Thanks to the seamless communication, enhanced productivity and better customer service that UC provides, it is now being readily adopted by businesses both big and small. IDC’s David Cannon, Program Manager – Telecommunications IDC Australia, says:
“The most exciting thing in UC at present is its overall acceptance and uptake, which means that the general user acknowledges the validity of the technology and its ability to help them in their daily lives. End-users are now asking for applications, and that is a big step forward for the technology.”
For a technology that grew out of automating and unifying telephony and email, unifi ed communications has evolved and expanded to encompass the myriad new forms of communication and collaboration, from smartphones to video and virtual teaming.
Now UC can align itself with the core values and goals of a business to gain higher levels of productivity and operational effi ciency. As Cannon says: “The communication methods of voice, video and messaging have not fundamentally changed since UC fi rst went to market. What has changed is the general user interface (GUI) that people use. The GUI has become the focal point of product development and has become a richer, more intuitive interface that people are resonating well with. This is part of the reason for greater adoption over the last 12 months.”
Show me the money
With the large UC vendors continuing to increase the scope of their products and the breadth of their functionality across the UC spectrum – entering new market segments such as collaboration, video and cloud as they do so – Gartner predicts the global market opportunity for enterprise communications will grow to $US19 billion by 2015. Given that revenue in 2008 was just $US6 billion, this is a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 17.7%.
At a more granular level and closer to home, research data from Frost & Sullivan on the Australian market (Australia unifi ed communications market report 2009 and Australia unifi ed communications services report 2009) shows that revenues from UC technologies are expected to reach $AU1 billion by 2012, despite an expected decline of 4.1% in 2009. The UC services market is also set to increase, with a forecasted growth of 5.7% CAGR from 2008-2015, reaching $AU895.5 million by 2015. More recent commentary from Frost & Sullivan noted that hosted UC or UC-as- a-Service is “gaining good momentum”. “Although most deployments today are still on premise, the hosted market will see good momentum in years to come,” says Frost & Sullivan’s Audrey William, Research Director, Australia and New Zealand, ICT.
The 2009 reports also highlighted ‘unified messaging’ as having had the strongest growth year on year, with revenues growing by 62.9% in 2008. “More vendors are aggressively pursuing bundling strategies – combining telephony, server software, UC clients and applications to drive sales. This has boosted the strong growth of unifi ed clients, conferencing and collaboration, mobile clients and presence and integrated UC applications in the Australia market in 2008,” the report states.
Conferencing and collaboration were also highlighted as one of the fastest growing technologies in the future of the unified communications space, while audio and web conferencing continued to see good momentum. “By 2013, the conferencing and collaboration segment is forecasted to contribute to 19% of total UC revenues in Australia.” In its predictions the research fi rm says: “The usage of web 2.0 tools and technologies such as Facebook, Twitterand LinkedIn are changing the ways in which employees work, collaborate and communicate. It will be a natural evolution for enterprises to allow for collaboration and communication by deploying web 2.0 solutions integrated with UC solutions which includes integrating these technologies to mobile devices and desktop applications.”
UC is not just about voice and email any longer. Forrester Research’s Elizabeth Herrell says that major UC trends include upgrading to voice over IP, adding Microsoft or IBM for collaboration and extending UC to support integrated applications such as conferencing, messaging, video, desktop call control, web 2.0 applications, integrated desktop client with calendar, directories, and voice and mobile device UC integration. In a paper she wrote in March this year (Enterprise communications: the next decade) she highlighted the top 10 trends that will shape unifi ed communications and collaboration in years to come. They include an emphasis on video, social media, collaboration tools and changes to the GUI in the form of touchscreens and smart wireless devices. She suggests that SIP is becoming the new VoIP standard, open source standards are gaining market acceptance, and mobile connectivity is becoming a business priority.
