The Gartner Magic Quadrant for UC 2013 - Is this a Mature Industry Profile?

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for UC 2013 - Is this a Mature Industry Profile?

By Phil Edholm August 13, 2013 6 Comments
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The Gartner Magic Quadrant for UC 2013 - Is this a Mature Industry Profile? by Phil Edholm

When I was part of a vendor organization, the annual Gartner Magic Quadrant was a huge event. It was the opportunity to tout your rating or try to deflect your position (if you were not the top dog). The effort that went into painting a picture of the company to the Gartner team and the anticipation of what your outcome would be was an annual exercise that I am glad I do not have to participate in any longer. Now I get to look at the Magic Quadrant as one measure of the industry and the progress we are making.

I know we like to think of UC as a really hot market space and that innovation is happening all around, however, the progression of recent Gartner UC Magic Quadrants seem to paint a slightly different story. I always find it interesting to see how the "quadrant" changes from year to year. I actually mapped the changes from 2011 to 2012 to 2013 and made a really pretty graph with colors and lines. Unfortunately, Gartner will not allow me to show you that, even with attribution, even though a search for "Gartner Magic Quadrant Image" shows up hundreds of images, including this one of the just released 2013 report: While I cannot show you the actual report images, a few key observations came from the mapping, some from the analysis itself, and some from looking at the overlaps between vendors. Overall, the largest move in any direction in the last two years is IBM, with a move of about seven percent (predominately to the right as in better Completeness of Vision). All of the other companies are within five percent of their 2011 ratings. In my book, a system with no movement of any single object over five percent over a three-year period is in stasis. Looking deeper, you can see how rigid the industry has become.

First, the Leader quadrant has not changed dramatically since 2011. In fact, with the exception of the significant downgrading of Alcatel-Lucent in 2012 (moving back into the Challenger quadrant after a one-year upgrade to Leader in 2011), no one has moved in, or out, for three years. And, with the exception of Siemens Enterprise Communications (SEC), all had a slightly better Completeness of Vision, but not by much. While Gartner mentioned the recent Project Ansible announcement, that did not seem to have had a positive impact on Completeness of Vision for SEC as there was no change in the SEC position. Cisco and Microsoft moved a little farther from each other, though I assume the margin of error of the analysis is about five percent, so Microsoft and Cisco are essentially tied. However, that came with both being slightly higher rated on their Completeness of Vision and Microsoft seeing a drop in Execution ability. I wonder what caused this drop. With Microsoft organizing for tighter alignment with Lync and Skype and claimed success in Lync Enterprise Voice deployments, it would seem they are investing more than ever in this area. The Avaya slight increase in Completeness of Vision over 2011/12 could be attributable to the Radvision acquisition and having a video strategy. However, that was offset by a drop in Ability to Execute, probably reflecting the significant staff reductions of the past year and debt at a level significantly higher than revenue (as noted in the report).

In the Visionaries quadrant, only Mitel has a position (as there have not been any other vendors in this quadrant since 2010, maybe Gartner should change the name to the "Mitel" quadrant). Interestingly enough, Mitel was the only company on the right side of the quadrant (Vision Leaders) to actually have both categories increase in both 2011 and 2012. The Mitel team appears to be moving in the right direction on all fronts.

The Challengers remained essentially the same, with only IBM moving up in both Completeness of Vision and Ability to Execute. This is most interesting as IBM is a UC vendor without a real-time communications platform and they, along with Mitel, have been the largest movers of the last two years. Everyone else moved down in both categories over 2012, reflecting the maturity of the market and the challenge to create a differentiable position against the leaders.

Finally, in the Niche Players quadrant, everyone moved down except Toshiba, who is essentially the weakest player. Digium was removed in 2013, reflecting the fact that they are really not a UC player, but a component vendor to a solution that requires integration and have packaged solutions only for SMB. And Teleware left in 2012, reflecting more of an integrator stance. Both Aastra and ShoreTel continued a gradual upward climb, but stayed below both lines in the Niche quadrant. Interactive Intelligence, for which UC is an extension of their Contact Center offer, has continued to weaken in UC since leaving the Visionary quadrant after 2010. In general, the players in this space are treading ground with no major movement.

