No Jitter is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Is There a Bright Spot in Today's UC Market?

The part of my job that I most dislike is developing market forecasts--this is an important aspect of being an industry analyst, but the most frustrating when our crystal balls get cloudy. It's even more frustrating when market dynamics don't happen as expected--such as when there's an unexpected and severe economic meltdown. As such, in light of the recent economic events, I've had to downwardly revise my unified communications market numbers.When developing my UC market projections, I look at the market in terms of the various elements or components that make up a UC solution--call control (generally, but not necessarily, in the form of IP PBXs), unified messaging, conferencing/collaboration, presence/IM, PBX integration, etc. I then determine what percentage of these component sales can be attributed to a UC solution--after all, not all unified messaging systems purchased will be part of a UC solution, and may be used in an unintegrated manner.

I had published my UC market forecast last year for a market study entitled "Unified Communications Market 2007-2012," and revised the numbers early in 2009 for VoiceCon Orlando as the economy started tumbling. In preparing for my UC Market Overview presentation at VoiceCon San Francisco in November, I had to significantly revise my market forecasts, as UC spending in 2009 did not live up to my (or other analysts') earlier predictions due to the economic downturn.

The good news is that there is one bright spot and one area that will see significant increases--ironically in part due to the economic downturn. That bright spot is conferencing and collaboration. In an effort to reduce travel costs, many companies are turning to web collaboration and video conferencing to interact with colleagues and partners. With travel budgets cut dramatically in an effort to reduce expenses, companies are using video conferencing solutions - whether sophisticated telepresence or simpler desktop video solutions--rather than traveling and having face-to-face meetings.

In talking with customers about their UC usage, it became clear that conferencing/collaboration has become the key to UC ROI. It obviously saves money in terms of travel expenses, but it also lets workers be productive without having to spend time getting to and from the airport, sitting on a plane, driving to a hotel, etc. And another nice benefit is that it helps keep the family-life balance in better alignment, which everyone can appreciate.

While video and other conferencing tools are unlikely to replace face-to-face interactions, they can certainly be a good substitution in certain cases. One company I spoke with had its entire travel budget eliminated for the quarter (with the exception of important customer visits). Because the company had implemented UC throughout the organization and gave most employees laptops with video capabilities, they were able to have desktop video interactions with colleagues, partners, and suppliers. For high-value customer interactions, however, they still relied on face-to-face meetings.

As conferencing/collaboration technologies become more affordable, they become more ubiquitous. Trying to have a video chat with someone who doesn't have a web cam, for example, may not be very useful, but as more people have access to these tools, they become even more valuable. We're starting to see a viral uptake in some collaborative technologies, and as prices come down and the technology becomes more available to the masses, we'll see an even bigger uptake.

Expect to see more uses of conferencing--and fewer frequent flier miles.