Marty Parker
Marty Parker brings over three decades of experience in both computing solutions and communications technology. Marty has been a...
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Marty Parker | August 06, 2014 |


Gartner Magic Quadrant for UC 2014: Changing Vendor Focus and Structure

Gartner Magic Quadrant for UC 2014: Changing Vendor Focus and Structure The industry is changing in shape and leadership based on each vendor's evolving focus and business model.

The industry is changing in shape and leadership based on each vendor's evolving focus and business model.

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications (UC) 2014 was published on August 4. Again, the authors are Bern Elliot and Steve Blood, Gartner's distinguished leaders for UC. The report is already visible on a Microsoft Analyst's page linking to the Gartner reprints site. This Magic Quadrant evaluates on-premises UC solutions; a separate report is published for UC as a Service (UCaaS) (last in Nov. 2013).

The 2014 UC Magic Quadrant continues the themes highlighted in 2013, while emphasizing how the UC landscape is shifting as a reflection of changes in the vendors' UC focus as well as changes in vendors' business structures.

The vendors in each of the four quadrants this year are:

* Leaders: Microsoft, Cisco, Mitel (from Visionaries in 2013), Avaya.
* Visionaries: Unify (from Leaders in 2013), IBM (from Challengers in 2013)
* Challengers: NEC, Alcatel-Lucent
* Niche Players: ShoreTel, Interactive Intelligence, Huawei (from Challengers in 2013)

Aastra is not in this year's UC Magic Quadrant since the company was acquired by Mitel during the past year. Toshiba was dropped this year based on their smaller-sized enterprise market focus.

One major factor this year is the emphasis on market focus by the vendors.

* Microsoft is the overall leader for completeness of vision and in a tie with Cisco for ability to execute. The report notes Microsoft's ability to integrate with Office apps, Cortana speech assistant, and integration to business applications, while also noting Microsoft's UC progress with Office 365, video solution options, and expanding partner ecosystem skills and experience.

* IBM moved to Visionaries status since they shifted the focus of Sametime to be a UC component of the overall IBM solutions family, which includes IBM SmartCloud for Social Business, IBM Connections, IBM Notes, IBM FileNet Content Manager and IBM WebSphere Portal Server. Clearly, this will support IBM's strengths by delivering "communications integrated to optimize business processes" as we have emphasized here, at Enterprise Connect and UC Strategies.

On the other hand, Gartner also notes that vendor market focus can be a caution for UC:

* Avaya's primary focus is on "telephony and contact center (that) remain central elements in Avaya's portfolio." Gartner cautions that Avaya must demonstrate increased adoption and market momentum for its broader UC portfolio, including enhanced channel UC capabilities.

* Cisco is praised for a full UC suite with strong, globally scalable support for IM/presence, video, telephony, and multiple conferencing options, as well as the new unified management via Cisco Prime Collaboration. These are available both on-premises and from partners as Cisco Hosted Collaboration Solution (HCS). However, Gartner cautions that continued leadership requires advancing a compelling UCC vision, within the context of Cisco's networking business priorities.

* Interactive Intelligence receives positive reviews for the integrated software suite of UC, telephony and contact center, yet the focus is still primarily on the cloud-based and premises contact center solutions, and most customers buy UC as a bundle with the contact center.

The other major factor this year is the reflection of the business structure changes in the UC and IP-PBX market.

* Mitel acquired Aastra; this expanded the company's global presence while obtaining several valuable UC components. Mitel has adopted a creative approach for both Mitel and Aastra customers by featuring Mitel's MiCollab as the common UC user experience interface across all of their current MiVoice Business systems as well as MiVoice MX-One, plus A400, A5000, and Clearspan (the last 3 from Aastra). This may provide the best UC user experiences to all of Mitel's customers at the fastest pace and with the least disruption, while growing UC revenue.

* Unify is making a major, bold shift in their business in two ways. First, they are emphasizing the new Project Ansible that, as an initially SaaS offering, will be available to the entire market, independent of any customer's current PBX brand, yet also serving OpenScape customers. Second, the new executive management have announced staff reductions of about 50% over the next 6 months. Thus, Unify is a Visionary with Ansible, but will likely need to prove execution on the new business direction in order to return to the Leaders quadrant.

Of course, the Gartner report reviews each vendor with highlights, strengths and cautions. Gartner also continues advising on the importance of the five UC characteristics highlighted in 2013: User Experience (UX), Mobility, Interoperability, Cloud and Hybrid, and Broad Solution Appeal. Gartner also advises in 2014 that enterprise planners should expect considerable change for UC solutions in the areas of business process integration, hybrid UC, federated UC, tactical use of point conferencing solutions, and a new generation of UC clients.

While the themes of UC remain very similar from 2013, the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications 2014 also emphasizes that this "early mainstream market" is changing in shape and leadership based on each vendor's focus and business model. Little doubt that UC or UCC is here to stay, but it may look quite different in the coming few years. Your comments are welcome.


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