So what does all this mean? If you are evaluating vendors, it is now even more difficult to decide between Microsoft and Cisco (see my post on Lync versus Jabber - How to Decide?). I created a second version of the chart that expands each vendor to a five percent diameter bubble (based on a reasonable view of the margin of error). This allows you to see if there is a real difference if the margin of error is taken into account (remember your presidential polling). If the accuracy of the Gartner team is five percent, then there is not clear differentiation between many of the vendors in certain areas. For example, Microsoft, Cisco, and SEC are essentially equal in Completeness of Vision, and Microsoft and Cisco actually touch the same line in Ability to Execute.

In the end, the Gartner analysis leaves us with a few certain conclusions. If you want a sure thing, Microsoft or Cisco should be your choice. It is easy to justify your decision with either of these as a choice of a Leader, but, we already knew that. If you are an Avaya customer (still the largest installed base in North America), Avaya has a reasonably good UC offer for you if you are comfortable having a slightly lower expectation of future capability. Unfortunately Avaya seems to be slipping in its ability to convince the Gartner team that it can sustain its position to execute. If you are a SEC customer or considering SEC, it should be a good decision; as indicated, SEC is now equivalent to Cisco and Microsoft in Completeness of Vision and that should see a better result in 2014 if Project Ansible comes to fruition. Mitel appears to be a good decision in the mid-market, reflecting a strengthening Completeness of Vision and Ability to Execute and continued upward momentum. And each of the Challengers and Niche players has a specific position and those do not appear to be changing much.

In the end though, our UC market seems to be getting fairly mature and does not seem to be in a state of flux. The fact that the last three years has seen minimal position changes in the UC Magic Quadrant is indicative of a mature space. This essentially means that, if a vendor meets your needs today and their future vision or offering and roadmap meets your needs, it is a reasonable choice, but don't assume they will change over time.

One area I always wondered about is what it takes to get to 100 percent in either Completeness of Vision or Ability to Execute. As none of the vendors is more than 75 percent in either category, no one gets better than a C grade (at least that is what 75 percent was when I was in school). So what does it take to get farther up and to the right? What would the characteristics be of a vendor at 100%? The one thing I find missing in the analysis is the statement of what is required to have a complete vision or execution capability. Obviously cash is not a measure of execution as both Cisco and Microsoft have more cash than the State of California. And I sure wonder what the other missing 25 percent of Cisco, SEC, and Microsoft's visions are, perhaps teleportation is an expectation remaining unfulfilled/uncommitted.

Looking to the future, it will be interesting to see the next round if changes coming in the industry will change/disrupt the UC Magic Quadrant. Will WebRTC and the disruptions it will bring change the UC Magic Quadrant in 2014 or 2015? I wonder if the Gartner team talked about WebRTC User Portals and how they will change communications with the vendors in 2013. And will Cloud enable a new range of competitors or major transitions by some of the current vendors? Absent a transformation like that, it would appear that the market is now fairly locked up; the leaders are well defined with few changes anticipated.

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6 Responses to "The Gartner Magic Quadrant for UC 2013 - Is this a Mature Industry Profile?" - Add Yours

Art Rosenberg 8/14/2013 4:59:25 PM


Interesting perspectives!

However, I question how "mature" the UC market really is, when looking at the limited offerings for CEBP integrations for mobile users, which Gartner has acknowledged as a" broad group of applications" that will drive a lot of UC activity in the consumer world. They highlighted the huge health care vertical, which can now be expanded to include "patient" interactions.

I think that things are still evolving and need standardization and interoperability along the lines of what WebRTC is trying to accomplish. Apparently there is a holdup because the two big browser providers haven't (yet) gone along with integrating with WebRTC, which is also still evolving.

