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Gartner Magic Quadrants Highlight UC Importance and Pace

The annual updates of two important Gartner Magic Quadrants (MQ) occurred in August, the Gartner MQ for Corporate Telephony, and in September, the Gartner MQ for Unified Communications. Several very important messages, from my UC perspective, are delivered by these reports.The MQ for Corporate Telephony delivers the biggest surprise, since one of the messages is that Unified Communications has become a primary consideration in the IP-PBX market. Under the heading, "The Future for Telephony," the report says, "The focus for enterprise telephony is now in UC, yet the success of vendors will depend largely on their ability to demonstrate value in their current product portfolios. Organizations can expect the value of telephony to continue to diminish as voice is increasingly embedded in UC."

Certainly, Gartner is not suggesting that any IP-PBX supplier can ease off in the robustness of their telephony solution, rather just the opposite. But Gartner does suggest that UC strategies should drive the decision making, so that the selection of the IP-PBX is based on "what role the Internet Protocol-private branch exchange will play in a UC Strategy, then make investments to minimize the cost of ownership."

Of course, for our regular readers, this is no surprise. We've been suggesting for several years that the business value of UC will be a driving factor in enterprise communications investment decisions. And, the article, "De-Mystifying VOIP and UC Pricing Trends" in September 2007 BCR predicted the decline of telephony prices as those functions are incorporated into and bundled with UC capabilities. And that is certainly what we are seeing from all of the four companies in the Corporate Telephony Leaders quadrant this year: Cisco, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent and Siemens Enterprise Communications.

Meanwhile, the MQ for Unified Communications confirms the trend that UC "offers the ability to improve how individuals, groups and companies interact and perform tasks." To me, that's a solid reinforcement of our definition for UC: "Communications integrated to optimize business processes."

The UC MQ also sends a message about the competitiveness and diversity of the UC market, namely that viable UC solutions are coming from three very different directions. The UC MQ shows solutions from office productivity/collaboration software producers, from IP-PBX producers and from business application software producers.

The first category comprises the two office productivity/collaboration powerhouses, Microsoft and IBM, both in the Leaders quadrant, with Microsoft showing some distance from the others in their Leaders quadrant positioning. In the second category, the UC MQ Leaders quadrant includes the same four IP-PBX producers as in the Corporate Telephony MQ--Cisco, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent and Siemens Enterprise Communications. And, in the business applications software category, SAP is shown as a Niche Player, but is not far from the Leaders zone, if you're assessing their possible future positioning.

Again, this is reflective of the directions you've read about here and that have been presented in our sessions at VoiceCon. At VoiceCon San Francisco 2009, this November 2- 5, you can attend the "UC Options: Who's Offering What?" for a high-level review of over a dozen vendors' UC offerings, pricing and packaging, including all those named above. And, UC entrants from the mobility direction (e.g. RIM) will be reviewed as well. In addition, a new deep-dive session, "Unified Communications Implementation," will be presented, reviewing UC deployment details for Avaya, Cisco, IBM and Microsoft. You'll see a lot of detail that both confirms and extends the Gartner MQ reports.

The Gartner UC MQ report also points out challenges in UC, ranging from the completeness of any one supplier's UC offerings, to the challenges of implementation, and even to the confusing misuse of the term "unified communications" by some vendors' product labeling. Again, we agree and invite you to visit our the UC Resources pages at for clarifying details, and also to come to our UC Roundtable and UC Market Update sessions at VoiceCon San Francisco 2009 for the latest, clear pictures of progress in Unified Communications. Hope to see you there.

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