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UC Market: What's Driving Growth?
I've been speaking with several reporters recently, and they've all asked me the same question: Is the unified communications market growing, and if so, what's driving the growth?
The UC market is indeed growing, although not as quickly as we estimated a few years ago. As I point out in my new market study, "Unified Communications and Collaboration Market 2011-2016," the worldwide total or UC-capable market for premise-based UC was $12.23 billion in 2011, growing at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.2% by 2016. The net or "true" UC market revenues were $2.7 billion in 2011, growing at a compounded annual rate of 25.6% by 2016. (For more on the difference between what I call the UC-Capable and True UC Market, please read the market study article.)
This is not insignificant growth, and the two biggest drivers are the mobile workforce and the need for improved collaboration capabilities.
On the mobile issue, the evidence is all around us. Most of us are mobile a good portion of the time these days, and we need to be able to communicate and interact with coworkers, customers, and partners regardless of location or device used. Companies are deploying capabilities such as mobile extension or single-number reach to make it easier to reach mobile workers by simply dialing their office number, whether they're in or out of the office.
As Stephen Leaden pointed out in a recent podcast, one-number dialing to multiple devices has become a standard capability, as have unified messaging, IM chat functions, presence and even video from mobile devices. While Michael Finneran notes that mobile UC clients have not been widely deployed, I believe that we're going to see a big jump in the number of mobile UC clients deployed now that most vendors are bundling them in with their UC suites at no additional cost. Going forward, the consumerization of IT and "bring your own device" trends will also help to propel the UC market.
The other big driver is collaboration. As most companies are geographically dispersed or have workers in multiple locations, they need the tools to better enable collaboration from any location. Tools like web conferencing, document sharing, and persistent work spaces make it easier for workers to more quickly get projects finished, get products out the door, close deals, make decisions, and service customers. These tools result in identifiable results, helping companies justify their investments in UC solutions.
Desktop video will not grow as quickly as web collaboration in the market forecast period, but I expect it to start picking up steam in three-to-five years. Many people are still uncomfortable being seen on video, and prefer to communicate by voice, in conjunction with web conferencing and collaboration.
Additional market growth will come from small- and mid-sized businesses that are turning to hosted UC services that can be deployed quickly without requiring capital expenditures. To date, many SMBs have had limited options, and in response, new all-in-one solutions have come into the market that provide many, though usually not all, of the UC capabilities businesses need. These new price-effective offerings, in addition to hosted services, will make it easier for SMBs to start using UC solutions.
So the unified communications market is indeed growing, with collaboration capabilities leading the way. Going forward, we'll see more UC solutions that are integrated with business processes and applications, enabling workers to access the tools they need from whatever application they're in, without having to switch out from one to another.