Unified Communication Spend to Outpace IT Spend

By Chris Talbot  |  Print this article Print

A new study shows that 49 percent of business plans to spend more on unified communications in the coming year than on IT. But IT solution providers in the study noted that many end-user companies still don't have a solid understanding of UC.

Spending on unified communications is poised for big growth in the next year, according to a new survey of IT solution providers by CompTIA.
UC spending is expected to begin outpacing other IT spending, with 49 percent of 600 respondents to CompTIA online surveys saying their UC technology expenditures will grow relatively faster than their IT budgets in the next year.

As CompTIA’s first study on unified communications technologies, the "Unified Communications and Collaboration Market Trends" report surveyed businesses of various sizes, and it was clear that spending on unified communications deployments will be stronger in large businesses (500 or more employees) than in smaller businesses – at least for now.

Large businesses are most likely to increase (64 percent of respondents) their UC investments relative to their overall IT budgets, whereas very small businesses (under 50 employees) are least likely (35 percent of respondents). The number of smaller businesses investing in unified communications technologies will likely increase over time, and one of the authors of the report said he expected things might be a little different in a year.

"This is an area that we’ve seen as growing for awhile now and we really wanted to get some data behind it and start including some of our members who are active in this space, because we see it as an emerging market. I think the data confirmed that it’s an emerging market," said Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis at CompTIA.

Part of the good news coming out of the survey is that IT and business decision-makers have managed to wrap their brains around the various unified communications technologies, but there was an odd disconnect found in speaking with IT channel solutions providers.

"It was maybe a little surprising to see the amount of familiarity that people already claim they have with this topic, as far as claiming to understand what the term meant and claiming to understand which pieces are included in that," Robinson said.

Channel partners who were surveyed said they believed end-users understood the concepts but that more clarity regarding what is unified communications would help in selling the concept and associated products to customers, he said. Robinson said that was somewhat surprising, but he explained it as perhaps being a general understanding of the technological concepts but likely some difficulty in the implementation of unified communications as a whole.

Tying disparate communications systems together offers plenty of benefits, and so it’s likely adoption will continue to accelerate, Robinson said.

"Right now there’s more adoption in enterprises, and I think that makes sense because of the large nature of that, the obvious desire to tie together branches and headquarters, and maybe they’ve got more mobile workers, but the small and medium business, there’s an opportunity there because tying all these things together can really bring some efficiencies, which is really what a small/medium business is after," Robinson said.

There are still some challenges in selling end-customers on unified communications, though.

IT solutions providers surveyed by CompTIA cited several hurdles they must overcome to get customers on board with unified communications, including price sensitivity (cited by 39 percent), reliability concerns (36 percent), security concerns (34 percent), difficulties in quantifying return on investment (33 percent), and a general lack of understanding of UC products and services (32 percent).

"It’s kind of a growing market. This is our first study. I think we expect to continue to build on this with the community that we have and the educational materials that we’re putting together and making available to our members," Robinson said.

Other highlights from the five-part study include:

  • 64 percent of businesses surveyed are using web conferencing technologies.
  • 58 percent of businesses surveyed are using video conferencing technologies.
  • Of those surveyed, 54 percent are using collaboration applications or platforms.
  • 51 percent of organizations are using VoIP.
  • In two-thirds of IT firms, there is business-level involvement in the unified communications space.
  • Key UC solutions provider offerings include consulting (75 percent of channel respondents), systems integration (68 percent), custom application development (68 percent), and value-added reselling (59 percent).
  • Going forward, solutions providers expect to be offering hosted or cloud-based UC solutions (41 percent), ISV/reselling of collaboration technologies (34 percent), and managed services or remote managed services (31 percent).