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Gartner UC Magic Quadrant Highlights Industry Shifts

The 2010 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications (UCMQ) clarifies the status and directions of the Unified Communications market, as illustrated by (1) the leaders quadrant, (2) the increasing completeness of the UC offerings, and (3) the nature of the market evolution. Let's review each.

(1) The leaders quadrant shows only three companies, down from six last year:

* Microsoft maintains the lead, with the highest ranking for both Ability to Execute and Completeness of Vision compared to all 14 companies rated in the 2010 UCMQ. Gartner emphasizes the growing adoption of Microsoft Office Communications Server (numbers of companies and size of deployments) and the "significant potential" of combining real-time communications with Microsoft's "historic strength in collaboration and desktops."

* Cisco advanced from 2009 in both dimensions, based both on the acquisition of Tandberg, which makes their "video convergence plans clearer" and the addition of Jabber IM. Gartner emphasizes the "expanding integration and capabilities across its components", the strong global Cisco channels, and the "vision for integrating the WebEx service and Enterprise premise architectures."

* Avaya rounds out the leaders quadrant, also advancing in both dimensions, based on the addition of the Nortel Agile Communications Environment (ACE) software and on Avaya’s "rapidly management and operational structure, as well as product roadmaps." Gartner emphasizes the completeness of the Avaya portfolio as well as the "migration path toward a secure, end-to-end SIP environment" with the Aura Session Manager and the Session Border Controller option.

Siemens, Alcatel-Lucent, and IBM each moved out of the leaders quadrant. The common theme in each case was a limitation to the scope of adoption or the scope of the development and delivery capabilities for the company's UC portfolio. All three remain viable UC market participants and Gartner recommends their consideration in the appropriate situations.

(2) The increasing completeness of the UC offerings is apparent in the review of each supplier. Essentially all of the 14 companies have a UC offering that includes the major elements of software-based clients, voice & telephony, messaging, and conferencing. Most also have presence and instant messaging and varying degrees of communications applications. Mobility is seen by Gartner as an element of the other six categories, not as a separate functional set.

As Gartner notes, each vendor "has at least one strength, for instance, in e-mail, telephony or networking" (or applications as with SAP) and seeks to expand that footprint in the enterprise. The richness of each functional category varies on that basis. This reflects the three primary migration paths to Unified Communications that UniComm Consulting highlights at VoiceCon (Enterprise Connect) and InterOp. A description and video of the May 2010 InterOp session "Choosing a Vendor and Implementing Unified Communications" is posted at

(3) The evolution of the UC market reflected in the Gartner report is also very interesting. First, the hidden message is that communications is changing dramatically in the enterprise. Note that two of the three leaders are not traditional voice telephony companies. This symbolizes the vendors’ beliefs that major revenue growth is possible both by displacing per-UC communications platforms and by expanding the role of (UC) technology to facilitate communications tasks. Gartner's opening paragraph says this quite clearly:

Unified communications offers the ability to improve how individuals, groups and companies interact and perform tasks. Enterprise planners and managers should review how this emerging generation of communications software and systems can improve their business operations and processes.

Again, Gartner reinforces the UC definition we use at and UniComm Consulting of, "communications integrated to optimize business processes."

Also, note the transformations that have occurred with a) NEC rising nearly into the leadership category with their addition of the software-based, application-friendly Univerge Sphericall platform; b) Siemens advancing their OpenScape UC Server, including linkages into social networks and the prototype of a cloud-based solution; and c) with Interactive Intelligence leveraging their multi-functional software platform to deliver business process automation capabilities.

Finally, there may be a tendency to focus on the low penetration rates noted by Gartner. Eric Krapf, our editor, pointed this out in his blog yesterday. However, it will be a mistake to think that attention to UC can wait until later or that UC-driven market transformations won't happen.

Earlier in the UCMQ report, Gartner says, "Many leading enterprises are developing UC road maps and plans, and some have trial or phased deployments under way." Since UC is all about application integration, the market is being defined by these UC road maps and trials or phased deployments. With the success of these deployments (which is documented in over 800 UC case studies by 2009), the future purchase decisions are already taking shape, as these pilots become the enterprise deployment models.

Certainly, too, organization evolution is required, but that's happening. Our UniComm Consulting white paper on Organizational Concepts for Unified Communications has been echoed by a Gartner report on the topic. This is the evolution that was suggested throughout IP Telephony market development, but was, most often, avoided. It's here now, and CIOs and IT Directors are incorporating telecom into their structures as part to the road maps, trials and deployments.

Finally, don’t believe for a moment that the "business case frequently is based on a soft ROI or a strategic investment." This is just not true, per the cases studies mentioned above. Perhaps those vendors whose UC business are not growing are telling Gartner that soft ROI is the reason, but the facts are otherwise. The apparently fastest growing UC vendor in this UCMQ, Microsoft, who also happens to be the quadrant leader, has been driving the hard dollar cost savings and top-line or bottom-line growth messages very successfully, as noted in the white paper, "Achieving Cost and Resource Savings with Unified Communications." Believe that UC is a soft-dollar proposition at your own risk.

This is the seventh year of Gartner's Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications, telling the progressive story of the evolution of the enterprise communications industry (not just UC). It's a great story--enjoy the read.