Town and Country Unified Communications managing director Geraint George says although the sector is gathering pace, he believes there are still only a handful of players able to truly deliver the whole package
The unified communications (UC) market is gathering pace, with all and sundry claiming to provide unified communications.
But in reality very few players really understand and can deliver the true unified communications end-user experience. Most believe they need to deliver on UC, but believing and delivering are two different things.
Deployment of UC is progressing at different speeds, often dictated by the business platforms already in use by companies.
Some platforms are UC-ready, whilst others are clearly not and in particular only some operating systems (OS) on mobile are UC-ready.
In some cases the need to fully deploy UC is making customers change from existing mobile OS platforms to other platforms that already display features such as presence on mobile devices, thus showing end users instant availability across all communications means: desktop/laptop/mobile.
Suppliers of operating systems used in business need to be UC friendly, or they will lose out quickly as customers change systems to UC-friendly competitors.
The growth areas are across the board, especially as companies of all sizes need to drive cost-cutting through efficiency, which often includes deployment of technology. Increased fuel prices and business disruption through bad weather makes the “martini” approach to conducting business (anytime, anyplace, anywhere) even more important.
Holding online meetings, hosted telephony, access to CRM and using cloud-based collaboration space is the way forward for many companies.
UC deployment in most areas can show very quick return on investment through companies requiring less and less rented office space, and has a direct effect on profitability.
Mobile networks in the main have been slow to fully embrace UC and are playing catch-up. Most have chased connection numbers to the detriment of embracing and enabling their partners to deploy UC.
This meant forward-thinking partners are deploying UC through other suppliers who are ahead of the game. They will catch up but sadly, once again, it shows a lack of vision from the networks and they have lost a chunk of business they may never regain.
Companies who combine UC and cloud-based services can move from the traditional capital expenditure model (CAPEX) to the more flexible operational expenditure (OPEX) one.
The model of paying per user, per month for hosted and cloud-based services is far more attractive to most companies and provides access even to start-up companies to services associated with very large organisations.
Hurdles some companies fight to overcome are those surrounding changing from on-premises hardware, in-house management with headcount costs, to offsite hosted and cloud-based services. Change management often has challenges, especially in cases where the decision makers are those whose services may be required to a far lesser extent after changes are made.
The future for unified communications is a bit like the internet. It will grow unabated as companies must change the way they work and can no longer afford to implement in-house solutions.
Companies will grow ever more dependant on an OPEX-based, hosted business model which is lean, flexible and allows business to be conducted from anywhere and increasingly includes the home office.