Traditionally, businesses have purchased unified communications as an on-premise platform. But, over the past three years we’ve witnessed a transformation to the cloud with the rise of unified communications as a service, says Daniel O’Connell, research director with Gartner, during a recent webinar on The Unified Communications Market: Transformation to the Cloud.
While the market for cloud UC is growing in leaps and bounds, it’s also highly fragmented. Gartner estimates there are more than 100 UCaaS providers in North America alone; globally that number is around 250. And virtually every vendor of premises-based UC now has a cloud UC offering.
And, while cloud-based solutions don’t require you to make a large capital investment like you would with on-premise infrastructure, O’Connell points out that UCaaS deployments still require significant front-end installation and professional services to get up and running — from the configuration of handsets to integration with the communications service provider.
While the transition to cloud isn’t going to happen overnight, large businesses (with more than 1,000 employees) are starting to take cloud UC seriously. They typically have more complex requirements, prefer to work with major vendors and are waiting for the market to mature. Cloud UC market share for large businesses is at only 5 per cent, according to Gartner, but it’s growing at a rate of 40-45 per cent.
“We’re predicting significant migrations, but we believe it is possible because so many technology vendors, service providers, cable operators, systems integrators and application specialists are all committed to cloud UC,” says O’Connell.
But what makes UCaaS truly compelling is its future applications. Gartner predicts over the next two years we’ll see low-cost platform-as-a-service deployments become more prevalent, more integrations of cloud UC and PaaS, and the use of analytics to foster business improvement. And we’ll see differentiation among UCaaS offerings, such as vertical solutions.
Say, a service technician’s device is synced to a cloud UC platform, which knows the location of the technician via a location-based service. The business now has intelligence to send the closest available technician to a customer site. That’s just one example of how UC can make a business more efficient.
The dilemma here, says O’Connell, is that IT buyers haven’t typically looked to UC providers for making organizations more efficient. That’s a change in mindset (for both UC providers and IT buyers) that will come as we see UC start tackling business challenges beyond connectivity.
The future is bright, but make sure your cloud platform — and partner — will grow with your business strategy.