Digital transformation is driving a fundamental change in ways of working – and unified communications and collaboration (UCC) is playing a vital part in providing the tools for employees to do their job.
According to market research company Kable, the global unified communications and collaboration market will double over the next three years. In 2013 the market was worth about $25.1 billion, and the analyst expects this market to reach $50.1 billion by 2018.
Kable says mobility and new technologies are key drivers for UCC. “Recent developments in the field of unified communications, such as WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) are extending real-time unified communications beyond the confines of the enterprise,” says Renjitha Balkrishan, analyst at Kable.
However, challenges remain. UCC systems typically contain components from multiple vendors covering telephony, social media, video, chat and more – and as a broad integrated solution it has to be managed as such. But, in many enterprises there is still no central responsibility for mobility or internal social collaboration tools, let alone UCC. They will need to overcome these organizational barriers to get the most out of their collaboration tools.
Enterprises need to consider four trends that are influencing UCC strategies over the next 12 months and beyond.
Trend 1: Mobility
New business requirements such as supporting mobile workers and employees increasingly using their own technology in the workplace are driving IT investment. At the same time growing customer demand for social networking and visual collaboration is also influencing the way IT budgets are spent.
Enterprises are also increasingly looking to utilize UCC to improve agility – as a way of enabling business processes and reducing decision-making latency.
The cost of satisfying these additional needs is creating challenges for enterprises and they need to look carefully at the cost and complexity of deploying and managing multi-vendor UCC solutions as the technology vista changes. Many are looking to either consolidate and integrate their various platforms or turn to managed UCC solutions as the answer.
Trend 2: Interoperability
With so many different devices and equipment components forming part of unified communications systems, interoperability is always a key requirement for enterprises. UC covers a wide range of standards and technologies, all of which need to be tested for interoperability to ensure that all elements work together as expected even through upgrades and changes.
Interoperability testing also needs to include new standards such as WebRTC, which is bringing real-times communications to Web browsers. This opens up many new possibilities but also poses a few new interoperability challenges in allowing different WebRTC applications to talk to each other.
Trend 3: Cloud
According to Nemertes Research’s Enterprise Technology Benchmark, 63% of enterprises had at least one UC app in the cloud last year, with Web conferencing being the most widely used application. Nemertes said the trend to cloud was being pushed by major cost savings and quick access to UCC apps.
The use of expensive, in-room conferencing, for example, is declining as enterprises look to mobile and desktop cloud-based systems that are in-budget, robust and can connect with on-premises systems if required.
But as market research company Gartner points out, enterprises will still have to “face difficult choices” moving forward between a long-term roadmap based around an on-premises approach versus a cloud strategy. This will have a major impact on planning long term strategies in selecting both vendors and solutions.
Trend 4: Social
We are seeing an increase in UC vendors adding social features such as activity streams to enable employees to collaborate on yet another level. IBM, Jive Software and Microsoft all have products out there – and as demand grows, so does innovation.
Social add-ons to UCC solutions provide a more complete platform for employees to collaborate on projects. UC vendors have taken their lead from social media applications such as Facebook, which enable groups to set up and organize an event, for example.
For example, Jive Software took the wraps off Jive Chime a few months ago, a mobile-first real-time messaging app that enables employees to communicate securely with each other similar to text or instant messaging. It has developed focused tools such as social collaboration software for employee communities or for customer communities.
Putting it all together
Mobility and employees bringing their own devices to use in the workplace have reignited the UCC market. Employees are increasingly working in teams around the globe. Empowering employees with mobile collaboration tools through smart devices, cloud sharing and mobile apps really is a smart move in any organization, both in terms of innovation and retaining a competitive edge.
“UCC customers and prospects have a range of excellent offerings to choose from, but also the challenge of figuring out which solution is most appropriate for them,” explained Rich Costello, Senior Research Analyst, Unified Communications and Enterprise Communications Infrastructure at IDC. “Selecting a UCC vendor solution should be based on several factors, including whether vendors meet the organizational criteria for call control, end-user profiles, communication and collaboration applications, cost savings and benefits, and revenue-generating opportunities.”
But enterprises must remember that UCC tools alone don’t drive collaboration – they must also have a strategy, training and a culture to create and support a collaborative environment. In other words it isn’t just about the technology – it is as much about the people using it.
Find out more about unified communications and collaboration and unified communications as a service (UCaaS) from Orange Business Services. Read a report on Orange collaboration services from independent analysts Current Analysis.