Marty Parker
Marty Parker brings over three decades of experience in both computing solutions and communications technology. Marty has been a...
Read Full Bio >>

Marty Parker | August 23, 2017 |


Reflecting on Gartner's 2017 UC Magic Quadrant

Reflecting on Gartner's 2017 UC Magic Quadrant What this year's assessment reveals about the evolution and revolution of enterprise communications

What this year's assessment reveals about the evolution and revolution of enterprise communications

Gartner recently published its 14th-annual "Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications" (UCMQ), which shows both the evolution and the revolution of enterprise communications. Here are the highlights, followed by my thoughts on the changes.

In compiling its Magic Quadrants, Gartner uses a relative rating of the qualifying companies according to "Ability to Execute" on the vertical axis and "Completeness of Vision" on the horizontal axis. The Leaders quadrant, with higher ratings on both scales, is the most coveted position.

The changes from 2016 to 2017 are subtle:

  • Cisco, Microsoft, and Mitel remain in the Leaders quadrant
  • Avaya, surrounded by uncertainty related to its Chapter 11 bankruptcy, moves down to join Unify in the Visionaries quadrant (higher on Completeness of Vision)
  • Huawei and NEC remain in the Challengers quadrant (higher on Ability to Execute), primarily reflecting limitations in their product offerings and the variations in their offerings between geographic regions
  • Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise (ALE) moves down to the Niche Players quadrant (lower on both Execution and Vision), based on Gartner's assessment of shrinking regional coverage and limited investment by ALE's parent. In 2016, ShoreTel and Interactive Intelligence appeared in the Niche Players quadrant, but each has since been acquired (by Mitel and Genesys, respectively)

For inclusion in this year's UCMQ, a vendor has to offer specific product capabilities and meet a specific business profile criteria.

Requisite product capabilities are:

  • Telephony (presumably the requirements of the former Corporate Telephony MQ, which Gartner stopped compiling two years ago)
  • Online audio, video, and Web meeting solutions, which can include partnerships
  • Instant messaging and presence
  • Messaging, via email, voice mail, or unified messaging
  • Software clients for multiple environments (i.e., devices, operating systems, etc.)
  • Ability to integrate with other business and communications software applications

Other criteria are:

  • Integration of all product capabilities into a complete on-premises UC solution with a consistent user interface
  • Significant market presence in three or more of the product capabilities
  • Minimum annual revenue of $150 million from UC
  • UC solution offered in multiple regions -- North America, Europe, and Asia/Pacific
  • Evidence of investments that support market objectives for large and very large enterprises

Note that the UCMQ covers on-premises solutions, including telephony capabilities as I noted above. Neither UC as a service (UCaaS) nor contact centers are included in the UCMQ, as Gartner issues separate magic quadrant reports on those.

So, what does all this mean? Seems to me it boils down to two major market trends.

The first trend is that corporate telephony is still a viable market. Perhaps we should call this "plain old telephony system," adapting the "POTS" (plain old telephone service") acronym of the past. Clearly, many enterprises still see telephony as basic infrastructure comprising mature, highly reliable, and very economical trunks, phones, and features. While the vendors of these core telephony systems may be developing UC features, their channels and customers are actually buying and deploying POTS capabilities, not UC extensions.

In many cases, these buyers are local government, education, or other enterprise organizations that have many analog lines, or they are organizations in areas such as retail, food service, or branch banking that have very low-level user requirements. Also, some enterprises in manufacturing, distribution, or natural resources production are most interested in the economy of the solutions rather than the sophistication of the software. These enterprises can serve their mobile users with cellphone technologies while addressing their meeting requirements with low-cost cloud-based services.

Mitel (including the acquired ShoreTel), NEC, Avaya, Unify (Atos), and ALE are all excellent providers of these mature, highly reliable, and economical systems. Cisco and Microsoft also offer core telephony capabilities, but Gartner notes that Cisco's are not usually the "most economical" and Microsoft's on-premises telephony is only now reaching maturity.

The second major market trend is that the top two Leaders, Cisco and Microsoft, are rapidly expanding their value propositions. They seem to be moving their solutions, and their marketing messages, far beyond telephony -- and, at least in my view, even beyond unified communications.

Cisco and Microsoft each clearly regard traditional voice communications, as well as meeting and messaging technologies, as infrastructure for use in delivering more comprehensive business applications and solutions. Examples include:

  • Cisco's main UC-related initiative is its cloud-based Spark service. Spark is a messaging-based collaboration application that integrates with key components of Cisco WebEx. The Spark solutions focus primarily on collaboration among workgroups and teams, with Cisco's Spark messaging being: "Create. Share. Do."
  • Microsoft's main UC-related initiative is the inclusion of all types of communications, including its Cloud PBX and all UC capabilities, within the Office 365 suite of personal and business productivity tools. A point of emphasis for teamwork and collaboration is Microsoft Teams, branded as "... the new chat-based workspace in Office 365."

Gartner addresses this trend with the term "workstream collaboration," one of seven adjacencies to the UC market it has identified. These adjacent technologies will play a crucial role in UC's evolution, the firm suggests.

In summary, the Gartner UCMQ 2017 shows 1) the rapid consolidation of the corporate telephony markets, as evidenced by mergers, acquisitions, and even a bankruptcy proceeding; and 2) the focus by the Leaders to move up the value stack by emphasizing and developing productivity-enhancing applications for both generic and specific usage profiles within enterprises. Enterprise organizations will need to take due care in determining where to apply each of these industry approaches. Hopefully, the 2017 UCMQ will be helpful with that planning.

Note: Complimentary copies of this UCMQ are available from the three "Leaders": Cisco (here), Microsoft (here), and Mitel (here).


October 24, 2018

With disparate workplaces and ever-expanding volumes of information to manage, the challenges for collaborating effectively are only intensifying. Many critical applications are not integrated, and

October 10, 2018

Businesses are growing across international borders quicker than ever, but scaling operations to follow suit can be a harder, longer process.

This webinar focuses on scaling your next-generat

September 26, 2018

Join Kevin Kieller, Microsoft UC&C expert, along with Ribbon Communications and Polycom, for an update on Microsoft Ignite, and a focus on critical things you need to know about your voice deployme

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.