January 31, 2013

Enterprises Place 2013 Unified Communications Bets

  • How Many Horses In This Race?
  • A Webtorials State-of-the-Market Report
  • Michael Finneran, Steven Taylor, and Leslie Barteaux

Unified Communications (UC) has been one of the most far-reaching developments in enterprise networking, and represents a technology that continues to grow and evolve.  Initially focused on integrating all of a user's real time (voice and video), near real time (instant messaging or "IM"), and asynchronous (email, fax) communications together in single dashboard with instant access to colleagues' presence status (in/out of office, in a meeting, on the phone, etc.) and available modes of communications, UC has now expanded to embrace collaboration (audio/video conferencing, web meetings, and desktop sharing) as well as social networking functions like user profiles, skills search, and collaborative workspaces.

Along with an expanding range of capabilities, UC type solutions are now being offered by a wide and diverse range of companies. Much of the original drive to UC came from the traditional PBX vendors and Cisco, Avaya, Siemens, NEC, ShoreTel and the rest continue to build their UC portfolios. However, the incorporation of IM, presence, and email (particularly with the use of unified messaging) has attracted desktop vendors like IBM with its Sametime offering and, more importantly, Microsoft with its Lync UC solution. Finally, the expansion in the direction of social networking in combination with comsumerization has seen the introduction of UC-like capabilities from Google, Skype (now part of Microsoft), LinkedIn, and even Facebook, though that company is clearly focused more on consumers than enterprise users.

In December 2012, Webtorials surveyed more than 200 Enterprise IT professionals in organizations with 1,000 to over 100,000 employees to determine their interest in UC, levels of deployment and drivers for adoption, as well as identify preferred vendors for the various UC functions with a particular focus on Microsoft Lync .

The bottom line is that UC will continue to evolve and grow until there is no longer any question as to what "is" or "is not" UC.  Rather, just as the lines between telephony and "data communications" dissolved in the past, applications and communications will no longer exist separately. 

It also appears at this point there will be a "soft" duopoly of vendors supplying UC functions, with Microsoft and Cisco having a plurality of market shares but a continuing strong presence from other players.  As such, the need for standards-based interoperability via Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) and related protocols, implemented on platforms such as session border controllers (SBCs), will be the key to supporting this multi-vendor environment. 

The report presents the results in detail to provide a picture of what is driving the UC market, how users intend to deploy both enterprise voice and UC, the preferred vendors for different UC components, and how Microsoft's position in the UC and enterprise voice markets is shaping up.

Please note that this report was made possible in part due to the generous support of Sonus Networks.


Interesting coverage and perspective on this report in the Wall Street Journal. I also added some clarifications/rebuttal there.

Just reviewed the excellent survey done by by my colleague, Michael Finneran. However, I would like to highlight the bottom line implications of the findings.

Direct person-to-person voice contacts are being reduced by overall increased by IM and asynchronous messaging capabilities that are UC-enabled for "click-to-connect" options of the message recipient. Such messaging capabilities have been bolstered by consumer adoption of multi-modal smartphones that ensure faster message delivery in the recipients choice of message mode. So, UC doesn't necessarily mean starting with IM, but any form of messaging.

The increased use of video for showing informational content and live events should also be included under the label of unified messaging, i.e., as video messaging, rather than face-to-face video calling.

While the study report made a brief reference to customer contacts, as a source of business revenues it is a big source of ROI, compared to simply reducing costs and increasing worker productivity. Even more important, is that exploiting multimodal online self-service applications for mobile consumers, with options for access to live assistance, will not only reduce contact center costs, but will also increase custutomer satisfaction. It will also enable more proactive notifications and alerts to mobile recipients, as opposed to simply being reactive to a customer's concern.

The lack of interest in CEBP is primarily because the providers have not (yet) provided the right kinds of tools and services to facilitate the upgrading of business applications to exploit UC. It is still a work in progress that will require standardization, e.g., WebRTC, to make things practical.

The report is a great snapshot of the migration of legacy telephony into the future of multi-modal business communications, and the "consumerization of mobile UC."

Keep up the good work!

Search Webtorials

Get E-News and Notices via Email




I accept Webtorials' Terms and Conditions.

Trending Discussions

See more discussions...

Featured Sponsor Microsites



Please note: By downloading this information, you acknowledge that the sponsor(s) of this information may contact you, providing that they give you the option of opting out of further communications from them concerning this information.  Also, by your downloading this information, you agree that the information is for your personal use only and that this information may not be retransmitted to others or reposted on another web site.  Continuing past this point indicates your acceptance of our terms of use as specified at Terms of Use.

Webtorial® is a registered servicemark of Distributed Networking Associates. The Webtorial logo is a servicemark of Distributed Networking Associates. Copyright 1999-2018, Distributed Networking Associates, Inc.