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Taking the Pulse of the UC Market: Deployment Practices, Winners and Losers, and Services Requirements

Checking the pulse of the unified communications (UC) market allows us to more accurately predict which products end users will buy, as well as to anticipate which vendors will succeed and which will likely experience disappointment. It also allows us to understand trends in deploying unified communications from a strategy and ROI perspective, and to evaluate ideas regarding which services may be needed by end user companies.

To this end, Wainhouse Research launched an online survey in June 2008 targeted toward people who download our weekly newsletter and to members of the audience. We received 113 verified end user responses, 43% of which were from companies with more than 10,000 employees, and an additional 31% from companies with between 1,000 and 10,000 employees. Thus, the majority of the results are from what may be considered “large enterprise”. The balance consisted of SMB respondents.

This article explores some of our findings from this survey and hypothesizes about their implications. We begin by looking at the process of deploying unified communications and attitudes toward how it is deployed. We then discuss UC mindshare--who has it and who does not. We see how this mindshare is reflected in actual or anticipated purchasing decisions around presence engines and UC clients. We conclude by revealing the kinds of services end user companies will pay for, and those they won’t.


We believe companies that weave unified communication into the fabric of their organization will derive the biggest benefit from their UC investment. This requires companies to plan ahead and to develop a concrete strategy on how UC will benefit them. We wanted to find out if organizations were developing strategies for UC, and if executives were involved in the purchasing process. Specifically, we asked respondents if they had performed some of the typical activities one would expect to see in a technology adoption process including a needs assessment, formulation of a strategy, a return on investment (ROI) analysis, the issuing of requests for information (RFI), vendor selection, pilot programs, and deployment beyond pilot stage. Figure 1 shows some surprising results.

Figure 1: Unified communications process steps completed among respondent companies.

One of the stunning results that jump out of this chart is that while only 15% of the companies have done a needs assessment and only 8% have a formal UC strategy, 20% of respondents have already selected vendors and another 26% have vendor selection underway. In addition, 22% have already done a pilot.

Another interesting result is that very few companies have performed any kind of ROI analysis, and few RFPs been issued. For those that have moved forward with UC in this fashion, it appears to be done in a sort of "Ready-Fire-Aim" fashion.

These results indicate that UC is being implemented without a strategy and without a financial justification in a significant number of companies. Clearly, many companies anticipate gaining value from UC based on the promises found in the marketing messages by the leading vendors, and/or they just believe UC is the “next wave”--and thus implementation is inevitable. We believe this is a poor way to deploy enterprise technology, and we are beginning to hear rumblings from some companies that have rolled out UC in this way, suggesting that they have encountered significant deployment and/or adoption challenges.

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