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The Collaboration Platform Battle: It’s On

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Young business professional collaborating with colleagues via video meeting
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As we prepare for Enterprise Connect 2021 in Orlando Sept. 27-29, one of the core issues we’re planning to address is: What (if anything) is the next communications/collaboration platform? And what are the critical elements of that next-generation platform?
 
At a high level, the answer seems obvious: Platforms like Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex — the first-generation team collaboration platforms — have the inside track both from a market and technology position. At the same time, companies that started out as pure-play UCaaS providers — RingCentral, 8x8, and Vonage among them — have expanded their offerings to include video, persistent chat, and other hallmarks of the original team collaboration space. And then there’s Zoom, branching out from its dominance in mindshare for videoconferencing; the company reported an impressive 50% growth in seats for its phone service from January to April of this year, reaching the 1.5 million mark.
 
The convergence of team collaboration and UCaaS is showing up in market research too, as my colleague Dana Casielles reported on No Jitter last week. Dana spoke with Diane Myers, chief analyst at Omdia, about her newly-released UCaaS scorecard, which this year saw the debut of Microsoft, Cisco, and Zoom on this list — all of them entering in the top six of the rankings. (Diane will discuss her report during this upcoming webinar as well — register here.)
 
As an overall gauge of the state of the market, it may be more revealing to look at legacy UCaaS services (primarily telephony) than legacy team collaboration (primarily persistent chat and videoconferencing). Team collaboration is relatively easy to adopt, as we’ve seen over the pandemic period — not just from an end user standpoint, but from the enterprise business as well: Microsoft bundles Teams into the Office 365 subscriptions that many enterprises already have, and Webex likewise is widely deployed in the enterprise, while Zoom video has quickly become widely deployed.
 
But decisions about UCaaS/telephony are a longer-term process, beyond the stopgap measures of the last year and a half. Many enterprises are getting rid of desk phones, but telephony is still mission-critical for the contact center. And most enterprises still want every knowledge worker to have access to enterprise-grade telephony on their cell phones, making mobile strategy a key element of any UCaaS offer. Above all, there’s an installed base to worry about here, which always makes things more challenging.
 
Diane’s UCaaS rankings take several factors into account beyond just market share. On a pure installed-seats basis, she finds Zoom and Microsoft still about even with the likes of LogMeIn and Star2Star, and behind RingCentral, 8x8, Verizon, Comcast, and Mitel. But with figures like those put up by Zoom Phone in the latest quarter, it’s just a matter of time before Microsoft, Cisco, and Zoom are contending for the UCaaS market share lead.
 
We’re going to dive deep on all these market and technology dynamics in our Enterprise Connect Orlando program. I’m delighted to share that consultants Brent Kelly of KelCor and Phil Edholm of PKE Consulting are refreshing their immensely popular “Microsoft vs. Cisco vs. Zoom” strategic analysis session, updating their approach for the post-pandemic market. (They’re putting the finishing touches on the session abstract, which will be online shortly.) And you’ll find plenty of additional sessions in our Collaboration Platforms and Unified Communications & UCaaS tracks to help you navigate this moment in the market. We’ve got the majority of the conference sessions posted to the web; I hope you’ll check out the whole program
 
And if you can, I hope you’ll join us in Orlando; register with the code NJAL200 for a $200 discount! It’ll be great to see so many of our friends and colleagues in person again.

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