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Degrees of Presence

Presence, at least in the UC context, is the fairly simple indication of availability. Of course, presence and availability are not synonymous. Even worse, many systems loosely associate availability with keyboard activity, which makes little sense--but that's for a separate post.

Presence typically relates to the condition of being present, but there's also denotations around one's carriage, air, and effectiveness. This is why some people are more present than others. Presence can imply gravitas and command respect. Or presence can be barely detectable; sometimes one's degree of presence is insufficient for being noticed.

The notion of presence can be applied to companies, and goes by multiple names, including influence and mindshare. Presence is often associated with market share, but the two are independent, which explains why some young and small vendors are consistently invited to bid. Vendors with strong presence influence the market--prospects call, competitors imitate, and media covers.

Every vendor has some degree of presence, though it's hard to quantify. Wainhouse Research recently attempted to measure the trajectory of a vendor's presence--that is, to determine which firms are increasing in presence: Which firms are on course to have a greater impact on the industry tomorrow--or which are seeing their influence decrease. Presence is something that can be waxing, waning, or holding--and it's not always within the vendor's control, as market shifts and competitor actions are factors as well.

Most of today's measures of vendor performance are seen from the rear-view mirror, based on recent performance such as market share. Think of the infamous disclaimer: "Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results." Being in front is a difficult thing to maintain. Then, there's various side-by-side scorecards, quadrants, and comparisons, but these look at current offerings--not necessarily what's in the labs.

To examine the trajectory of 10 UC vendors, Wainhouse considered several factors with past, present, and future considerations. The study evaluated:

• Current momentum (based on recent performance).
• Current UC portfolio (specifically looking for transitions that align with industry shifts)
• Management track record and experience
• Financial health and the ability to invest
• Research and development spend and focus
• Channel momentum and loyalty

With all of these and more factors scored and weighted, Wainhouse determined that only three of 10 of the UC vendors evaluated are likely to increase their market presence. In other words, 70% of the major incumbents--some highly influential today--are expected to either hold or decrease in their market presence.

Only Cisco, Microsoft, and Mitel are expected to realize increases in their impact, mindshare, and overall presence over the next few years.

Wainhouse grouped the 10 vendors into three final categories: increasing presence (3 companies), neutral (4 companies), and decreasing presence (3 companies). The exercise captured and consolidates many elements and factors that Wainhouse Research evaluates; the single-category outcome summarizes many complex considerations.

Cisco: With its management upheaval well behind it, Cisco's collaboration team is embracing consumerization, with a focus on experience. The company has a huge installed base that it intends to upgrade to more intuitive technology. Cisco also intends to expand share in a broader market with new types of solutions, new consumption models, and lower price points. Wainhouse expects Cisco to build on its momentum in interfaces and improved experiences across its applications and devices.

Microsoft disrupted the industry more than any other UC vendor over the last 10 years, gaining significant growth, customer interest, and reactions from competitors. Microsoft Lync represents a robust platform delivered through an established, yet unconventional channel. The division's leadership team is strong, and Its partner ecosystem continues to strengthen. Microsoft is expected to continue building momentum in the enterprise, and its SMB story as a hosted model is expected to improve. It's hard to find near-term threats to Microsoft's ongoing march.

Mitel has successfully been ahead of several megatrends within the industry, including hardware to software, virtualization, mobility, and the growing demand for services-based solutions. Mitel is currently offering highly flexible models that enable customers to migrate their deployment models as their needs and technical requirements shift. Mitel has multiple cloud angles including wholesale, SaaS, PaaS, and private cloud, and sells platforms to third-party providers. The recent acquisition of Aastra expanded the company's global position.

Although the Wainhouse presence study looks ahead five years, predictions are always a messy business. Numerous factors can and will impact the trajectories identified. These include new technologies, mergers and acquisitions, economic shifts, management changes, and many others.

The goal wasn't necessarily to predict the future, but to assess and capture many elements of the present. Some vendors, products, and solutions are more prepared for the expected future than others.

Dave Michels is a Contributing Editor and Analyst at TalkingPointz. He is also a Senior Analyst with Wainhouse Research.

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