Businesses Primed for Broader Use of Unified Communications
Deployment of unified communications solutions is poised for growth as organizations build on a foundation of voice and data applications to include more video, collaboration and social communications tools, according to research from CompTIA, a non-profit association for the information technology industry.
Nearly half (49 percent) of the organizations surveyed for the CompTIA study, "Unified Communications and Collaboration Market Trends," said their expenditures on unified communications technologies will grow relatively faster than their overall IT budget over the next 12 months. Large firms (500 or more employees) are significantly more likely to increase their unified communications investment relative to the overall IT budget than the smallest of firms (1-49 employees), 64 percent versus 35 percent.
"This likely reflects the complexity of communications at a large firm compared to a small firm," said Tim Herbert, vice president of research for CompTIA. "More staff, more locations, more endpoints and possibly more IT systems make for a more complex communications landscape and a stronger desire to simplify through a unified communications strategy."
IT channel companies express similar positive sentiments about growth in unified communications adoption. Among IT firms with a unified communications practice, 31 percent expect significant growth in their practice over the next 12 months, while 59 percent expect modest growth. Few expect a drop-off in their unified communications business. While IT companies and their customers are bullish on the future of unified communications, the CompTIA study indicates that greater clarity about what constitutes unified communications is needed.
From the IT channel perspective, technology product and solution providers also have several hurdles to overcome with customers. These customer challenges include price sensitivity, cited by 39 percent of channel respondents; reliability concerns (36 percent); security concerns (34 percent); difficulty in quantifying return on investment (33 percent); and a general lack of understanding of unified communications products and services (32 percent).
Additionally, fewer respondents have made the leap from viewing unified communications as an incremental improvement for interaction and sharing to the higher-level communications-enabled business processes. This is seen in the relatively lower numbers of respondents making a strong connection between unified communications with other enterprise systems such as customer relationship management tools.
Many of the technologies associated with unified communications are already widely adopted, according to the CompTIA study. For example, 64 percent of organizations surveyed have Web conferencing, 58 percent use video conferencing, 54 percent employ collaboration applications or platforms, and 51 percent use voice-over-IP (VoIP) telephony.
"The integration of all these elements is the hard part, tying all these things together," said Seth Robinson, director of technology analysis for CompTIA. "Voice and data will still be important, but more effort will be devoted to complement them by bringing more video, collaboration and social elements into the enterprise."