Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
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Eric Krapf | June 30, 2008 |


The UC Debate: Forrester Weighs In

The UC Debate: Forrester Weighs In There's been quite a bit of back-and-forth here (and here and here and here) about customer attitudes regarding Unified Communications. The root for all of this discussion was a Forrester Research study. Henry Dewing, Principal Analyst at Forrester, wanted to weigh in on the way our bloggers have looked at his company's study, and to offer his perspective. Here's what he had to say:

There's been quite a bit of back-and-forth here (and here and here and here) about customer attitudes regarding Unified Communications. The root for all of this discussion was a Forrester Research study. Henry Dewing, Principal Analyst at Forrester, wanted to weigh in on the way our bloggers have looked at his company's study, and to offer his perspective. Here's what he had to say:

There's been quite a bit of back-and-forth here (and here and here and here) about customer attitudes regarding Unified Communications. The root for all of this discussion was a Forrester Research study. Henry Dewing, Principal Analyst at Forrester, wanted to weigh in on the way our bloggers have looked at his company's study, and to offer his perspective. Here's what he had to say:

I've been following the discussion between Fred & Marty and would like to clarify some of the salient points that Forrester Research perceives in the UC market. UC buyers cannot be seen as a single entity with a single mind and attitude. At best, firms have a split personality--corporate schizophrenia--when considering UC. Even with often-conflicting and unsettled attitudes, there is clear momentum building behind UC. Firms are coming to understand UC and are excited about it. They recognize the value and are having difficulty making it work for them--so they continue to test and trial.

Last year, few firms knew what UC was and they often asked, "What is UC?" and "Why should I care?" While these questions still come up occasionally, there is a much higher level of understanding of UC in the market today--an intelligent software platform that integrates presence and availability with multimodal communications to streamline business processes. UC is as much an experience as a product to many users, but IT professionals still need to buy a product--and manage the UC solution architecture in order to deliver reliable UC service before they can streamline business processes. Firms have two minds about UC--the COO demands superior business results, while the CIO wants reliability and manageability of the network and UC services. These two mindsets often make buying firms appear schizophrenic to UC sellers as they face buying committees made up of networking, software, voice and operations professionals.

Buyers get the value concept of UC today--they just aren't sure how to realize that value in their firm. In the first quarter of 2008, Forrester's Telecomm and Networks survey showed that 86% of IT decision makers with UC responsibilities either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement, "We can make a good business case for implementing UC"--while 55% of those same decision makers either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement, "There is confusion about the value of UC for my company." Piloting of UC increased significantly from 2007 to 2008, while firms with no plans fell significantly (indicating interest and understanding)--and the number of deployments did not change in a statistically significant amount (indicating difficulty in realizing full value). This reinforces the evolving nature of firms' schizophrenic understanding of UC--they are coming to understand what UC is and what the general value of UC is--but they are having difficulty applying UC inside their organizations.

Buying decisions for IT in general and UC in particular at firms are being made in the operations departments and business units at many firms. As more and more IT organizations seek to deliver business results, not just IT operations efficiency, business unit leaders are becoming more important in technology decisions--a shift that Forrester refers to as the change from information technology to business technology. 15% of business unit executives have final decision authority and an additional 43% have heavy influence in UC purchase decisions. With business unit heads this deeply involved in UC buying decisions, issues specific to the buying firm and their industry must be part of a collaborative/consultative UC sales pitch. While an ROI calculation can be constructed using IT efficiency and generic productivity gains, those calculations must be customized for specific businesses--the industry challenges they face the organizational structure of the firm directly impact how they realize value from UC. Marketing efforts for UC must encompass how UC is used to deliver business value.

Forrester has reported on many of the early successes in delivering business value in UC research; however, full deployments still lag. Forrester believes uncertainty about the future is also holding firms back from making deployment decisions. Buyers are demanding a clear roadmap to the future so they can understand and manage the risks they face, and vendors are working feverishly to deliver it. Rapidly evolving standards and technologies make it impossible to illuminate a clear path over the next 5 years--and as long as that is true, Forrester believes that firms will delay purchase and deployment decisions while they continue to trial and test. Vendors can't cure the schizophrenia of UC buyers--they have to deliver to meet multiple needs. Vendors must make their solutions openly interoperable so they can run in the real world, where most firms operate heterogeneous networks. Products, solutions roadmaps, and marketing information must be tuned to the rational schizophrenia of buying firm and satisfy all three potential buying groups:

  • IT buyers--who want a uniform manageable infrastructure

  • Business unit executives--who want to significantly reduce human latency and improve collaboration

  • Financial managers--who are demanding believable ROI forecasts in today's capital-constrained environment.

    In short, if buyers are schizophrenic, that means vendors need to sell to each and every one of their buyer's personalities, because any one of them can say no.


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