Unified Communications Forges Ahead in 2015

Collaboration is the most tangible form of digital transformation multinational companies are undergoing in 2015. The nature of doing business has spread across more regions as China, the Middle East and Africa become major hubs of commerce and trade. This requires communication tools that are smarter and integrated, moving beyond just voice and video. It involves more than just opening a clear channel between two points on a globe and hoping for the best; it’s all about leveraging a company’s full intellectual capital in the service of its people. That is the evolution of collaboration in 2015.
Coming out of 2014, the enterprise market for unified communications (UC) and collaboration has undergone a massive shake out. The days of operating voice and video in separate silos have given way to converged tools that marry voice, video, Web conferencing, desktop and mobility as features on a single, unified platform for employees to use. In 2015, businesses are demanding multi-functionality on one platform which impacts how UC providers operate, the tools that are made available and the very nature of workplace collaboration itself.
#1: CISCO AND MICROSOFT DOMINATE THE COLLABORATION MARKET
In 2015, the only two major UC providers that matter are Cisco and Microsoft. The startups that we saw in years past offering customized tools for voice, video and Web conferencing have fallen to the wayside as Cisco and Microsoft offered the same rich functionality on a common platform. Cisco’s value proposition is providing end-to-end connectivity across all touch points. Microsoft, owning the majority of all desktop applications, is pushing its core competency with its Lync client and relying on partners like Polycom to come onto its platform and build out unique offerings. Integration is a key element in both platforms, providing an opportunity for integrators like Orange Business Services. Customers are relying on integrators to balance UC priorities with their legacy system investments and general unfamiliarity with these new tools. So far the demand for Microsoft and Cisco solutions has been quite good. Instead of debating the issue, customers are moving forward with deployment.
#2: THE MATURITY OF THE CLOUD DELIVERY MODEL
The concept of cloud-based UC solutions will become a very attractive value proposition in 2015. Businesses are under a lot of pressure to lower their day-to-day business costs, so they are turning to opex-based cloud solutions to get economies of scale and being able to pay as they go. We can already gauge the popularity of such as services with the sizable number of voice deployments occurring on either a hosted or managed platform. So far the uptick has been most felt within the borders of single regions than outside of them but this disparity should gradually even out over time. Again, demand will be tempered by the need to balance a hosted model with previous investments in legacy equipment.
#3: COLLABORATION IS NOW MORE THAN JUST TELEPHONY
The parameters of what we mean when we say “collaboration” has expanded beyond voice to become a broader IT discussion involving the entire desktop. Video conferencing, along with interactive, online white boards offer a more detail-oriented functionality to collaboration. These are quite popular when communicating with really remote offices where the lack of interpersonal contact and cultural differences may impede productive collaboration. This is not to say that voice no longer matters. We still see strong demand in that side of the business, particularly audio conferencing in support of Web conferencing, but the signifiers of what goes into a collaboration solution are definitely shifting.
#4: UBIQUITY POWERS VISUAL COLLABORATION
Demand is also shifting from immersive solutions like telepresence to ubiquitous offerings that provide easy access for visual collaboration on either a desktop, smartphone or tablet. Customers want flexible video conferencing which is quite feasible through WebEx or a managed cloud service. Either solution can easily deliver that experience across any type of device.
#5: SIP TRUNKING TAKES HOLD
Telco-based voice services are rapidly fading from the scene as customers opt for end-to-end solutions delivered over IP. SIP trunking is an easy sell to customers when they realize that it delivers a cost-savings of nearly 40 percent over a traditional telco solution. Less infrastructure is involved by consolidating connections and eliminating the need to juggle multiple service contracts. SIP trunking customers also gain centralized billing and reporting for a pinpoint view on how much they are spending on voice. Industry figures from Infonetics Research estimate that nearly 58 percent of enterprises will be using SIP trunking this year.
#6: MOBILITY IS A FACTOR IN ALL UC DECISIONS
In 2014, 60 percent of employees were already using their own personal devices for work. BYOD is a reality and all IT decisions must factor it in as a consideration. Any UC wish list must include cloud-based solutions that can readily service such distinct end points, solutions that add an extra layer of security on top of unprotected devices, and enterprise-grade mobile applications for collaboration.
#7: GAINS IN THE ACCEPTANCE OF SOFTPHONES
New UC deployments are moving towards software-based phones instead of dedicated hardline phones on a desk. The costs are cheaper and the reality is that the workplace of the future is more than just a desk in an office. The way things are going the demand for softphones will reach 100 percent uniformity across all enterprises. Even among our own customers, those who were fond of dedicated hardline phones had a complete change of heart after sampling softphones, deciding in the end to shift to an all-softphone deployment.
#8: SECURITY IS THE PRIORITY
The worldwide news of the cyberattack against Sony Pictures that saw corporate communications leaked to the Web will likely cause an uptick for email and mobile security solutions at the beginning of the year. Even though day-to-day communiques might not rise to the same level of importance as social security information or bank account records, the incident proved that such communications can be turned into a weapon to embarrass and expose a company. The sophistication of this attack will also raise a green flag for stronger security solutions. It will be on integrators to balance the need for security with the need for open, unhindered collaboration.
Taken together, UC is naturally evolving into a more comprehensive market with tools that are more powerful, diverse and easily accessible via any medium. Integrators will be the glue holding these unified platform together.
This article excerpt, by Sean Burke, originally appeared here: http://bit.ly/1IFDchY