The roots of Unified Communications (UC) go back to the late 80s, when the transition from analogue to digital networks opened the floodgates to a convergence, and in some cases a collision, between the universes of telecoms and IT.
A more recent technology – the cloud – is now driving explosive growth in the UC sector, as enterprises small and large begin to recognise the opportunity the cloud offers in terms of delivering all the features of UC as a flexible and scalable service.
Adoption of new technologies, and UC is no different, is typically driven by bottom-line benefits. Although UC achieves this, it mainly does so by boosting productivity and efficiency. Indeed, research from PwC in 2015 found that productivity gains are the most commonly cited benefit (identified by 52% of enterprises) from adoption of UC, closely followed by opex savings and efficiency gains, with 51% and 45% respectively.
Yet wider industry trends such as technological change are also a strong driver of take-up, with PwC predicting that the growing popularity of the cloud and the birth of new technologies such as Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC) offer real reason for optimism.
Hosted UC services, representing 38% of the market in 2015, is expected to grow at 14% per year through 2018, driven by significant benefits to opex and boasting quick implementation, scalability and automated upgrades, making it particularly well suited to SMEs. In fact, 39% of SMEs surveyed by PwC said that they were already inclined towards a cloud-based deployment of UC (at least in part).
By 2020, many analysts foresee a “cloudfirst” universe, whereby the vast majority of service
provision is hosted and managed remotely on behalf of enterprises. We’re already seeing it happen. But, it’s worth bearing in mind that some of the experts suggest that price should not always be the primary driver for a move to UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service), with Gartner advising that predictable costs, scalability and flexibility, and focus of IT resources are better drivers.
This chimes with the feedback we’ve received this year, where a good number of existing and potential customers expressed a great interest in being able to start out with a small number of UC users, or with just basic IP telephony functionality and scale up (and down) both seats and features at their own pace.
Going back to the ‘hard’ drivers, this also means flexible costs thanks to ‘pay-as-you-grow’ – you only pay for what you need – with no upfront investment.
Combining this with a fast delivery time, and the ability to fully self-manage your service, UCaaS can become a powerful enabler for increasing interactions for teams who work in the office; remotely; are mobile; and work on different time zones, to get tasks done quicker and improve quality and ultimately, customer satisfaction.