The UCStrategies Experts share their expertise in bylined articles, opinion pieces, blogs, and podcasts, to define unified communications, educate you about unified communications technologies, and help you make informed decisions about unified communications solutions.
UCStrategies.com defines unified communications as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” The definition of unified communications narrows significantly when you can read and hear about real-world examples that other companies are implementing right now—and apply them to your situation.
This section offers learning tools to help you plan your unified communications implementation.
This section provides a practical, vendor-independent service to any Enterprise that is seeking the benefits of Unified Communications. How do you pull everything together to implement unified communications? Use the tools in this sequence to define unified communications for your business.
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UCStrategies is an industry resource for unified communications enterprises, communications vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing unified communications arena.
A supplier of objective information on unified communications, UCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of unified communications since its inception.
In this Industry Buzz podcast, the discussion focusses on market reports – in particular the reports produced by UCStrategies Experts. Marty Parker moderates the discussion and is joined by Blair Pleasant, Dave Michels, Art Rosenberg, Jon Arnold, Don Van Doren, Kevin Kieller, Jim Burton, Russell Bennett and Phil Edholm.
Also on UCStrategies.com on this topic:
UCStrategies Expert websites where you can find additional information and reports:
Marty Parker: Hello everyone, and welcome to the UCStrategies weekly podcast. This is Marty Parker and I will be the moderator for today. Today our topic is to talk about market information about unified communications, and collaboration, and how that is evolving as well towards social media for business. This is a very important topic. Because I find as a consultant, Don Van Doren and I with our consulting clients, find that the customers really want to know more about how this unified communications market is evolving distinctly from the Voice over IP migration.
Of course, many of the vendors use UC or collaboration as a label for a hosted IP PBX or an on-premise IP PBX voice over internet protocol. The customers want to know more than that, they want to know, “Gee, if I am going to be migrating, should I also be buying these UC features? Or, could I be getting some of the UC features without the time and cost of migrating my PBX?”
Now, in order to know that, they want to read the market reports. They want to read the vendor reports from independent sources. Several of our UCStrategies experts are producers of those reports. As consultants, Don and I don’t do that. But I am going to introduce Blair Pleasant in a moment and Dave Michels, people who do this on a regular basis. I recommend that you take a look at the abstracts of their reports or their websites, and then those reports in detail are available to you for purchase. You may find that they are a very valuable resource to you in your planning of your investments. Whether you are a customer planning your enterprise evolution and the way that you are going to optimize your business processes through UC, or, whether you are a vendor wanting to know where customers perceiving the most value going forward, these are going to be worthwhile to you.
I’ll begin by calling on Blair Pleasant. She is the president and principal of COMMfusion, has been reporting on the UC market for several years now, therefore, can talk a lot about the trends, what is happening in the market. Blair, maybe you could highlight what your latest report is saying, and how people could read a little bit more about it on our UCStrategies site, and what you think are the most important things for them to attend to.
Blair Pleasant (2:29): Thanks, Marty. My report just came out in the last month. It is called Unified Communications and Collaboration Market, 2011 to 2016. When I have done similar reports in the past it was just called “Unified Communications.” But it is as you mentioned Marty, the trend is obviously moving to beyond just unified communications to things like collaboration also. It is very important to include some of those technologies; the collaboration technologies, also social media, where some of these things are going.
It’s a typical market research report, so I include market numbers. Those of you who have seen my previous market reports or presentations at Enterprise Connect, you know that I look at two different types of UC market numbers. One is the total or UC-capable market, which includes pretty much all the different components that the total amount of the components and elements that go into a UC solution like call control, or IP PBX, IM, presence, unified messaging, conferencing, things like that. Taking all of those and looking at the total market of that.
Then I also have a subsegment of that – that I call the “net” or “true UC market,” which looks at what part of those elements or components are actually being used as part of a UC solution? Rather than just looking at every IP PBX, this looks at what portion of the IP PBXs is out there are being used as part of a UC solution?
