The future of unified communications & collaboration looks bright

A recent Ovum survey looks at the future of unified communications & collaboration and sees good uptake in the technology. Why the renewed interest?

Market research firm Ovum recently released a survey sponsored by Dimension Data titled "The Future of Unified Communications & Collaboration." The survey gathered data from over 1,300 businesses across the globe to reveal a renewed interest in unified communications & collaboration. site editor Tessa Parmenter interviewed Ovum Principal Analyst Mike Sapien, who took the lead on the survey, to discuss the results and reasons behind why service models and attitudes around unified communications have changed.

Your most recent survey asked IT managers and those responsible for a unified communications & collaboration strategy whether they had plans to implement some, many or all aspects of UC&C in the next couple of years and whether they had budget in place to implement them. How did these responses compare to surveys you conducted in the past?

Mike Sapien: We found just over 80% have plans to implement at least some UC&C in the next two years, but interestingly enough, 78% -- almost the same percentage -- also claimed they had dedicated budget to do so. We haven't typically seen that close, tight coupling between those who say they have plans and then also claim to have an actual budget to do it, because it's very easy to say on a survey that you have a plan, but it's a different story to win the budget and execute on that plan. We seem to be in a period where there is renewed interest in unified communications & collaboration, and that interest is backed up more than ever by actual budget.

It's really important for companies to realize that cloud is an option [for unified communication & collaboration services].

What do you think might be the catalysts for this renewed interest in unified communications & collaboration?

Sapien: One of the catalysts driving this is mobility ... [and] BYOD needs to be understood as part of enterprise mobility. [Right now] there's a lot of 'unvetted BYOD' [meaning] bring your own device and at least get email access, but there's no formal corporate policy for support. We think companies over time will roll out some form of support for smart devices that are used for business purposes. If you look at our forecast for enterprise mobile connections, those that are BYOD are going to be peaking in the next couple of years and then will trail off, and more of those connections will be procured and managed by companies.

What are the top reasons enterprises are deploying UCC?

Sapien: Business process improvement is the top reason IT is investing in UCC. The second one is supporting more flexible patterns for employees. The third was to calculate increased productivity. Interestingly, direct savings was down at No. 5. It was the first mention of savings out of the top 10 [UC&C drivers].

When we previously surveyed this in 2011, the cost was much higher up. Now it seems companies are thinking of UC&C in a little more of positive terms. We never thought of the words UC and agility next to each other, and here we are with a survey result indicating their interest in using UC to increase productivity agility, business process improvement and flexible working for employees. That was a surprisingly positive set of results, both for enterprises and the industry.

Ovum's survey sees a shift from unmanaged to managed UC&C services. Why might enterprises want to go this direction?

Sapien: Traditionally, Europe has been big on premises-based services, and the US hasn't quite to the same degree. The reason is that the US IT departments tend to have a lot more network expertise in them; whereas European IT departments tend not to. And European service providers have been more advanced than their US counterparts in terms of managed network services and … [what runs] on top of it, like managed LANs and PBXes within the walls of the enterprise.

We think it's really important for companies to realize that cloud is an option. It doesn't have to be the only option. It could be a mixed-model -- within a very large enterprise you might have cloud just for peaks and troughs or cloud for remote locations -- but … [most organizations] are interested in premises-based, managed [UC&C services].

How have UC&C service payment models changed? 

Sapien: People are seeing UC as a service that can be outsourced and managed. That's a change from the past where they … [bought UC equipment] as capital expenditure that they would put licenses and maintenance on top of, and it would sit there, and the lights would blink in some closet somewhere in the campus. [Now] people see it more as a service that provides communication. That shift happens not just in terms of the way they expect it to be delivered but also the way they expect it to be paid for.

Continue reading this Q&A to see how IT can ensure a successful UC&C deployment.

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