The Unified Communications Market: Demand Analysis
We continue to see what we call "stepped" approaches to UC--companies deciding to deploy one or two elements of a full UC suite
The Frost & Sullivan research on UC is a bit more bearish than most that I’ve seen, and one of the reasons for that is our analysis of customer demand for the technology. It’s all well and good for vendors and analysts to wax rhapsodic about the value of unified communications, but if customers fail to see it--or, more importantly, if they can’t justify it with real, hard-dollar savings--all the love in the world will not sell software.
We continue to see what we call "stepped" approaches to UC--companies deciding to deploy one or two elements of a full UC suite, recognizing that they will add other capabilities as users demand them and budgets allow. This is the smart way to go for most organizations, since deploying an end-to-end set of unified communications all at once can be a massive undertaking, one that requires technology and business changes. But it also has implications for the growth of the UC market--namely, that it won't grow as quickly as certain of its components, most notably video and web conferencing.
The truth is, it's tough to justify the cost of unification until you integrate communications with business processes (CEBP). And most companies are years away from doing that.
In the meantime, here are some of the key demand drivers we're seeing when it comes to unified communications in the enterprise:
* Although they may be upgrading only a certain piece of their communications infrastructure (e.g. telephony), businesses are including UC capabilities on their RFPs. Mainly, they are motivated to future-proof their network and applications investments.
* The challenges related to the integration process currently seem to outweigh the perceived benefits of UC, limiting proactive demand for multi-vendor solutions.
* Many businesses continue to question the benefits of certain basic UC applications, including IM and videoconferencing. In any given room full of IT/telecom managers, when I ask for a show of hands of those people using IM, fewer than half of those present raise them. Videoconferencing has even less penetration.
* Over the next five to six years, UC will penetrate the market mostly by vendors' "push" strategies, and less so due to customer "pull." Free UC clients, attractive bundling, and low-cost or no-cost pilot programs will help users experience UC and its benefits. But "free" doesn't impart value--so when those companies are asked to spend money on the technology (either for ongoing licenses or maintenance and support), they may very well balk.
* UC adoption will remain limited to specific user groups (notably key knowledge workers, marketing personnel, and service and sales people) for the next few years, at least until business models make it compelling for the average communications user to own a UC solution even if he is not using all the included capabilities.