InformationWeek’s 2014 State of Unified Communications

In today’s economy, it’s more important than ever to be at the forefront of digital business and unified communications. With virtually limitless technologies transforming the way we communicate and do business (instant messaging, voice, email, video, unified messaging, conferencing, etc.), along with a remote, connected workforce, more companies are realizing the importance of streamlining their communication networks to connect with their employees and customers in exciting new ways.

In order to see where this shift in the digital landscape is heading, InformationWeek released their annual 2014 State of Unified Communications Report to identify the challenges and innovations around unified communications and collaboration. By surveying 488 business technology professionals who work in education, government, IT, consulting and business services at North American companies, they were able to establish general trends in the market today. Here are some highlights from this comprehensive report:

The Numbers

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2014 marked exciting growth in UC. Out of the 488 respondents, 70% have or plan to put systems in place. Of those, 34% will roll UC out to 76% or more of their user base. While UC may be considered mainstream, the transition to put these systems in place remains challenging for some. Due to the complexity of implementation and apprehensions over compatibility with already existing applications, it’s up to UC vendors to demonstrate why technology spending is worth the investment and its relationship to ROI and long-term growth.

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Collaboration is King

As improved communication and collaboration both affect the bottom line, it’s no surprise that 62% of respondents listed it as their primary concern when it comes to cost and benefit factors when calculating the return on investment for UC.

To Cloud or Not to Cloud

There’s been a strong push towards cloud-based storage and platforms in the past year, but only 64% of UC deployments are either all on-premises (40%), 3% are 100% cloud and 17% have a hybrid set-up of the two. The overall trend in the field is that larger companies are sticking with on-premises systems while smaller, remote offices are switching to the cloud.

A Mobile Workforce

As employees have become more connected in and out of the office, they don’t want to be tethered to an office desk phone as their primary line of communication. The report shows that only 30% provide desk phones for 76% to 100% of their users, while 14% have none. As smartphones become increasingly visible in the workforce, there is great opportunity to develop software and accessories that cater to meet the needs of corporate communications.

Conferencing 2.0

The overarching theme of the report suggests that most companies are looking for the best way to connect and empower people to work together efficiently and effectively. Yet as anyone who’s ever sat in on a typical conference call can attest, the execution can be a mess. People lose their log-ins, confuse time zones, lack plug-ins to download shared materials and “share brilliant insights while on mute.”

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Communicating face to face adds a level of intimacy and makes group discussions run more smoothly. What’s interesting is that flashy, room-size video systems finish far behind mobile and desktop videoconferencing when comes to what benefits business. What seems to be the key to boosting productivity is the ability to share content with multiple parties on a conference.

Challenges Ahead

Despite these advances in UC technology and adoption, network services aren’t keeping the pace to meet the needs that increased connectivity demands. 17% of the participants worry over their network capacity and list a lack of WAN bandwidth—and the cost to upgrade it—as their most pressing concern. After surveying all of the results, the analysts at Information Week believe that the biggest problem plaguing UC is an inability to create clear expectations in both technology and business buyers’ minds of exactly what it delivers. After many IT people were burned by earlier systems that were fraught with issues, the industry needs to do better at marketing itself and demonstrating the improvements made in recent years.

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