Not surprisingly, cloud computing also appeared on the list, in the form of CaaS (Communication-as-a-Service). Herrell explains: “Although currently an emerging market, CaaS offers greater accessibility for UC applications and services. Network service providers will offer communication and collaboration solutions to companies as a feebased service offering that incorporates web 2.0 technology with solutions from traditional premises-based providers. This market will grow as more providers offer competitively priced cloud-based UC solutions.”
As CaaS adoption increases, we will enter the era of ‘Voice 2.0’ where cloud-based voice services will enable service providers to offer new products that redefi ne how they deliver voice solutions. “These services go well beyond traditional hosted and Centrex-type services and extend the boundaries for delivering PBXlike features,” says Herrell. On screen and in the cloud Added to Voice 2.0 is UC 2.0, as explained by IDC’s Cannon: “The major trend in UC at the moment is what IDC refers to as UC 2.0. The fi rst wave was about the infrastructure and voice. The second wave, which has come as a result of sufficient installed base and vendors lowering their licensing costs, is all about the applications being video, presence, unifi ed messaging and automated event management.” Video, cloud and UC services were also recently highlighted in Gartner’s Predicts 2010 series.By 2015, over 200 million workers globally will run corporate-supplied videoconferencing from their desktops. By 2012, 40% of enterprises will adopt a blend of cloud- and premises-based approaches to meet their UC needs. By 2015, large companies will cut the number of vendors they use to deploy UC solutions by 60%, but they will still need at least three vendors for a full UC solution. Through 2012, companies will pay at least 20% more for telephony than they do today.
These changes will have a number of implications for enterprise IT planning, including appropriate network installation and bandwidth provisioning. The addition of video to collaboration toolsets will transform the way organisations actually go about collaborating. The trend to video is particularly strong, with investment in videoconferencing endpoints, infrastructure and related services likely to rise from $US3.8 billion globally (2008) to nearly $US13 billion in 2015. By that time, over 200 million workers globally will be served by desktop video solutions supplied by their enterprises. As video becomes increasingly integrated into UC solutions, resellers must help their clients to discover the best approaches to creating seamless videoconferencing.
What’s in it for me?
The traditional communications infrastructure, characterised by scarce bandwidth, telco-defi ned services and hardware-centric infrastructure, is giving way to a new order. Hardware has been commoditised and communications services are becoming web- and software-centric. Video is rapidly making its way into enterprises, just as email and voicemail once did. Added to this, cloud infrastructure will soon provide a scalable UC platform. As convergence of these onceseparate technologies continues, resellers will have the perfect opportunity to guide their clients through the maze of consolidation, vendor choice, and streamlining the communication and collaboration landscape. Indeed, collaboration has become such an integral part of UC that it has led to a new term: UCC, or unifi ed communications and collaboration.
IDC’s Cannon says: “The opportunities for resellers and system integrators will be about going beyond initial deployment to ongoing management solutions of a holistic ICT environment. The days of being solely a network or telephony integrator are over and the market is moving towards integrated ICT solutions.”
Many companies now want a turnkey unified communication solution when they upgrade their communication and collaboration applications. The move to UC will likely replace the basic upgrade to IP telephony as a key requirement, and Frost & Sullivan’s William says: “The integration of UC technologies is complex. As such, integrating all these applications can be a diffi cult task. As a result of that, system integrators will see good opportunities in areas such as consulting, managed and hosted services. ”
Seize the opportunity
Forrester’s Herrell says UC is a process that companies can add capabilities to as needed. Gartner’s Research Vice President, Geoff Johnson calls it “the new productivity regime”. In future, business interactions will routinely start with an instant message, email or call and then escalate into a completed business transaction relatively automatically.
That being said, no UC solution can work effectively without full adoption by staff – the increases in productivity can be signifi cant in organisations where nearly everyone uses it, but patchy where it is adopted piecemeal. Johnson says that few companies currently have active UC strategies underway and are merely upgrading their communications infrastructure, which presents an excellent opportunity for resellers.