Ah, the Magic Quadrant.
Created by research powerhouse Gartner in the early ’90s. Derided by some, hilariously parodied by others. The Magic Quadrant purports to map out, on one little grid, which of the world’s tech vendors are true leaders and innovators within various IT sectors.
Sixteen vendors made it onto Gartner’s recent quadrant assessing the global UCaaS space. Rather than listing them all, let’s dig into the real meat of the accompanying report: Gartner’s view of how the UCaaS market is changing, what customers really want out of UCaaS now, and how they should size up vendors to get it.
By the way, I’m not saying The World According to Gart(ner) is the be-all and end-all of UCaaS market analysis. There’s plenty of other UCaaS research out there to check out, and so you should.
The move to multitenant
Gartner has noticed a shift from multi-instance to multi-tenant UCaaS. With multi-instance, each customer receives his or her own software instance. Gartner notes that most large enterprises (more than 1,000 employees) have traditionally preferred multi-instance because they’ve assumed it offers more security, integration and customization benefits.
Gartner says this is now changing. Customers of every size are moving away from multi-instance and turning towards multi-tenant, an architecture where all UCaaS customers share a single common software instance.
“(Multi-tenant) is easier to support, manage and enhance with new capabilities and services,” Gartner asserts. “(We) expect this trend to continue, given the scaling and cost benefits of multitenant deployments.”
More UCaaS providers are starting to offer workstream collaboration capabilities such as mobile messaging, file sharing and synchronization, archives and search, according to Gartner. The report attributes this trend to the growing popularity of team collaboration app Slack, the brainchild of Canadian Stewart Butterfield (yes, the Flickr co-creator, DeNiro disturber and writer of epic resignation letters).
UCaaS vendors are bringing much better video capabilities to the table these days, including HD resolution, user-friendly design, the ability to have multiple active users, screen sharing and integration with solutions from Cisco and Polycom. On top of that, Gartner says many UCaaS video tools are “far less costly than (customers’) existing videoconferencing/web conferencing offerings.”
Gartner notes that just two years ago, major UCaaS vendors were only providing APIs to a couple of big application platforms like Salesforce. Today, Gartner says “many UCaaS providers are now … significantly expand(ing) their base of APIs to include storage, video, cloud contact centre providers and help desk.”
In addition, “UCaaS providers now publish their APIs, enabling third-party applications … to build their own integrations.”
Gartner intriguingly concludes that “UCaaS is now a viable alternative for many (not all) enterprise deployments.” What exactly does “not all” mean? Well, if you’re an SMB, Gartner says cloud-based UC looks increasingly attractive because it takes care of quite a lot for a relatively low cost and resource commitment.
Some midsize enterprises, however, are sticking with premises-based UC because, as Gartner puts it, they “believe they have very stable communications requirements and therefore have long ROI financial timelines (over five years) which favour a premises-based offering.”
As for larger enterprises, Gartner suggests they’re likely to maintain premises-based UC if they have operations in various global (especially emerging) markets, face strict regulatory rules, require a lot of customization, or have heavy legacy IT to integrate with the new stuff.
Overall, though, Gartner believes “an increasing proportion of large enterprises are selecting UCaaS” over fears “the on-premises solution they invest in today will not be upgradable in three to five years.”
For all IT managers, no matter how big their enterprise is, Gartner has some advice surrounding UCaaS: “Look for expanded global capacity, better customer service and project management, an expanded set of APIs and the ability to deploy a richer set of UC functionality led by mobility and video.”