Unified Communication Spend to Outpace IT Spend

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).

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