New Research - What SMBs Think About UC
On occasion, clients will engage me to write an analysis of proprietary research they have conducted that is to be shared with the broader marketplace. One such company is Metaswitch Networks, and in March they conducted a study in conjunction with Edgewater Networks about VoIP and UC in the SMB space. With their permission, I have extracted selected highlights from the research focused specifically on UC, as the data will help quantify what many have long suspected about how SMBs view this opportunity.
I’m not going break down the data into the finer points – that will have to wait until my analysis is published over the next few weeks. Furthermore, the presentation upon which this post is based is not available yet for distribution, so for now, you’ll have to take the findings at face value. If you want to delve deeper, drop me a line and we’ll go from there.
The scope of this study is substantive, with a response base of 1,017 U.S.-based SMBs. There is additional data on Canadian SMBs, but that’s not included in my analysis. Furthermore, the highlights reflect a subset of the full data set by size of company. For my analysis here, results are being reported for two size ranges – SMBs under 50 employees and those in the range of 50-249 employees. Data was collected for SMBs in the 250+ range, but Metaswitch Networks has chosen not to include this segment in their presentation. As such, there are two basic groupings that this post is based on – Small (under 50) and Mid (50-249).
UC was a minor topic in their research, but I have prepared five charts to share the most salient findings, and have grouped them into three main themes. Additionally, I’m going to reference some other data points that don’t have charts to illustrate the findings.
Theme 1 – UC Adoption and Intention to Deploy
Not surprisingly, UC adoption rates are quite low - only 8% among Small SMBs, and 22% for Mid-sized SMBs. While the definition of UC is subject to interpretation, it’s clear that this market has a long way to go before becoming mainstream users.
Despite the small user base, the outlook is actually quite encouraging among non-users. Charts 1 and 2 below show how likely SMBs are to adopt UC in favor of their current phone system.
Chart 1 - How Likely to Adopt UC - Small
Chart 2 – How Likely to Adopt - Mid
As these pie charts show, 21% of Small and 30% of Mid SMBs are “likely” or “very likely” to adopt UC. With another 39% in both groupings being “somewhat likely”, the majority of SMBs are favorably disposed towards UC, which is a promising message for both vendors and channels focused on this market.
Theme 2 – UC Buying Criteria
Non-users were asked to rate the importance of 12 criteria related to their decision-making around UC. For sake of brevity, I’m only reporting the top five, as these tell enough in terms of what’s most important – at least based on their expectations and perceptions of what UC can deliver.
As Charts 3 and 4 show, being able to access voicemail on any device is clearly the top criterion. Aside from being the leader for both segments, it is the only criterion at 50% or higher that is “more important”.
The remaining attributes are reasonably equal in importance, and are the same for each segment. They all rate fairly highly, and are ahead of the remaining seven attributes not included here.
Chart 3 – Top Buying Criteria - Small
Chart 4 – Top Buying Criteria - Medium
At UCStrategies, we see the bleeding edge as a matter of course, but it’s easy to forget that UC is still new for much of the market. This is especially true among SMBs, and is borne out extensively in Metaswitch’s research. The above charts tell enough of the story, as they clearly show how telephony-centric SMBs are in their thinking about UC. They’re not thinking about CEBP, business outcomes, collaboration or a consistent user experience – it’s the everyday demands of making and taking phone calls. For channels selling into this market, the takeaway is to not oversell the technology – for SMBs, UC is largely about making the basics simple and easy to use.
Theme 3 – Lync and Telephony
This is the only aspect of the report that is vendor-specific, and given Microsoft’s footprint, it’s not surprising to see some questions in the study about Lync. In fact, these questions are welcomed, as the findings are timely in light of the current news about Office 365 adding telephony and PSTN connectivity. Also note that while Microsoft adopted the Skype for Business moniker last November, their UC offering was still commonly referred to as Lync when this research was conducted.
Chart 5 below represents data from the full set of respondents, which includes both users and non-users of Lync. The research shows low levels of deployment for Lync – only 5% for Small and 11% for Mid – so the chart largely reflects views based on non-users.
Not surprisingly, only a small segment view Lync as a solution for both UC and telephony, and the levels are comparable among Small and Mid SMBs – 21% and 23% respectively. Given Microsoft’s struggles to gain a foothold in business telephony, this could be seen positively as a base to build on, but the majority doesn’t see it that way.
This sentiment is most pronounced among Small SMBs – under 50 – as 47% see using Lync with their existing phone system, and another 4% see doing the same with a new phone system. With an additional 28% being not sure, Microsoft clearly has a long way to go in convincing SMBs that Skype for Business can provide a complete UC solution.
Chart 5 – SMB Plans for Lync and Telephony