So, I am still waiting to see everyone using "click-to-contact" and "click-to-respond" capabilities, which will bypass the limitations of the voice-only PSTN, not only for business users, but especially for next-generation mobile consumers.
Bill Haskins 8/15/2013 9:14:45 AM

Great post Phil, thank you! I think your analysis of the supply side of the UC conversation is "spot-on" - no major changes over the last three years. It makes me wonder, though, if the real issue lies in the demand side of this equation. I think we all agree that UC solution are still in very early stages of adoption. Why? Because the average enterprise has a lot of blocking and tackling to do before they really take advantage of a full, unified, audio/video/data sharing/conferencing enabled UC platform. Lots of time and money still need to be invested into networks before the stack can be fully deployed.

So, we find ourselves at a state of supply and demand equilibrium, the market becomes stagnant, and can be defined as mature. That said, there are a number of variables that could shake this thing free - innovation like we see in SEC's Ansible solution, network-friendly advances like SDN, a 'mobile-leapfrog' effect (shout out to Art), and left-field WebRTC solutions all could breath life into this industry - primarily by removing hurdles and increasing enterprise utilization of a full UC experience. Once enterprises can really deploy and benefit from this stuff, money starts flowing into vendors coffers, and competition / innovation will increase.
Rick Spivey 8/15/2013 11:23:12 AM

Stagnant...maybe? Mature definitely not! As Phil points out so well still plenty of questions about Gartner's grading. As Art mentions mobile applications will cause an explosion of activity in the future. Most enterprises have risk evasive IT staffs that are viewed as "cost centers" not strategic partners. Everyone has heard, no one gets fired for buying IBM, Microsoft, Cisco etc. Until the CFO gets fed up pumping vast amounts of money into the black hole. Until IT is viewd as a strategic partner within the business this space will stay the same for the next three years. No one is knocking down the door for UC within most enterprises. All the players still have gaping holes in their products. Some fix with there wallets others with ingenuity. Currently BYOD has been the only ""shake this thing free." End user demand , mobile computing and the "Cloud" will tick this up to the next level. So if I was a gambler my money would be on the visonarys
Hyoun Park 8/15/2013 12:20:22 PM

Part of the problem with the "Unified Communications" market is that it's being seen through the lens of PBX vendors. In reality, our own Unified Communications are often built around our iPhone, Skype account, or increasingly our Facebook and Google accounts, but it's hard to translate that into a Gartner-centric enterprise technology perspective.

For the Magic Quadrant to reflect the real innovation that's happening in UC, I think Google would need to be an entrant simply for the effects that Android-based phones and tablets, Google+ and Google Hangouts, and Google Voice have had in UC. Twitter and other microblogging or messaging apps would potentially be niche providers of services. Skype would play a stronger role in showing Microsoft's unique role. Polycom and Plantronics both play very interesting roles in true Unified Communications. The hosted UC players aren't big enough to fit in the MQ, but are driving a lot of strong UC use cases And I still think Esnatech's role in integrating communications is quite interesting. But the MQ ignores all of them because of its very specific view of what UC is.

Some industry analyst should do something about all those holes and provide a more complete view of the UC market. ;)
Laurie Shook 8/15/2013 3:10:48 PM

Good point, Hyoun. How mature the market appears to be may be a function of what part of the elephant you feel, like the old Indian tale about the blind men and the elephant. And would end users with a desk phone, a mobile for personal, a mobile for work, an IM client for work, Facebook up for group chat, a separate net conferencing account think call UC "mature?" I think not.
Phil Edholm 8/19/2013 8:18:25 AM

Excellent comments. The really interesting reflection here is that maybe "none of the above" is actually becoming the future of our industry. IN many ways, the advent of technologies like WebRTC that change the outbound communications process from needing to be managed by the company server to a direct connection from the user to the remote end should accelerate that, as well as form the basis for the real evolution of CEBP.

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