Hunter Middleton, chief product officer, 8×8, talks to Comms Business about the opportunity channel companies have to capitalise on the continuing movement toward cloud capabilities.
Unified communications and collaboration solutions have hit the mainstream, but many organisations are still on the journey towards adopting these technologies. Hunter Middleton, chief product officer, 8×8, leads product management and design at 8×8, including all of the company’s integrated cloud communication, contact centre, and video collaboration solutions. He spoke to Comms Business about “interrelated trends that should be top of mind for every CIO and IT director this year”.
Middleton said, “In less than two years, we’ve done a collective 180, and then another, when it comes to where, when and how we work. The need – and now the demand – for remote and hybrid work has really changed the way we communicate and collaborate. The first of the trends that we need to speak to is the agile workplace. During the course of this past year, the phrase ‘hybrid workplace’ may have become one of the biggest buzzwords, but organisations should really instead be thinking about an agile workplace.”
This, Middleton explained, is a workplace that enables teams or individuals to move seamlessly between remote and office-based working “without missing a beat”. There is an opportunity for channel companies to work with customers to identify their technology needs.
Middleton added, “Companies understand that having agile technology is going to be key to making this work. From cloud-based connectivity to integrated collaboration tools, the ability to easily switch between devices, laptops, mobile phones, and in-room systems [will be essential]. This will empower people to perform their best no matter where they are.”
Middleton recalled a recent panel discussion that he recently took part in. He was asked what the next big technical innovation will be for unified communications users. His answer was that the next big technical innovation for users will not be a technical innovation, it will be a focus on the user experience.
He explained, “In 2021, employee experience tools combining voice chat video became ubiquitous, enabling continued collaboration and customer engagement as everyone moved to remote work.
“But a large number of these users are finding that what they got last year from providers is a lot of features, a lot of technology, but not a lot of understanding of what they have to do in their teams each day to use these tools. They have enough tech, what they need is for that existing tech to become more aware of their role and their use case, and for those capabilities to be thoughtfully combined into experiences that support day-to-day [tasks].”
Instead, Middleton said, 8×8 is focusing on building composed experiences for poorly served populations that have more needs than the “traditional back office worker”, but not so many needs that they require a “fancy” solution with too many options and not enough simplicity.
Focus on security
Channel companies also have the opportunity to help their customers understand the security implications of changing working practices. Middleton pointed to the reality that remote working has created an increased the number of points of entry into a corporate network. He emphasised, “Work from anywhere means a breach can start from anywhere.”
Middleton added, “That proliferation and dispersion of endpoints brings a lot of complexity to the security landscape. And that means that utilising AI and machine learning tools in their various security forums will become table stakes this year for security operations teams.
“AI will be an organisation’s first line of defence to detect anomalous behaviour across this vastly expanded footprint, and block pretend potential intrusions as soon as possible.
“You can’t manually configure your trigger points for anomalous behaviour anymore. There’s too many variables. This requires AI- and ML-driven security tools to get detection right across this complex set of endpoints.”
An integrated cloud unified communications and contact centre solution is one way organisatioins can deal with this complexity. Middleton explained, “The trend towards single integrated platforms is a key tool in maintaining a strong security posture. Because you’re dealing with a common set of security landscape from a common platform. IT leaders really value this.”
As for the future, Middleton is excited about 8×8 and its partners moving organisations firmly into the UC era. He explained, “It may seem like we’ve gotten to universal adoption. But in fact, the massive shift to cloud communications is still continuing. The pandemic has accelerated this, but there’s still a large base of on-premises communications [customers].
“There is a lot left to do here. It’s not done and that growth and movement toward cloud capabilities will continue.”
This feature appeared in our March 2022 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.