The traditional UC vendor market is in for a major shakeup: With Microsoft Lync, the company is poised to take on Cisco for the top spot in unified communications and collaboration (UCC), according to a new TechTarget survey.
Cisco and Microsoft: Top UC vendors
In terms of UC mindshare, the rise of Microsoft's Lync UC platform into the top two also speaks to who is buying what in today's enterprise. Changes in IT roles can influence vendor selection, indicating that the IT manager's authority is on the rise, and the traditional telecom manager may be going the route of the dinosaur. Microsoft's Lync would be more familiar to an IT person who traditionally manages Microsoft products like Exchange, Outlook and SharePoint, while a telecom manager would be more inclined to stay with a vendor like Avaya (placing a distant third in our survey), whose roots are deep in the telecommunications industry.
"Cisco still scored very well, and, by and large, organizations are still going to use it," said Zeus Kerravala, founder of ZK Research. But he mentioned that companies will increasingly choose Microsoft. "I think Avaya has the market share to remain a strong number three, but you really have to wonder about everybody else when you combine what companies can do with Lync and the potential disruption of cloud-based services."
The TechTarget Unified Communications survey, conducted in October 2012, asked 348 enterprise IT respondents about their current UC deployments, plans for future investments and their UC vendor preferences. The survey results showed that after years of discussing the rise of UC, almost 22.7% said they have fully deployed UC across their organizations, while another 26.4% had either partially deployed UC or deployed it fully to a small number of employees.
Part of the reason for the relatively-low percentage of full UC deployment is that the number of applications it includes keeps expanding, Kerravala said. "UC is becoming more of an application platform than a bunch of products on the desktop. Workers want more functionality within the apps they already use, and that's where Microsoft will differentiate and change the way people think about UC."
Looking at the growth of UC applications
Since the type of application that fits under the "unified communications and collaboration" umbrella has grown over the years, confusion about who buys and maintains UC apps may be reflected in the survey. Nearly a third (32.5%) of respondents cited lack of trained IT staff as an obstacle to deploying UC.
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After starting with VoIP and presence, UC now includes Web and audio conferencing, desktop and room-based video, call center services, unified messaging, mobile UC, UC-enabled applications and social networking. In the survey, the most frequently deployed UC application was not the most cutting-edge; VoIP ranked highest at 63.2%, followed by audio conferencing at 59.7% and Web conferencing at 45.4%.
Beyond the traditional applications, respondents disagreed whether some of the newer unified communication applications are even included under the UCC umbrella. A full 30% of respondents said they do not consider social media a UC application, for example, even though 50% of them have deployed or are planning to deploy social media applications.
Survey gauges pros and cons of UC deployments
The need to improve team productivity is by and large addressed through collaboration applications. Survey respondents cited improved corporate collaboration as the biggest benefit of UC (57.5%), followed by improved time to information (56%) and reduced communications costs (55.5%). Reduced travel time, which used to be considered the top reason to deploy video conferencing, especially during challenging economic climates, came in seventh at 47.1%.
The obstacles to deploying UC were spread fairly evenly among a number of options. The main sticking points were the lack of trained IT staff (32.5%) and uncertain return on investment (27.9%). To bring UC applications together, organizations have to be increasingly comfortable with software, which makes it easier to integrate than previous hardware-based UC options. The difficulty of calculating up-front implementation costs was third on the obstacles list at 25%, followed by security concerns (23.3%).
Continued: How is Microsoft Lync disrupting the UC market?