Michael Finneran
Michael F. Finneran, is President of dBrn Associates, Inc., a full service advisory firm specializing in wireless and mobility; services...
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Michael Finneran | May 27, 2013 |


UC Adoption: Not So Fast

UC Adoption: Not So Fast While overall deployments seem to be growing more slowly than we would like, it is encouraging to see such a high percentage meeting their predicted ROI.

While overall deployments seem to be growing more slowly than we would like, it is encouraging to see such a high percentage meeting their predicted ROI.

For the last two years I've had the opportunity to run InformationWeek's annual survey on the State of Unified Communications. One of the great things about this project is they've been doing it for a few years so we can track the progress of UC adoption along with user attitudes towards the technology. By that measure, UC had a slow year in 2012.

One of the first questions we ask is, "Is your organization currently deploying, or planning to deploy, unified communications?" In April of 2010, 30% of users reported some deployment, and that number climbed to 36% by the September 2011 survey. However the number barely budged after that, growing to only 38% by the February 2013 survey. The percentage with no plans to deploy UC dropped from 39% in 2010 to 33% in 2012, and stayed roughly the same at 32% this year. Given the diversity of opinions regarding what constitutes "UC", it's difficult to tell precisely what those companies have implemented, but we do collect data on what are considered the most important UC capabilities.

Even with 38% of companies reporting some level of UC deployment, those deployments are clearly "targeted." Almost two-thirds (64%) report that UC is deployed to less than 50% of employees; that's virtually the same percentage we found in 2011.

When we asked about the importance of various UC functions, audio conferencing led the way followed by unified messaging, and company-wide directory. There were also a lot of votes for the other collaboration capabilities including Web conferencing, IM, and Collaborative Workspaces. In one surprising result, Desktop Video Conferencing beat out Room Size Video Conferencing.

Probably the most challenging task for UC vendors showed up when we asked users who had not deployed UC, "What factors contributed to your organization's decision not to deploy unified communications?" The top three answers in both 2011 and 2013 were:

* Other projects have higher priority
* Lack of in-house expertise
* No definitive business value

What is particularly galling about that is that we asked those organizations that had done a post-installation ROI analysis on their UC deployments, and found that 82% either met or exceeded their ROI predictions--which kind of shoots a hole in that "No definitive business value" complaint.

We also asked users who they considered to be the top UC suppliers, and Cisco was way out in front, with 83% of the respondents choosing them, and Microsoft tied with Avaya for second at 47%; up to three responses were allowed. Things fell off rapidly from there, and in something of a surprise, Alcatel-Lucent finished next in a tie with Google at 16%. Among the other IP-PBX vendors, only ShoreTel came in at over 10% of responses.

What is abundantly clear is that the decision to deploy UC is being driven by IT rather than telecom. When asked "Which group played the greatest role in developing the strategic vision for UC in your organization?" 66% of respondents identified the CIO or IT Director while 13% said it was the Telecom Manager/Director.

So UC is continuing its slow march to widespread adoption, but there was a clear slowdown between 2011 and 2013. It's also the case that a relatively small percentage of users within organizations get UC: For 31% of UC deployments, that's less than 10% of users, and almost half have it deployed to 25% or less. So in roughly half the deployments it would be rather wasteful to go all-in on a UC deployment if 75% of your users aren't going to be using it.

Those rather thin deployments would seem to suggest that the best way to get UC would be to leave the existing telephone system in place and overlay UC, possibly in a cloud deployment, only to those who actually need it. So while overall deployments seem to be growing more slowly than we would like, it is encouraging to see such a high percentage meeting their predicted ROI. Hopefully that's a message that the UC vendors can get out to their prospects.

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