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Study reveals unified communications and collaboration market drivers

When looking for unified communications and collaboration solutions, find out what forces are driving the market according to a new study.

Companies of all sizes and across all vertical markets recognize that the need for unified communications and collaboration (UCC) has never been greater. In particular, the growth of the mobile workforce means that workers have to communicate regardless of their location or device. The increasing shift to mobile access has inspired the creation of new communication technologies, as have advances in video communications and social software tools.

UCC products and services have large growth potential because there is a large untapped market for solutions, especially with serving an increasingly mobile and virtual workforce.

The results of my company's new UCC market forecast shows that, because enterprises have deployed some elements of UCC but not full solutions, there is a large untapped market for UCC products and services in the next few years, especially in the channel.

UCC market study shows post-recession growth through 2016

The worldwide premise-based UC market was $12.2 billion in 2011, up 8% from 2010. By 2016, it is forecast to grow to $20.8 billion, according to the 2011-2016 Unified Communications Strategies study. The "total" unified communications (UC) market includes all of the revenue businesses and organizations invest in UC components. These UC components include:

  • IM/presence
  • Call control/IP PBX
  • Unified messaging
  • Conferencing (not including endpoints)

The "true" or net UC market is a sub-segment of the total UC market, which represents the sale of UC components that are deployed as part of an actual UC or UCC solution. Both total and net numbers represent UC vendors' revenues, but the "total" represents the entirety of UC components added together, whether they are being used as part of a UC solution or not.

Determining the net UC market is more of an art than a science -- identifying the systems and seats that represent UC solutions, rather than simply the sum of the total UC component elements shipped.

In 2011, the worldwide net UC market was $2.7 billion, up a full 20% from 2010. The conferencing/collaboration component is growing at 50%, the highest compound annual growth rate (CAGR), while the UC server/IM/presence segments represent the largest portion of revenue each year. Professional services associated with UCC will also add more than 27% of revenues for both vendors and resellers in coming years.

The difference in revenues between the total UC market and the net UC market means that many enterprises have deployed elements but not full UCC solutions. This indicates that UCC products and services have large growth potential because there is a large untapped market for solutions, especially with serving an increasingly mobile and virtual workforce.

Market development driving UCC growth

The research found that trends driving UCC market growth include:

Mobile workers need to be able to communicate and interact with coworkers, customers and partners regardless of their location or the device used -- whether it's a desktop PC, mobile smartphone or tablet.

UCC capabilities like mobile extension or single-number reach make it easier to reach mobile workers by simply dialing their office number, whether they're in the office or not.

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The next step for UCC market growth is in hosted services. Most if not all premise-based UCC vendors are adding hosted services to their offerings, giving enterprises the choice of premise, hosted or hybrid solutions. Hybrid, off-premises and hosted solutions are expected to dominate for midsize and large enterprises. Hosted services provide new options for SMBs, which can deploy UCC quickly without requiring capital expenditures. These new price-effective offerings, in addition to hosted services, will make it easier for SMBs to start using UC solutions.

Continually evolving, the next step in UC is collaborative communications, the integration of UC, collaboration and social software. Collaborative communications, as defined by UC Strategies, is the use of communication tools to enable individuals and groups that are physically spread out to work together in order to produce a business goal or result.

Social software, collaboration and UC complement each other. While social software is about finding the right people, information and resources, UC is about communicating in real time and non-real time with these people. Collaboration, similarly, is about creating, sharing and consuming information in order to get a result or outcome.

One area that may not grow as quickly in a short-term sense -- but will pick up steam in three to five years -- is video conferencing. While the price of video conferencing is making it more attractive to many companies, many end users don't necessarily want to be seen by their colleagues and customers on video and prefer to communicate by voice. This will change over time as workers recognize the benefits that video communication provides, such as being able to view visual cues and having a more personalized interaction.

Challenges in the UCC market remain, including the lack of vendor product interoperability and the complexity of many UCC solutions, but the market should experience continued growth as businesses continue to experience the benefits that UCC provides to end users and the business as a whole.

If you have questions about the new UCC market study or would like additional information, please contact me at

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