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Companies are Looking at Hosted, Managed and Virtual Solutions for UCC

Frost & Sullivan also found that, in the overall UCC market, penetration is expected to nearly double in the next few years--yet almost one-fifth of companies do not plan any deployment in the next three years.

In Frost & Sullivan's recent survey of more than 200 CXOs, we asked respondents a lot of questions about their current and future plans for implementing unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) technology. For almost half of the participants, UC&C is a significant focus, but 19 percent say they aren't considering the technology at all. At least one-third of companies have implemented or are implementing UC, virtualized UC&C applications, or Communications-Enabled Business Processes (CEBP). If stated intentions materialize, penetration will nearly double within the next few years. And yet, almost one-fifth of companies do not plan to deploy such solutions within the next three years.

Today, 45 percent of companies use one or two providers for UC. But over the next three years, tightly integrated multi-vendor solutions are expected to take share from both non-integrated multi-vendor products and from end-to-end single-vendor solutions. Despite vendor marketing that promotes the benefits of end-to-end solutions from a single provider, it’s mostly smaller companies with fewer in-house resources that subscribe to this approach. Larger organizations continue to seek the performance, scale, and investment protection offered by best-of-breed, multi-vendor solutions.

One-quarter of companies use hosted services only or managed services only, while 15 percent use both types of service. Most users saw growth in their companies' use of both hosted and managed services over the past 12 months, and they expect growth to continue--especially for hosted services. Seventy-six percent of respondents say they expect their use of hosted services to increase somewhat or significantly; 59 percent expect similar growth for managed services. Interestingly, among companies that don't currently use any services, more expect to use managed services in the future than hosted services.

Cost factors rank high as both a driver and a restraint for the adoption of hosted services. Enterprises are attracted to the CAPEX avoidance, yet recurring monthly costs could lead to a higher total cost of ownership. While a shift toward hosted services is taking place due to market hype and maturing technologies, the survey clearly shows that awareness of these services is still low (29 percent of respondents don't know whether they are using managed or hosted services), and that some businesses will be reluctant to relinquish control over their communications infrastructure.

Regardless of how they implemented the technology, in 2010, roughly eight out of ten companies allocated up to 25 percent of the IT budget to communications and collaboration tools. Chief Executive Officers have the most influence in budget approvals for UC&C investments; conversely, business managers--often touted by analysts and consultants as necessary participants in the sales conversation--have the least influence over where money actually gets spent.