unified communications & collaboration: 7 North American market trends

At Orange Business Live in North America last month, one of the breakouts covered unified communications and collaboration, led by Sean Burke, head of collaboration center of excellence here at Orange Business, North America. 

Sean shared an excellent summary of trends impacting the current state of unified communications and collaboration in the enterprise market.  I’ve complemented Sean’s list with what has been shared on this blog in the past and what I’ve seen elsewhere on the market. 

1. Cisco and Microsoft are dominating the collaboration market

The market dominance by Cisco and Microsoft reported by Sean echoes a November blog post from Frederic Gillant, head of our APAC UC & collaboration solutions.  However, while it might appear on the surface to be a simple decision to choose between two major vendors – especially when they’re Cisco and Microsoft – the decision is far from easy, and companies need to balance their UC and collaboration priorities with legacy equipment and software investments. 

2. the cloud delivery model has matured

With cloud-based delivery models, the economics are changing, and you can save on costs as you scale down, which is appealing to customers facing cost pressures and needing more opex-based solutions. Yet, while cloud delivery model is top of mind for many in IT, there is not a sole path to a cloud-based collaboration service, and legacy investments need to be considered in today’s cost-sensitive environments. Contrary to buy/lease models that were popular in the past companies can pare their costs even further if their needs diminish with the cloud.

3. collaboration is not just about telephony…

it is an IT and a desktop/collaboration discussion.  Users are ready to use tools beyond simple audio conferencing (which has its own time and place).  While in Orlando, I experienced a demo of Microsoft’s Lync Room Server while in Orlando and was impressed by how easy it was to collaborate in real time, putting ideas down on screen with the interactive white board. This white board functionality brings a whole new dimension to collaborating with others remotely, a feature that I believe users are anxious to use in their daily work with colleagues. 

4. visual collaboration models are changing

According to Sean, service models are moving from on-premise to managed, cloud-based models, and also moving from immersive solutions like Telepresence to more ubiquitous availability, with focus on the desktop and other endpoints. This is consistent with the presentation given by Ted Schader of Forrester Research in Orlando, which shared data that users increasingly use tablets and smartphones for video chats and video conferencing. The desire for desktop-based visual collaboration is supported by the growth of WebEx.  Though I’m not (yet) a regular WebEx user, many of my Orange colleagues are, and I’ve participated in more than enough video conference calls to buy into the value of video over pure audio. Not to mention all of the other benefits of video over audio

5. SIP trunking is taking hold

Customers are increasingly opting for end-to-end IPT managed solutions, and this includes disconnecting from the network from the telco where possible to reduce cost on voice calls. SIP trunking can bring savings of up to 40%, obviously dependent on your users’ calling patterns.  These savings apply not just to outbound calls, but also conferencing connections.  For more information, read this interview with our SIP trunking product manager, Jean-Sebastien Pegon.

6. mobile is integral to the collaboration mix

With 60% of employees using personal devices to connect to work, any unified collaboration solution must support BYODevice and BYOApp in its mix.  Effective integration of BYOD endpoints requires a unique design approach, one that often lends itself more readily to a cloud-based or hybrid architecture. 

7. softphones are gaining acceptance

The days where a new employee expects a desk phone to accompany his or her new office may be over.  Many new UC deployments are moving toward 100% software-based phones to reduce costs on end points. Sean shared an anecdote of one  customer that initially didn’t include desk phones in their deployment, but after implementation of their new unified communications platform, initial employee feedback prompted  management to order approximately 400 desk phones.  However, by the time the phones were delivered, employees had grown accustomed to the softphones and were no longer interested in having the desk phones. 

What other trends do you think should have been included in this list? 

PS: If you happen to be attending Enterprise Connect this week, feel free to visit us at Cisco’s booth and pepper Sean and his team with any questions!


Katie DeTitta

I've spent more than 17 years in global telecommunications, and was formerly responsible for international social media activities at Orange Business. I enjoy making technology accessible to non-techies and I'm a strong supporter of flexible working.