Why 2014 Is the “Perfect Storm” For UCC Adoption
Unified Communications and Collaboration has been in use for close to 10 years. History says that it takes between 7 and 10 years before a technology really goes mainstream. Until now, UCC has been in trialed, shown interest by Enterprise users at large, sold by the channel partner community at large, but rarely has been used in a strategic way to deploy Unified Communications throughout an entire organization as a strategic differentiator.
Factors, Market Trends
There are a number of factors and market trends that are helping to facilitate a “perfect storm” for the adoption of UCC in the year 2014. They include:
- TDM is Dead – Really Dead. Digital TDM PBXs have been announced discontinued for several years now, however, many of the manufacturers have continued to offer support for the product including software and firmware for additional fees annually. In 2013, many of our clients’ experiences indicate that manufacturer end-of-support from the most TDM PBX products is occurring anywhere from the year 2011 through 2014 at the very latest. For example, Octel Voice Mail, which has been around for close to 25 years, will show signs of end-of-life in the year 2014. Most Octel systems will now automatically date stamp messages as though they were recorded one year earlier, so for example, a message left on January 10, 2014, will be date stamped as January 10, 2013, which for enterprise users will be a clear flag that there's something wrong with the system. In all fairness to Octel, these systems were never designed to last 25 years, and for all intents and purposes an “industry record” in the Telecommunications IT space.
- Consumerization for UCC is Already Here. Specific basic components of UCC are already currently in use throughout the consumer community. For example, the presence feature, a key component of Unified Communications, is an app built into Facebook, so you can readily know from your friend’s list who is available for communicating real-time when online. IM/chat has been in use for several years on smartphones, taking on the form of texting in the consumer space. In fact, texting has become so prevalent that texting while driving has become part of a national “no texting while driving” awareness campaign.
- Telephony is No Longer Relevant. Every client project that we have been involved with over the last 24 months has clearly shown us that replacing Telephony for Telephony ONLY offers no additional perceived value to the enterprise customer. In fact, many customers question if it’s just like for like and why such a project is taking place when the customer will have to spend additional monies on a system replacement over a system “that works” and that has been fully paid for, at least the last 3-5 years. So in one sense, Telephony is no longer relevant; on the other hand, it is a necessary requirement for communicating in its most basic form.
Enterprise users want more than just basic Telephony and Voice Mail. Quick wins and quick hits to assist clients to deploy UCC components as part of a new VoIP Telephony project include Unified Messaging and LDAP corporate directory. Both of these technologies do not require significant training, and user “wow” factor has been significant.
- NextGen UCC has been Announced and is About To Go GA. Several of the manufacturers have announced elements of a Next-Gen UCC product line and are about to go GA/General Availability. Current UCC elements include IM/chat, presence, ad hoc audio conferencing, ad hoc video conferencing, document sharing, web collaboration, softphone, corporate directory, Unified Messaging, Telephony, Voice Mail, and Contact Center. NextGen UCC also includes ease-of-use factors, device awareness, powerful search tools, geo location presence, rich context including integration to SalesForce, Google and other apps, and most importantly identical user experience across multiple devices. Next-Gen UCC will be all about adapting UCC to how an organization operates, as opposed to changing an organizational operation to UCC, which in many cases has been the baseline up until now.
- Mobility is Now a Way of Life. Smart phones have been in use for several years now and the sheer adoption of smartphones has been dramatic, to say the least. For example, 257 million smartphones will be in use by U.S. consumers by the year 2016, according to Forrester Research. That is almost a 1:1 ratio of the entire U.S. population. Additionally, it is expected that 126 million tablets will be in use by U.S. consumers by the year 2016, nearly ½ of the entire U.S. population. So the practical use of a smartphone and tablet in the consumer world is already here. With UCC tools now available in smartphones and tablets, expect to see rapid growth in the commercial side of the mobility/UCC space beginning in 2014.
- Components of UCC Have Been Used in the Contact Center. For several years now, elements of UCC have been use in the Contact Center. For example, CTI screen pops have been in full production mode for well over seven years, while I/M chat has also been in use for the same period to quickly obtain supervisory approval in lieu of a more traditional “walk over to the supervisory desk” for approval process, reducing a call length by at least 20 percent.
- UCC Price Point is Nearly Zero. When one compares VoIP only just 24 months ago with VoIP plus UCC as a total replacement today, the cost for the latter is actually less expensive than VoIP only just 24 months ago. In our market, price is a factor and lowering the price helps drive proliferation of any product, hence why you will see adoption of UCC in the year 2014.
There are other actors as well:
- We are beyond the hype cycle stage of UCC. As UCC is now in use for close to 10 years, history says that adoption will begin to move quickly in 2014.
- The cloud is here and offerings of UCC are included as part of the providers package. UCC for the cloud, also presented as UCaaS, and outsourcing this function to an outsider takes at least some of the perceived “sting” of the technical aspects of a UCC deployment.
- To adopt UCC now creates a differentiator for your organization. As the adoption stage of UCC is going mainstream, now is the time to leverage UCC as a solution to differentiate your organization. In the next 36-48 months, the differentiator aspect of UCC will begin to lessen once your competitors have adopted UCC as well. In our consulting practice we find that those clients who are embracing UCC today are helping better streamline their organizations and their functionality significantly, and are providing them a true competitive edge in the market.
Where To Go From Here
Now that 2014 is upon us, it’s a new year, with new resolutions, new strategies, and a time to put a new “stake in the ground” and position your enterprise for UCC adoption. Taking into account all the market drivers detailed in this post, the arguments for UCC adoption in the market and for your organization are clear.
Now is the time to begin to trial and begin deployment of UCC in a strategic way, to leverage UCC and its benefits for your organization. Your IT organization is relevant, and UCC features and functionality will facilitate the advantages of UCC and adoption throughout your organization. Consumers have been using elements of UCC for some time now – and it makes practical sense now to plan for UCC and begin its deployment for your organization.
So the key question is – are you ready for UCC planning and deployment. Your customer organization is ready for UCC and willing to embrace. Once deployed, it can be game-changing for your organization.