Imagine two articles on the topic 'Trends in Communication and Collaboration for 2020,' the first one in January and the second one in March.

Only a few weeks apart but, no doubt, they would be wildly different stories. The coronavirus pandemic, quarantine, isolation, and social-distancing measures have upended the workplace at an astonishing speed.

As we grapple with the new reality, online collaboration tools, such as cloud-based phone systems, are playing a critical role in reorganizing how we work. Companies need tools for people to work over long distances and make up for the lack of face-to-face time. Video conferences, group chats, integrated calendars, and real-time analytics are all becoming more important than ever before.

Things have changed so fast. In January, a well-organised cloud phone service was important. In March, it's absolutely vital. Communication in 2020 must be integrated for all users so that each platform feeds into the others, creating a new online communal space.

Let's take a closer look at some of the features you should be using in 2020.

Video Meetings

Millions of people are discovering the joys and frustrations of video conferencing. What your company needs is a system that connects everyone in a few clicks. It has to offer unlimited minutes and let people connect from anywhere on any device.

High-quality video and audio output, plus an intuitive user interface, should be non-negotiable. After all, what's the point of communication tools if you can't understand each other? As more people and more people use video for communication, innovation in video conferencing is likely over the next few months.

Team Messaging

Voice calls and video chat aren't the only ways to communicate. It's important for your team to have an integrated and unified messaging system that they can log into from anywhere. Using any device, they should be able to join conversations as they’re happening. The unified system should ideally have group chat, commenting threads, chat room, SMS, and private messaging features.

First-class, centralised messaging is critical for remote teams. The right platform keeps a record of who's doing what and what needs to be done.

Integration With Business Applications

The number of people working remotely is likely to increase in 2020. Businesses use different apps to get things done. So your communications system should be able to integrate with other business applications. The pandemic in 2020 is forcing us to self-isolate and work from home. This makes integration with existing business applications in the areas of productivity, security, and customer service even more important.

Aim for a cloud communications solution that works well with programs such as G Suite, Salesforce, or HubSpot. Having the ability to click once from within Gmail or Google Calendar and be connected to a client straightaway saves you time. Features like integrated search let you retrieve any name, contact number, and email information without opening multiple tabs. These powerful integrations bring a new level of sophistication and convenience to your communications.

User-Friendly Artificial Intelligence (AI) Is Here

For years, companies have been hearing about AI integrating seamlessly with their technology. Early results were mixed, but digital assistance and AI are finally at a point where they can be used for handling, storing, and analysing company data. Not only that, but AI can also translate languages in real-time. It can take meeting notes and deliver automated transcriptions within minutes. AI is clearly reaching a tipping point where its use will become widespread.

Tech That Keeps Up With All the Changes

The way we work is changing dramatically right in front of our eyes. And there is no guarantee that things will go back to what they were before. Luckily, tech companies have been developing sophisticated collaboration systems that will allow us to navigate the new rules of work and figure out a way forward in these trying times.

It's never been more important for small businesses to find suitable communication tools that work for them. These same tools can keep companies thriving as we enter a period of prolonged social distancing.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Contact a solutions expert to learn more about how a cloud-based system of engagement that integrates phone, meetings, team messaging, and contact center capabilities can lower costs and improve customer service. Call 0333 043 888 or visit 8x8.