UC as a Service adoption hasn't made tremendous leaps and bounds since the relatively young UC delivery model entered the market, with adoption strongest in the small and medium-sized business segment. IT systems integrators, however, may succeed with larger enterprises where traditional UC vendors have struggled with cloud-based offerings, thanks to their expertise with managed UC service delivery.
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have been the early adopters of UC as a Service (UCaaS), but larger enterprises may be more inclined to consider cloud-based UC if a trusted provider or integrator is behind the offering and could customize the service based on enterprise needs, according to Gartner Inc.'s recent Magic Quadrant report for UCaaS.
"Supporting UCaaS is hard, and typically the companies that have been better at this are the ones in which cloud and managed services is their sole business, or the [integrators] that are very focused on cloud delivery," said Daniel O'Connell, research director for Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner's Enterprise Communications Markets group. Systems integrators also tend to be big companies, which gives them another edge with large enterprises."[Adopting UCaaS] through a system integrator would also be more appealing for larger enterprises, who usually like working with other large companies."
System integrators bring customization and integrated experience to UCaaS
Enterprises have also been reluctant with UCaaS because of the lack of customization and integration to business processes and applications, said Blair Pleasant, president and principal analyst at Santa Rosa, Calif.-based COMMfusion LLC and co-founder of UCStrategies.com. "Involving systems integrators with UCaaS deployment can help assure businesses that they can get the customizations they need," she said.
Systems integrators are the most recent additions to the UCaaS Magic Quadrant, with two companies emerging as "challengers" this year -- Avanade and Computer Sciences Corp. (CSC). "These companies are showing a lot of potential in this market, but I think we'll also start to see something from companies like HP, IBM and Dimension Data in the future," Gartner's O'Connell said.
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CSC, based in Falls Church, Va., bases its UCaaS offering on Cisco and Microsoft technology -- including Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint, and Cisco's WebEx and contact center technology -- as well as Polycom for video. CSC also partners with AT&T to provide network connectivity on a global scale. While CSC views UCaaS as an immature market, the company is getting interest from its customers -- including large enterprises, said Dan Hushon, chief technology officer for CSC.
Systems integrators are entering the UCaaS market with more services experience than incumbent UC vendors that have started offering cloud-based UC, he said. "We really can match up enterprises with the best provider for their needs, and help to develop integrations and new connectors into their existing infrastructure,' he said.
Customization requires experience, Hushon said. "Things like protocol translation and adding new vendors into the landscape require expertise that independent providers just don't have. This gives the larger entities -- like CSC -- an advantage," he said.
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Because systems integrators don't usually specialize in one vendor's UC offerings, it can be challenging for them to master a particular vendor's UC platform. Avanade Inc., a Seattle-based managed service provider and systems integrator, focuses on Microsoft products and offers its customers integrations between disparate Microsoft tools -- such as Lync and SharePoint or between exchange and Lync.
"This expertise helps, because if a customer is already using Exchange, we can show them new things -- like how Lync could integrate for messaging," said Scott Gode, senior director of market and offering development for Avanade. "It makes [IT] more comfortable, because they already have a level of familiarity with Microsoft."
Systems integrators aren't typically in the business of pushing one delivery model -- such as cloud-based UC or on-premises UC -- onto business customers over another. Having an "unbiased" third-party integrator can be beneficial to enterprise customers looking for the best technology. "System integrators will still mainly represent a limited group of providers, but they can potentially help take different cloud UC offerings and combine them into one," Pleasant said.