Part of the report is the market numbers. Then part of it is vendor analysis. There are about 50 pages of vendor profiles and analysis, looking at strengths and weaknesses. One thing I did differently this year – I also looked at what I called the UC, or UCC Vendor Leadership Evaluation. I looked at several different aspects of what is important for end users to be looking at when they are evaluating a UC vendor to provide a solution? Things like, who is the most open? Who is the leader in terms of product innovations? Which vendors offer UC suites? Who are some of the companies that have specific vertical expertise? I have this leadership evaluation part of the report where I identify who some of those leading vendors are.
Obviously, there are things on the trends and drivers – what’s really driving the market right now. As you might have surmised, the leading drivers right now are the need for collaboration, because we are all so remote and mobile, and the need for mobile technologies, since we are mobile workers. It is really collaboration and mobility that are the key drivers behind the growth in the UC market.
What else in included? The report, as I said, is about 150 pages. Pretty much everything is included. Some of the challenges that end users need to be thinking about; some (of the) things that are kind of holding the UC market back – things like federation and the lack of interoperability. As Marty mentioned, this report is aimed at both the user community, the vendor community, the channels – the channel community, investment firms that want to know what is going on, and who and what the trends and drivers are; and who some of the key players are. Pretty much anyone who is interested in the UC market, I believe, would get a lot of value out of the report. There is information about the study on the UCStrategies website. You can send me an e-mail and get more information. The study is available for purchase. If you have any questions shoot me an e-mail and let me know.
Marty Parker (5:54): Great, Blair. Thank you very much for that. Now, in addition, Dave Michels, through his TalkingPointz brand has been producing specific analysis of the vendors in the market. Blair has taken, I will say, the horizontal view – let’s look at the whole market. Dave is taking more the vertical deep dive view where he goes with his expert perspective; both his technical skill and his prior experience as the leader of a major value added reseller in the Colorado area. He is taking that viewpoint and diving in to specific vendor offers. I think – well, I know, the critiques he provides are very thorough. They don’t try to focus, although they do cover detailed features like hold, transfer, and dial tone. They focus more on the capabilities that the vendor is adding to their platform to include mobility, or conferencing or desktop capabilities.
Dave, please take us through a bit of an explanation of the things you have been working on, the vendors you have covered so far, where you are heading going forward, what people might learn by studying those as part of their UC planning.
Dave Michels (7:12): Thank you, Marty. As most of – as some of you may know, I should not say most of you, but as some of you may know, I have a passion for telecom. I have been in telecom my entire career. I am amazed at how much I continue to learn.
I get into mindset of a certain vendor, any one vendor. I am just amazed at their story. I am amazed at how different their products are; how different their vision is. I think the industry came from a “Fords versus Chevys” world where PBXs were very similar. As we went into VoIP and conversions, and unified communications, the paths that the vendors took have been radically different. I just thoroughly enjoy understanding this and comparing the different strategies.
I used to just simply blog about it on my blog, PinDropSoup. PinDropSoup was a pun or a play on the MCI ads where they have the PinDrop quality of the T.V. commercials. But it was kind of insider, inside the industry focus. I re-branded the website to TalkingPointz. Pointz with a z on the end, TalkingPointz.com. And I started creating what I would consider in depth reports on individual vendors that tell their story, including their weaknesses. Focusing on their strengths and weaknesses, and their whole product portfolio. I don’t believe that existed in the market before. At least not to the average end user. Certainly the big industry analyst firms provided information to the enterprise accounts. But a lot of firms, 2,000 employees etc., do not have access to those reports. And they could be very expensive to buy ad hoc.
So I have created these individual reports. The most expensive ones are $2,000, and they get a little less expensive from there depending on the market the vendor is targeting. I have so far published Mitel and NEC; I am just about to come out with a Digium one on their Switchvox product. I really try to get into their unique characteristics. I also distribute the reports free of charge to a number of groups, including the STC, Society of Telecom Consultants.
