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Still Trying to Define Unified Communications?
It's amazing to me that after all this time, we're still trying to define what is unified communications. After listening to a Gartner webinar about UC that tried to quantify the UC market, I realized that no one, myself included, has come up with a valid way to determine vendor market share in the UC arena, partly because it is so difficult to define and measure the UC market.In the market study I released a few months ago, entitled "Unified Communications Market 2007-2012," I include several ways of measuring the UC market (but not market share). The first way is to determine what I call the total gross market, or the total revenue of all of the elements that go into a UC solution, such as call control (generally an IP PBX today), presence servers, UC clients, conferencing and collaboration, unified messaging, etc. The next way is to identify the net or "true" UC market based on the percent or portion of the total seats that would be used for a UC solution (remember--just because someone purchases an IP PBX or an IM server doesn't mean they're using it for a UC solution).
Another way was to measure the market is based on the total revenues and seats shipped for the requisite UC elements. Rather than looking at the total of all the possible components that could be used in a UC solution, this method includes only those components that are "must haves" or must be included in order for something to be considered a UC solution. For this method, I included the net true segment of enterprise presence licenses, the UC clients (although in most cases these are provided for free as part of UC bundles), and the PBX gateway to connect to the UC voice communications/UC elements. I noted that integration with the PBX/IP PBX is necessary to provide a UC solution (except in cases where the UC server provides the call control, such as with Microsoft OCS), since I consider voice or telephony to be a core component of a UC solution.
But are these really the only requisite UC elements?
Last week in an online exchange, I wrote that I consider presence, a UC client, and call control to be the core components of a UC solution, and that everything else is optional. One industry pundit responded to my comment by noting, "Email is still the #1 mode of communication" and must be considered a core component of a UC solution. That got me thinking.
I posed the question on Twitter, asking if a true UC solution must include text messaging (IM, email, SMS), and I got some great responses. One person responded, "I vote yes. Perhaps I'm swayed by the traditional coupling of presence to IM, but I think email and IM are both critical to UC." Another commented, "Absolutely must include text messaging. We all use text messaging (IM and SMS) for communications, so Unified Communications must include it." And another industry observer noted, "Text messaging must be in UC. It needs to cover the spectrum of mediums to communicate a spectrum of information types. Need voice, video, text..."
I was convinced. My new revised list of "must haves" to be considered a UC solution now includes: a unified UC client, presence (both online and telephony presence), and at least one communication channel, whether audio, visual, or textual (instant messaging, email, or SMS).
Now I'd love to hear from you - what are your thoughts? We can't measure the UC market if we can't define what constitutes UC. Let me know what you think....