Most tech-aware consumers communicate through multiple electronic modes, and business users are similarly finding that the different media have their advantages. But integration and management remain issues, which is why a recent report shows that solutions for unified communications (UC) are quickly gaining popularity among businesses in North America.
The report, released by market research firm Infonetics Research, found that a "stunning" 96 percent of surveyed companies plan to "eventually integrate the various modes into a single unified user experience." The study added that, although the unified-communications term has been abused by some vendors, "unifying disparate modes of communication has strong appeal because it ultimately simplifies the lives of users and increases their productivity."
The 'Rising Stars'
The report, written by analyst Matthias Machowinski, points to video, short messaging, and social networking as the "rising stars" in the UC market. The study said the key reasons for companies to move to a UC platform are to improve productivity, reduce operational costs, and satisfy requests by executives for integrated solutions.
The study found that delivery is frequently through a desktop computer, but, as in all computing, that is rapidly migrating to smaller and more portable devices, such as laptops, tablets or smartphones.
Among the medium and large companies in North America that were surveyed, Cisco Systems (CSCO) is the leading IP telephony provider, and Microsoft (MSFT) reigns as the leading e-mail and IM provider, with Google close at Microsoft's heels.
Infonetics Research interviewed purchase decision-makers at more than 100 U.S. and Canadian companies with at least 100 employees that use multiple types of communication, including IP telephony/VoIP, e-mail, and instant messaging (IM).
The medium and large enterprises were asked by Infonetics about their UC technology deployment models, expenditures, service provider selection criteria, reasons for and against UC deployments, vendors and service providers used, and which vendors they consider to be leaders in the UC market.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry research firm Information Technology Intelligence Corp., noted that the demand for unified communications comes not only from employees eager to use them, or IT departments wanting to integrate and manage them, but executives as well.
Management is asking, "How can we streamline and help out our bottom line?" she said. "And, eventually, it will help them because of economies of scale."
DiDio added that, if implemented correctly, payback can be accomplished "within a year," assuming one analyzes all the costs that would otherwise go to telecommunications, including capital expenses, operational costs, training and maintenance.
Replacing the Legacy Phone System
The appeal for a unified communications platform is not just for larger companies, she said, since smaller companies have the same need to be competitive, even if they don't have as much infrastructure or tech support. DiDio noted that a key motivator these days for any company is how "to get rid of their legacy phone system," which leads to thinking about ways to economize and increase efficiency.
Major new products and marketing initiatives, especially by the big vendors, are also motivating assessments of a unified platform.
Last month, for example, Microsoft announced Lync, its "next generation" of unified communications for businesses. The platform integrates instant messaging, presence, audio, video, webconferencing, and voice, along with Microsoft Office, SharePoint and Exchange. The technology giant also announced more than 70 Lync-optimized new devices from other vendors, applications from more than 30 partners, and management services from British Telecom, Dell, Dimension Data, Hewlett-Packard, and Verizon Business.
Similarly, Cisco last month announced Release 8.0 of its Unified Communications System platform. It features e-mail -- including a new enterprise e-mail product based around its popular WebEx conferencing service -- customer care, videoconferencing, document sharing, social networking, and other functions.
Linda Day Harrison:
Posted: 2010-12-27 @ 9:28am PT
It is about time we streamline all of the pieces. The telephone will always be fundamental, so incorporating all of the other pieces into the world of voice makes so much sense.