The feedback I get from these organizations is encouraging me to keep on doing it. The two most popular sections of these reports, these reports vary from about 30 to 50 pages. The two sections that stand out the most are common sales objections and the SWOT. The common sales objections are, if you are a company that is considering purchasing this particular brand or phone system, these are the objections you are going to hear. They may come from your own employees. It might come from the competitors. They are going to come up. These are the objections you are going to hear. I try to take them very matter of factly and discuss the legitimacy of the objection; try to balance those out because a lot of times in the sales situation, those kind of stay on the sidelines. They don’t get the full attention they should. The SWOT analysis is usually about five or six pages by itself. It obviously covers strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. I find it very interesting in that section. There are a lot of the Wall Street firms, even though the Wall Street firms may not be interested in that particular vendor, they might be interested in another vendor or company that is in that ecosystem, and they are curious about the opportunities that might exist in the marketplace.
The reports came about because I was doing some of this work for some of the major analyst houses. I figured that this information is not really available to other parties, so I tried to repackage it and make it more generally available. They are available on my website directly. That’s the scoop.
Marty Parker (11:03): Well, thanks, Dave, really interesting points. It is amazing to me that you say you still have so much to learn. Yes, I agree, there is so much innovation going on. There is always new stuff to wrap your head around, and thanks for sharing that with us. Now, Blair and Dave are the primary members producing reports. Another member of our UCStrategies experts community who I would like to point out is Russell Bennett, who has worked inside the engineering firms, the engineering organizations of both Avaya and Microsoft.
He has a very interesting perspective on this evolution from the view of traditional telecom and traditional desktop providers, desktop/email/collaboration systems. So you will see some very interesting points which he comments on at UCStrategies.com, and also, keeps active on his website, www.ucinsights.com. And I find that interesting reading myself. Perhaps you would want to pick up a little bit of market information there as well as of course, at our site, UCStrategies.com, which still and has through the evolution of this industry been the premiere site for industry dialogue and commentary and factoids and analysis.
Those are the kinds of things I think could be very helpful to you all as you are planning your UC evolution. Now, I am going to open the floor up to others in the UCStrategies community who might want to comment on things they are seeing, other reports they are seeing, or contributions that they are making. I think Art Rosenberg, you might want to say something?
Art Rosenberg (12:45): One of the areas that I think has got great potential, always has, but even more so now with mobility and smartphones and tablets: the consumer community, which is huge compared to your internal organizations. They are the ones that can benefit a lot from UC enablement with self-service applications. They are not restricted. They won’t be restricted the way they were before, with just using a telephone and a TUI (telephone user interface) for self-service applications. But now they can be exposed to all forms of interaction with self-service applications. Not just inbound (going online), but also outbound where an application is making contact with the customer proactively and notifying you about a problem or an issue or whatever it is. It’s a two-way street that now is open to exploitation more so than before.
It’s not location based. It is personalized to the individual, so it’s mobile UC at its best. And it’s going to open the doors to all kinds of mobile apps. You can already read about how many there are. But now from an enterprise perspective, they have their own business, mobile apps, they would want to use for certain groups, whether it’s customers or internal groups, or business partners; and all of it is going to be increased because of mobility.
I have been writing about this on the UCStrategies site. I am coming out shortly with a sponsored white paper that is going to focus on what impact that is going to have on traditional call center technology. Because now we can turn the tables and have the applications be more active than just having people waiting in line for other people.
Marty Parker (14:40): Great, Art, thanks for that update. Now, I am going to ask Jon Arnold to comment – perhaps you could comment a little bit on this topic for us.
Jon Arnold (14:49): Sure, thanks Marty. Just to tag onto what Art was saying... I am sure Mike Finneran would jump all over this too. Certainly mobility is a huge leap forward with what UC can offer. Of course, the contact center is a huge opportunity. I just want to add, kind of building on Blair’s research and the comments coming from Dave about learning so much about how these companies are all taking a different path.
I think one thing is getting clearer all the time to me is that the UC market has evolved kind of beyond the starting point of people thinking of this as kind of maybe a plus upgrade to a phone system. I know we see this all day long; we’re too immersed in it to think any other way. But we have to keep remembering the vast majority of the market is still working on PBXs and very telecom centric.
