Industry changes observed at EC16's UC RFP session were more evolutionary than revolutionary.
Each year I've endeavored to update the session and the resultant RFP to reflect changes in the market. New to the session this year was the limitation of requiring cloud and/or hybrid solutions, a significant departure from prior years that were dominated by premises-based solutions. As a result, there was a significant change in participants. Responses were received from Sprint, NEC, Masergy, Vonage, and 8x8, and included product solutions from Cisco, Microsoft, BroadSoft, Switch (now Dialpad), 8x8 and NEC. Vendors were also required to support small offices that would have services delivered over the top.
The RFP was based on an organization that is represented in the diagram below:
The RFP included stringent requirements for high availability, core voice functionality, voicemail, unified messaging, unified communications (e.g. presence, IM, voice, Web, and video conferencing) and system administration. Note that the RFP presentation is available for download to Enterprise Connect attendees.
Also key to this year's session was the introduction of panel discussions that covered topics such as:
- Top 3 Issues for clients
- Product differentiation
- Integration issues
- Partner vs. manufacturer involvement
- Where does managed services fit?
- Deployment issues
- How do vendors decide what to propose (cloud vs. premises?)
- Responsibility demarcation -- LAN/WAN -- is this an issue?
In general, there were fewer new products introduced than previous years. It seemed to me that changes this year were evolutionary rather than revolutionary. There was an emphasis on mobility, virtualization, and integrating the existing product sets, as well as improving user interfaces.The Obvious
- Cloud and hybrid solutions have vendor mind share and marketing dollars (as evidenced by vendors participating in the RFP)
- There is continued development of Android and iOS platforms for mobility offerings (limited support for Windows/Blackberry/Symbian)
- Everyone has the ability to provide a highly reliable and secure system, though significant differences exist in architecture and delivery
- There seems to be significant activity in the development of UC offering functionality and user focus (e.g. do users live in Outlook or vendor UC client?)
- Average prices actually decreased in 2016 vs. 2015
- Not every vendor has every feature you may want, though voice differences have narrowed considerably
- Gaps in UC capabilities amongst the respondents has decreased, though still significant
- Differentiation in cloud multi-instance vs. multitenant
- Significant differences exist in management platforms/analytics among the proposed solutions
"SCTC Perspectives" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.