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WR Predictions for 2017

January 10, 2017 | Telepresence Options


Story and images by Alan D. Greenberg

WR's annual predictions are brought to you with the same confidence level as last year's. Our acceptable margins for error are now about the same as those for the pollsters who got the U.S. election and Brexit predictions wrong.


Steve Vonder Haar - Streaming and Webcasting

The influx of private investments in business streaming technology companies that began in earnest in 2016 will further accelerate in the year ahead, but we can expect some change in the types of venture financing that is completed. High-profile streaming segment investments of the past year were mostly latter stage deals supporting well-established vendors, such as ON24 and Panopto. In 2017, the market will see greater investment activity centering on early-stage start-ups as demand for business streaming continues to expand and growing acceptance of hosted solutions makes it increasingly viable for small companies to launch targeted product solutions serving specific market niches.


Bill Haskins--Unified Communications

The UC transition to the cloud continues to heat up, with a battle for the SMB and mid-market raging between Microsoft, Cisco, Mitel, ShoreTel, RingCentral, Vonage, 8x8, Fuze, Nextiva, "literally every global telco operator," and 600+ BroadSoft-based UCaaS providers - to name a few. Add an in-progress Avaya restructure, owner of the second largest on-prem IP PBX bases just waiting for a cloud migration, and you have a year ripe for consolidation. I'd put my bets on the long tail of BroadSoft providers as a place to watch - Avaya restructure activities aside.


Alan D. Greenberg - Distance Education and e-Learning

Analytics Phase II rubber meets the road and begins to show measurable impact on ed tech. It's been a long and winding road, this thing called analytics. Everybody wants 'em, they sound sooooo impressive, people been talking about them for years. But what are they? Up to now they've been a set of concepts in tech standards bodies. See the IMS Caliper standard, for one. They've been lightweight "how much activity is going on with this or that lecture capture or virtual classroom product." See heatmaps and engagement meters. Or they've been on the drawing board and part of early releases from the likes of LMS and Learning Relationship Management platform vendors. Thus a widely disparate group of vendors like Blackboard, Learning Objects, Instructure, Google, Cisco, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Fidelis Education, Motivis, ClearScholar, and others likely will bring new platform releases or significantly updated approaches to learning analytics in 2017. How to measure this? If we see big announcements from five of the ten vendors I named above, I'll have nailed it.

Charles_DeNault .jpg

Charles DeNault - Learning & Talent Management

Technology-based learning is primed to grow for a few reasons:
1. I see social, gamification, mobile, and/or video capabilities gaining traction from the likes of several startups and smaller vendors, such as Wisetail, EdCast, Pathgather, Grovo, Growth Engineering, and Degreed; some are blurring the lines between content aggregation and learning management.
2. SumTotal, Saba, SAP/SuccessFactors, and other established learning and talent vendors have modernized their platforms with features based on social, mobile, and artificial intelligence technologies.
3. Not only does technology based training generally costs less than instructor led, but also the improving economy (at least here in the U.S.) will result in larger learning and development budgets.

Where to watch the growth? One place is in the Association for Talent Development (ATD) annual benchmark survey. For years, the percentage of formal, Instructor Led Classroom Training hours has been declining at about 2% per year, while hours available via technology has been rising by the same amount. I expect an even greater than 2% decline / rise, respectively, next year.


ATD this year added data regarding On-the-Job learning. Almost one third (32.7%) of organizations report they use to a very high or high extent "Employee knowledge sharing on the job with the aid of technology." I expect that to grow by at least 2%, to over 35%. Maybe even more. One more 2% prediction: the rise of coaching by managers, which ATD also started tracking this year. Given that the performance review process has been examined, autopsied, and severely reworked by many companies in the past couple years, I expect to see "coaching by managers" rise to over 50% from this year's 48.1%.


Andrew W. Davis - Visual Communications

Challenged to make some predictions for Y2017, I was curious to see what was happening in the video conferencing space back in the Paleolithic era - 1994 to be exact - when I started following and publishing on the desktop and group video conferencing industry. To say that things are different today does not do the situation justice. In 1994 there were more than 50 vendors in the desktop video conferencing market and well over a dozen selling room systems. Take a look at those market shares and tell me you would have predicted accurately the situation 23 years later, or even come close.


One of my erstwhile competitors, whose name shall not be mentioned since they are still in business, published a 1996 forecast that showed the video conferencing industry reaching $7B in products and $35B in services by the year Y2002 (yes really, not Y2102)! So, with my own humble crystal ball I offer the following anodyne predictions for Y2017.

  • 75% of Skype for Business video users will be in the top ¾ of the Skype for Business user base.
  • The demand for video conferencing wearables will peak in 2017.
  • The growth of cloud video services (VCaaS) in North America will play a crucial role in making America great again. More VCaaS users will be in the majority than in the minority.


Ira M. Weinstein and Saar Litman - Visual Communications and Audio / Visual

Huddle Room AV Will Force New Distribution Routes. Throughout 2015 and 2016, vendors and resellers have struggled with the challenge of moving low-cost, high-volume AV products through the traditional AV channel. Traditionally, AV channel partners have earned their profit by dealing with complex needs and technology. For example, most end user organizations are not interested in (or capable of) programming their own control systems or configuring their own audio DSPs. This has been a source of significant revenue and profit for AV dealers. This model, however, doesn't work well for simple solutions like speaker phones, wireless presentation solutions, USB cameras, etc. There just isn't enough complexity or workload involved in the installation and configuration of these devices. We expect 2017 to be a year of distribution innovation. Vendors seeking new, cost-effective routes to market will partner with technology distributors able to provide product fulfillment services (stock, drop ship, etc.) for relatively low margins. In addition, some AV resellers will tool up their inside sales teams to offer low-end (low-cost) products at lower prices.

"Advanced Collaboration" Will Start to Take Hold. First, it makes sense to define what we mean by "Advanced Collaboration." In this context, advanced collaboration refers to the ability to not only present information, but also to work collaboratively with others to create and modify existing content items. Some call this ideation. While not a new concept, the addition of new vendors (e.g. Microsoft and others) combined with the ongoing sales and marketing persistence of existing vendors (Bluescape, Nureva, Oblong, Prysm, SMART, and others) will take multi-direction content sharing and creation to a new level in 2017. We note that this is not dissimilar to a 2016 prediction made made by fellow analyst Alan D. Greenberg on this blog, though his prediction related to the category nomenclature more than to new entrants.


Andy Nilssen - Web Collaboration & Persistent Collaboration Spaces

The combination of Cisco (Spark) and Microsoft (Teams) will overtake Slack in number of active users in 2017. Note the metric is "active users," which is the combination of paid and "active" freemium users (Slack regularly reports this number). While Slack and Cisco have freemium versions of their PCS offerings, Microsoft does not. But Microsoft Teams is "free" to all Office 365 subscribers - which is just as good if not better than a freemium offering. Also of note: this prediction in no way signals the demise of Slack - in my mind Slack remains the leading-edge, trend-setting, "has its finger on the pulse of the user" offering while Cisco and Microsoft address the enterprise masses. Think Tesla vs. GM and Ford. Other variables in Slack's mix: the continued roll-out and acceptance of its enterprise-flavored offering, which started in late 2016, and how Slack has put teeth behind its new partnership with Google.

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