But clearly I think all of the vendors now have moved well beyond what the possibilities are for simply upgrading from a PBX to an IP PBX. You don’t hear vendors talking much at all any more about their phones, or phone systems; it’s all about communications, and collaboration, and multimedia, and real time, and all these things that you’re all going towards now. And of course virtualization is just amping that up to another level. It is moving further and further away from the phone as we have always known it. But there are still a lot of those phones out there. That is, I think, a big part of the disconnect we are seeing in the market in terms of take-up not matching the pace of innovation that Dave was referring to.
The closest I get to reports, guys, is the stuff that I write day to day. A lot of my thoughts are in a post that went up today on the portal. If anyone wants to explore that, it's all there. I think what we are talking about here is we all understand where that is going. I think our role here to the marketplace is to really validate what Blair showed in her research – what all of us are seeing every day. We have just got to encourage people, especially the decision-makers out there. They have got to get beyond this mindset of thinking of telephones as kind of the hub of communications. The real value is in the applications and what it does to make businesses run faster, or cheaper, and better; that kind of thing. Thanks.
Marty Parker: Well said, Jon. Thank you very much, great insight. Don, any comments?
Don Van Doren (17:10): Yes. Thanks, Marty. I think Jon was just referencing his recent post. I thought it was a really great summary of a lot of the vendor trends. Part of his title is that UC is still a moving target, as he phrases it. My view on that is frankly the target is constant. It is “communications integrated to optimize the business process.” What is moving is the vendors themselves. How they are evolving their tools to become more comprehensive and more sophisticated in order to hit that constant target and that constant goal. I think Jon in his article correctly notes that businesses prefer to make decisions when conditions are certain. He points out that things are anything but certain right now. I think I certainly agree with him that this change is going to be with us for a long time. So the question is, what happens in the face of some disruptions like we’re having today? I think several things. First of all, businesses try to put off capital investment. It’s sort of one of the reasons that cloud and hosted solutions are very attractive now. The second thing is that the selection criteria for investments have to place ever heavier emphasis on discerning what the philosophy and direction of each vendor has to be.
Dave Michels pointed out his surprise, and interest, and fascination with just how different the various suppliers’ products are and how their visions are different. I think what is really incumbent upon companies today that are making investment decisions is to really dive in and understand those philosophies. Understand the direction that each vendor is taking. What companies need to do is make sure that where they’re going with their goals is consistent with the philosophy of what those vendors are up to.
Anyway, interesting times right now. Just to echo something you said at the start, Marty, you’re absolutely right, our customers are hungry for this kind of information that Blair, and Dave, and Russell, and all the other experts that are writing on UCStrategies.com. That kind of information is just critical. Back to you, Marty.
Marty Parker: Thanks, Don. Kevin Kieller, I know you had a few comments you wanted to add to this.
Kevin Kieller (19:32): Thank you, Marty. I want to take a little bit of a different spin on things. I think the reports from Blair and Dave and Russell and others, those are excellent tools. But as a customer, one of the things you need to do in addition to those tools is to define and prioritize your requirements. And I know Marty and Don, along with me, spend a good portion of time helping organizations define and prioritize their requirements. Because once you do that, then you can use some of the great information available in these reports to be able to compare those details from the various vendors and the various toolsets of the vendors and compare those with your specifically documented and prioritized requirements to figure out what the best match is.
Now if you’re a vendor, I think these reports provide great insight into not how you have positioned your products, but rather how the market sees your product’s position. And I think you can then use these reports and the details in these to either adapt and refine your positioning or to reinforce your positioning as a vendor with your sales people, the channel, etc.
I think as a reseller, these reports give you insight into how various products from various vendors could augment the set of tools and services and solutions that you offer to your customers. And of course as a reseller, recognizing that your customers are likely to read these types of reports, you can certainly align with the positioning and use the detail in these reports to position your service offerings accordingly.
So once again, I find these reports are terrific tools. And whether you are a customer or a vendor or a reseller, I think that they can certainly augment what you are doing and the analysis that you are using to make your decisions. Thanks, and back to you, Marty.
