surprises of 2015 it seems like a risky bet to try and make predictions for 2016. However, there are some trends which are undeniably growing and will influence the development of business video and communications in the next 12 months. Let’s take a quick look.
Persistent Team Messaging (PTM)
Prediction: Continued Viral Growth
This one is actually pretty easy. When a service becomes the fastest growing business app ever, it’s time to take notice. Slack reached a $1 billion valuation in just two years, and then hit $2 billion a mere 5 months later.
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) February 10, 2014
The deeper you dive into Slack, or the PTM phenomena in general, the more interesting it gets. This isn’t just a better way to send instant message to your team, it is a completely new workflow that can drastically change your team’s relationships, dynamics, and output. While those who still don’t get it may dismiss it as “yet another communication tool to check every day” those of us who use it realize that it naturally replaces many of the other tools. Rowan Trollope likes to share his actual usage data which shows a 90% reduction in his emails after switching to Cisco Spark’s earliest iteration (then called Project Squared). While I haven’t tracked my email usage, I am sure my results from using PTM solutions are very similar (at least as far as internal communications is concerned).
Resolution: Use PTM With Externals
As I alluded to earlier, while I use PTM with my team, I have not been using it with externals. The result is a significant difference in workflow and organization. When I want to check the status of an internal project, I simply go to the correct PTM channel (co-space, room, etc) and read up. When I want to check the status of an external project, I am back to searching through a mess of emails. I resolve to try and create channels for projects including externals to further reduce my email inbox clutter. I also hope, as an early PTM adopter, to create content sharing some of the tricks and tips I have learned over the last few years.
Internet of Things
Prediction: Steady Creep Towards Inevitability
There is no “if” about the IoT. The only question is when. The answer is that it has already started, but will take a few more years to realize the vision. There are two areas to look for IoT growth in 2016.
The first area is the “things” themselves. Expect to see a lot of things become smart things (iThings?) in 2016. We are already used to the concept as our thermostats are being replaced by Nest thermostats (the archetypal IoT device). Some devices, like the Nest, will be inherently smart. Others will have to be redesigned or reinvented. Yet others will be made smart with addons or connections. For example, I recently turned my guitar into an IoT guitar by connecting it to my computer. When I play a song, my computer analyzes every note and uploads the results to the cloud where my performance can be ranked among my fellow IoT guitar players. I am using consumer device examples because they are easy to understand and make the point, but I expect many workplace devices to be IoT enabled as well, and business video will be a big part of this new world.
The second area of IoT growth will be in the cloud services that connect to and support all of these new smart devices. Your smart phone isn’t nearly as smart when it can’t connect to the internet. But connecting to the internet is only part of the story. Just as most apps on your phone are connecting to an online service specifically supporting that particular app, most of the new IoT devices will have their own service. The Nest doesn’t just connect to the internet, it connects to the Nest service. Some services will be developed in tandem with new devices (as was the case with the Nest), and some services will be created to help transform existing devices into iThings (like my guitar). The key is that many of these services (especially in the business context) will need to support video, which means massive increases in bandwidth usage which will require a lot of work behind the scenes to upgrade our internet infrastructure.
Final prediction, the term IoT itself is going to be used and abused in ways that make us collectively roll our eyes. We saw it with telepresence and with UC. When a term gets a lot of buzz in our industry, it gets overused and misused. Just as we now have countless telepresence products that do not meet ANY analyst definition of telepresence we should expect to see a lot of products and services promoted as IoT regardless of whether they are truly IoT.
Resolution: Get In Early
I don’t want to merely cover this field. I want to be an early adopter as much as possible. I will be on the lookout as new IoT devices and services come to market and will actively seek them out, especially those that relate to business video.
Prediction: Continued Success and Potential Rollups
The demand for cloud video is so strong that a large number of players are enjoying massive growth, despite being in a completely overcrowded field. There are far too many video vendors pulling up a chair at the table, yet there is still more than enough meat on the table for everyone. Only 3% of business meeting rooms that are suitable for video are currently video enabled. The other 97% is up for grabs. However, at some point the market will be saturated and we should expect more roll-ups. The Cisco purchase of Acano was a big sign that the time for market consolidation has already started. There are already plenty of rumors (none of which can be substantiated in the slightest) that Polycom is looking to follow Cisco’s lead by purchasing Pexip or another likely suspect.
Resolution: Provide Better Coverage
There is still far too much confusion in the market. Many business video users still don’t know the basic difference between VC platforms (Acano, Cisco, Pexip, Polycom, Vidyo, etc.) and VC cloud services (Blue Jeans, Lifesize, Starleaf, Ubiety, Videxio, Zoom, etc.). And users certainly are having trouble keeping up on the specific differentiators between the various available offerings. As a writer/analyst in the space it is my job to help clarify the market and its players. My intention is to ensure that Let’s Do Video continues to be the best place on the web for those looking to better understand these solutions.
Traditional Business Video Use Cases
Prediction: From 3% to 25%+
Ever since the famous AT&T demo at the 1964 World’s Fair, analysts have been predicting “The Year of Video” has arrived. I refuse to ever make such a prediction, but video is finally realizing its true role as a replacement for the telephone. For years we tried to make it a replacement for travel, but that really wasn’t a good fit. I make hundreds of video calls every month. None of them replace travel. Every video call I make is simply an upgrade for what would have been a phone call. To be clear, video won’t replace, or even overtake, audio in 2016. But it will continue to bite into it. In terms of business video, we have plenty of meeting spaces with a conference phone. Remote attendees are second class citizens for these meetings when they connect with audio. As we transform these spaces from meeting rooms to working rooms, we need to bring the remote attendees to first class status, so they can participate and contribute effectively. I don’t expect us to enable 100% of our potential meeting spaces in 2016, but I expect it will rise dramatically from its current 3%.
Resolution: Continued Evangalization
I truly believe in the benefits of business video over audio-only (when appropriate). I have seen the difference it makes in the productivity, effectiveness, and relationship building with my own team, partners, and clients. As a believer, my coverage of this industry will never be a dry reporting of the latest developments, but will always be in the context of the massive benefits that can be realized by the adoption of business video.
New Business Video Use Cases
Prediction: Surprises and Innovation
I predict that we will be seeing a lot more uses of business video outside of the meeting room context. It is now affordable and flexible enough for us to get creative and innovative, offering new services and even new business models based on completely new uses of video.
Resolution: Be On the Lookout
Let’s Do Video is determined to bring you the best stories about innovative uses of business video in 2016. In fact, in our final podcast of 2015 we shared the story of how CBCI is using video to support horse training. A far cry from the boardroom video of yesterday.
Expect surprises. Things are moving quickly, and in unexpected directions. Gone are the days of slightly improved video products year after year. We have an industry full of bold players making big changes. One thing for sure, 2016 is going to be a very interesting year for business video.