Marty Parker
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Marty Parker | August 12, 2013 |


Gartner 2013 UC Magic Quadrant: Clues for the Future

Gartner 2013 UC Magic Quadrant: Clues for the Future The UC market is maturing. User experience and mobility are among the key areas where the vendors must keep up.

The UC market is maturing. User experience and mobility are among the key areas where the vendors must keep up.

The 2013 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications (UC) was published on July 31, 2013, authored by Gartner's leaders for UC, Bern Elliot and Steve Blood. A copy of the report has been shared publicly by Gartner and by Microsoft.

There was little vendor rating change from the 2012 UC Magic Quadrant, with no vendors moving to a different quadrant and little relative movement within each quadrant. The Leaders quadrant again shows Cisco and Microsoft with a distinct lead, followed by Avaya and by Siemens Enterprise Communications.

The vendors in each of the four magic quadrants are:

* Leaders: Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, Siemens Enterprise Communications
* Challengers: NEC, IBM, Alcatel-Lucent, Huawei
* Visionaries: Mitel
* Niche Players: Interactive Intelligence, ShoreTel, Aastra Technologies, Toshiba

The Gartner definition of Unified Communications has been refined even further this year and is an excellent encapsulation of UC. The essence is, "The primary goal of unified communications (UC) is to improve user productivity and to enhance business processes. Gartner defines UC products (equipment, software and services) as those that facilitate the use of multiple enterprise communications methods to obtain that goal." Gartner goes on to develop the details, including discussion of business process improvements with UC, which you can read in the report.

A vendor must have offerings in six areas to qualify for consideration in the UC Magic Quadrant: Voice and Telephony; Conferencing; Messaging; Presence and IM; Clients (the user experience (UX) software); and Communications-enabled Applications.

Gartner opens the report with, "The enterprise UC market continued to mature over the past 12 months and is now considered by Gartner to be entering the early mainstream adoption phase." This certainly recaps the relatively unchanged landscape and the minimal amount of product-level cautions in the report.

A real value of this year's magic quadrant report goes beyond the rankings, however, to provide a number of clues to the future.

Industry Leadership: Gartner says, "The stakes for vendors in the enterprise UC market are exceedingly high and, in some cases, existential." Gartner calls out the ability to capture UX adoption (see below) within the enterprise as a major factor for the future, and challenges the vendors to improve in their ability to support adoption through their channel structures. Gartner also advises enterprise caution based on vendor financial results.

User Experience (UX): Gartner says, "The quality and effectiveness of the overall user experience (UX) across all devices will heavily influence the effectiveness of the solution, its adoption rate and, ultimately, enterprise productivity." The clue for the future is that the optimal UX will most likely be based on the applications on which the user and the enterprise depend, not on communications functionality alone.

Based on our UniComm Consulting client engagements, it appears that the UX of e-mail, instant messaging or social business and the UX of communications integrated into business applications (think, Microsoft Dynamics, SAP, and the many vertical market business applications) are likely to define the UC market space much more than the vendors' stand-alone softphones or video conferencing clients; of course, those UC clients are necessary to prove and to enable the UX integration with the other apps, but may not be sufficient for broad adoption.

Interoperability: Gartner points to interoperation as a key to the future, so that an enterprise's UC investments will work with existing assets (PBXs, e-mail, applications, etc.) and can easily communicate with the enterprise's customers whether as B2B or B2C.

Cloud and Hybrid Options: Gartner says, "Integration of on-premises UC with cloud and hybrid UC services continues to play an increasingly important role as these options mature." While pure cloud options may address some enterprise needs (though they will be more attractive to SMBs), in most cases it will be key to integrate premise and cloud into hybrid options, as Gartner suggests. Vendors will be wise to deliver seamless flexibility here, while attending to the points made above about UX and Interoperability. Few vendors offer seamlessness at this point, but expect this in the future.

Mobility: Gartner places "extra weight" on mobility due to "user expectations." However, as noted in the UX category above, most users already have seamless mobility across their desktop, laptop, tablet and smartphone for e-mail and, in many cases, for presence, IM and business applications. They also have this seamlessness for their personal and consumer apps including voice and video calling and social networking. In other words, the UC vendors, with the exception of Microsoft, and to some extent IBM, are severely lagging in establishing their "app" presence on mobile devices. The clue to this future is that UC vendors will likely need to focus on integration of their communications services into those established mobile applications in order to participate in the future of the UC marketplace.

In summary, the Gartner 2013 UC Magic Quadrant shows that the UC market is maturing. The report also highlights the key factors which will determine success going forward. As always, the annual Gartner Magic Quadrant provides both a milestone to mark the industry's progress and a road sign indicating the directions and destinations for the future.

Please let us know what questions this year's UC Magic Quadrant raises for your organization, whether an enterprise, channel member or vendor. For more commentary, see this post on UC Strategies.


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