As consistent as autumn foliage and Halloween frights in front yards, IT trend prediction season begins unofficially in October with Gartner revealing its annual prognostications. This week, the analyst firm published its Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021 and its Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2021 and Beyond at the firm’s technology symposium. David Cearley, a distinguished VP analyst at Gartner, lays out his firm’s technology trends nicely in this video.

Connective Tissue with 8x8

Looking closely at their trends forecast, you can see connective tissue between their trends and what the 8x8 Open Communications PlatformTM solves for our customers. Our Operate-From-Anywhere mantra aligns with the “anywhere operations” trend. Gartner's view is broader than ours—including more security and networking infrastructure—but we agree that the trend of creating distributed work environments where employees can be productive serving customers from anywhere will be big in 2021.

Operate From Anywhere in 2021

I call the period between March and May of 2020 the Operate-From-Anywhere band-aid phase. Global lockdowns were occurring and many organizations needed quick fixes to enable full remote work capabilities for all their employees. In many cases, organizations didn’t have time to be strategic about policies, they needed to keep generating revenue.

Once summer and fall hit, organizations had time to be more thoughtful and many adopted cloud communications as part of their effort to adapt to the new normal. The question shifted from do we need to transform our work environment to how are we going to get it done in a way that sets us up for long-term success.

As we head towards 2021, the industry is going to get even more interesting. You have technology laggards that delayed updating their contact centers or adopting cloud phone systems. You also have organizations that did so and now have hard data and real user experiences to evaluate how their Operate-From-Anywhere program is going.

These companies will likely apply their learnings to invest more in some areas and less in others (both in services and vendors). The key is that so much time has been spent this year to rebuild operational business models like Operate From Anywhere that the foundation is now laid to introduce innovative services that help organizations take Operate From Anywhere to the next level. For example, a business that deployed cloud phone and collaboration tools this year for their office workers may want to add more than just seats. They may look to upgrade contact center capabilities, integrate more business applications, or add more personalization capabilities. (See how the 8x8 Open Communications Platform facilitates this.)

All this means that you can expect a frenzy from cloud communications vendors in 2021 to innovate and provide great customer experiences, which is a win for all the organizations hoping to continue their business transformation and outpace their competition.

Total Experience

Gartner identified total experience as another 2021 technology trend.

Total Experience (TX) is a combination of customer, employee, and user experiences. Gartner said these experiences will be critical amid distributed organizations and those firms that get behind TX will boost satisfaction across the board (source: Gartner sees 'internet of behaviors,' automation, AI, experiences key 2021 technologies” by Larry Dignan).

When I read “total experience,” the first thing I think of is the contact center. Industry expert Dave Michels says in his latest NoJitter post that the contact center “is the most advanced slice of enterprise communications. Call center interactions can have big financial impacts and that’s why it’s quick to apply new technologies.”

I’d argue that 2021 will be the Year of the Contact Center because so many of the latest communications innovations are coming to it quickly as Michels suggested. More and more video is coming to the contact center both for video conferencing and self-service purposes. Using SMS for personalized customer interactions is becoming increasingly popular and yes that fits in right with a contact center capabilities portfolio. Much of the AI development in communications is focused around the contact center to enable smarter dialing strategies and to automatically provide customers with resources that matter to them.

8x8 and Prediction Season

Anywhere operations and total experience were the two trends that stuck out to me the most. There are obviously others that are tangential to what we do and that are important to our customers particularly relating to security and networking. Definitely read the Gartner report.

Channeling my inner Captain Obvious, another big trend we are confident of is BYOC or bring-your-own-carrier. Organizations want control of their phone bill and set of phone numbers. BYOC gives them a lot of flexibility. While there are different BYOC flavors, the big one that everyone cares about is a direct routing solution for Microsoft Teams. We introduced Voice for Teams earlier this year. Team’s growth as a dominant collaboration tool has created enormous interest by customers to enhance it with improved calling tools without disrupting the user experience. No doubt that adopting direct routing solutions for Teams will be a big 2021 tech trend.

As prediction season rolls on, 8x8 will be providing more in-depth predictions of our own from a variety of different voices. Happy IT Prediction Season!