Marty Parker: Thanks Kevin. Jim?
Jim Burton (21:52): Yes, I would like to add some comments. I have quite a number of clients who have used both Blair’s and Dave’s reports. One of the things that becomes very clear when talking to them about it is that they fully appreciate how complicated the market is – the dynamics that are going on in this market, and that those reports, as well as the reports that I know that I have actually worked with Russell on, really help clarify it for people to make intelligent decisions. All I can do is say I highly recommend them, because they have been very valuable to people whom I know that have used them.
Marty Parker: Well, that’s a good recommendation. Phil Edholm, you had some thoughts that you wanted to share with us, too. Please –
Phil Edholm (22:37): Thanks, Marty. This is an exciting topic because this is an industry that continues to be in great change. And I have found reports that Blair and Dave do to particularly insightful in the past in my role, on the vendor side, in understanding the views of what different vendors were doing, including the vendor I was working for. But I’ve also found that end customers see them as particularly beneficial in understanding where the industry is, and where capabilities are going, and where companies are going.
But what I want to talk about today is another view of the kind of information that’s helpful in terms of evaluating decisions. I put up on the UCStrategies website a whitepaper about what I call the KISS strategy, which is the Knowledge, Information, and Service Worker Structure within companies, and the concept that there are different kinds of workers, and how these technologies apply to these workers is very different. One of the things that I think is very important for us to realize as we look at these new technologies is, that how they’re deployed and how they’re employed in organizations, drives change.
I was working with one client, and actually what the client was looking at was how do they choose between Cisco Jabber and Microsoft Lync as their collaboration toolset for IM and presence. What we actually did was evaluate the way both of those systems needed to work in their organization for both their knowledge and information workers. And then using a weighted averaging mechanism, actually weighted a set of requirements against how well the vendors provide each requirement. And that was able to clarify, for that client, how the two different solutions would best fit in their organization, and able to drive to a decision.
And I think that’s one of the big challenges that organizations face today. It used to be when you made a decision about a telecom platform, 15 or 20 years ago, that platform was standalone. And therefore all the decisions were based on the functionality of that platform in a standalone mode. Obviously when we went to voice over IP, we all of a sudden were putting our communication platform on the IP infrastructure, so how the platform worked with the IP infrastructure became an important characteristic.
Now, with unified communications and collaboration, we’re interfacing to lots of other places in the organization. Across the data center you’re interfacing to business applications, directory structures, business process roles, document sharing like SharePoint. On the user side, you’ve got their productivity tools, whether it’s Outlook, Exchange, it’s the desktop applications they run...there may be between those social networking, a variety of devices on the bottom—the device is no longer manufactured and controlled by the communication system. And then this whole are of federation, and how do I interact outside my organization? How do I interact with other organizations? Essentially connectivity and collaboration beyond the phone number.
So if you take all of those things into account, what you realize is that this new decision actually gets driven by a much more complex set of parameters across the organization. And I think that this kind of information that UCStrategies brings is absolutely essential in organizations evaluating how to make those decisions. So very much I would encourage those of you who are listening to actively engage and and take advantage of UCStrategies for these capabilities, whether it’s through reports, through white papers, or through the expertise of the folks in the organization. Thanks, Marty.
Marty Parker: Thank you, Phil.Hi, Russell.
Russell Bennett (26:39): Thanks for the plug on my website earlier. I just wanted to point out a report that I finished recently that is an editorial review. I think it will be appearing shortly on the UC gateways, which is kind of an amalgam term that I am using to cover IP to telephony gateways, branch office appliances and gateways, and also session border controls and SIP trunking gateways. That report, I think, is going to be coming out real soon. It’s definitely worth a read. Thanks.
Marty Parker (27:10): We will look forward to seeing that. With that, I think we will wrap this up. Thank you all for participating and we hope that you and the audience are finding this of value to you. We would appreciate anything you would like to post in the comments section below the transcription here. Contact us through the web pages. Thanks again very much, and we look forward to your continuing support.
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Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
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