The unified communications (UC) market is predicted to grow from $26.2 billion to $38 billion between 2014 and 2016, according to IDC. But solutions will need to evolve to provide real and relevant business value in order to meet these expectations.
Unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) providers need to move from telling organisations why they should buy their products to moulding them to their needs. The key to making this transition is being able to offer businesses two value-adds, interoperability and customisation – and it's an area where not all providers are equal.
Businesses are aware that the rate of application availability has skyrocketed. Businesses just don't want to be locked in to a vendor's linear development path, but want to be able to take full advantage of different technologies and new features. This means that flexibility and tailored solutions will be central to the future uptake of mobile and feature-rich UC&C.
We all know how easy modern smart devices are to use and replicating this great user experience is the foremost objective of an enterprise UC solution. Key to this is the ability to present a consistent, unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types – a unified client.
UC isn't one single product, it forms a solution that can be made up of a variety of components including email, instant messaging, voice call, web conferencing, online presence, as well as web chat, document sharing and social media. The value of UC is in tying these together through an integrated interface, providing the ability to communicate over whichever device is preferred in any given business situation.
Most vendors can already provide this to some degree, but crucially the user experience and service levels often differ on different devices and different networks.
This year, adding additional services and device support for the unified client, thereby maintaining a seamless interface, will further enhance the user experience.
Open the door
Businesses that want to benefit from new collaborative technologies are looking to vendors to provide them with the UC&C ecosystem to bring them the real benefits and ROI – and interoperability is a fundamental part of this.
Without a real and practical level of interoperability – one that goes beyond just lip service or a handful of third-party players – UC&C will never provide the level of customisation needed to transform a business or enhance processes.
A single vendor may be appropriate for some businesses, but these I believe will be few. Interoperability is a necessity for any organisation using a best-of breed approach or one which sees real business advantage in tailoring a solution to match its specific requirements.
Lack of interoperability from some vendors' offerings effectively acts as a roadblock for businesses wanting to leverage their existing investments or use additional applications or features that are not available in a single vendor solution. Going forward, vendors will respond to this trend as they look to open technologies to increase interoperability.
In conjunction with customisation of features and capabilities, delivery will also start to see some changes.
Organisations are adapting their business models to make greater use of cloud technologies and consumption models, shifting from capex to opex models, and UC&C solution adoption is no different.
But with competition among cloud providers so high, vendors have to learn to differentiate themselves by offering solutions that are optimised to match specific business models.
This can be linking a pricing model directly to a key metric, something vendors do in the hospitality industry by tying their model directly to the industry's all important 'occupancy rate’, or refining a delivery model by the use of user profiles. An example in a typical healthcare scenario sees consultants, doctors, nurses or patients all with different access needs based on their roles and the requirements set by the IT department, but will these organisations want to pay the same amount for all these different user profiles? The answer is no.
One size doesn't fit all – or even any. In 2015 and beyond, cloud UC&C providers need to offer delivery models tied to what businesses actually need from their solutions.
Sourced from Manish Sablok, Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise