Why 2014 Is the “Perfect Storm” For UCC Adoption

Why 2014 Is the “Perfect Storm” For UCC Adoption

By Stephen Leaden December 31, 2013 12 Comments
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Why 2014 Is the “Perfect Storm” For UCC Adoption by Stephen Leaden


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.

Other Factors

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. 


12 Responses to "Why 2014 Is the “Perfect Storm” For UCC Adoption" - Add Yours

Alonzo M Carr 1/1/2014 11:13:07 AM

Hi Stephen,

Great points on why UCC adoption is ready to take-off in 2014. How do you see the adoption of UCC being driven in the enterprise? Will UC partners play a more strategic role or will it be Telecom/IT within the enterprise?
Barb Grothe 1/1/2014 3:02:53 PM

Great article Steve. You are correct in stating that Unified Communications and Collaboration is now coming alive. This bodes true even for the smaller businesses. We just had two clients deploy UCC with no desk phones One deployment was 500 users and the other was 145 users. Smaller companies are more productive with desktop sharing, conference calling, instant messaging, and click to call. I also agree that we have seen a price reduction in the technology from just 2 years ago.
Greg Zweig 1/2/2014 5:55:31 AM


Great summary of the key factors. I believe cloud-based services also play a big role, eliminating the need to deploy all of these elements yourself. More importantly, in 2014 I think the rise of WebRTC will be a major driver for UCC. It reduces reliance on dedicated clients - making UCC access so much easier. I compare it to e-mail, yes I still love my Outlook client on my PC but I also love having web clients on all my devices. I don't miss the days of having to fire up a specific device to get e-mail. Do GMail users really miss a client?? I think WebRTC will revolutionize access to real time communications much as we have see web-based clients revolutionize e-mail access.
Holly Dowden 1/2/2014 9:16:53 AM

Excellent points. However, I note with dismay that many SMB's are still not aware of the options. Over the holiday period, I had the opportunity for cocktail chat with random small business owners, noting many of them were well over 40 and not from a technology industry. None of them had heard of "UC" (of course) but most were aware of "VoIP", solely from a cost savings viewpoint. One fellow stated he was moving to VoIP, but not sure if he wanted to invest in IP phones - "one thing at a time" he said. I told him I worked for a company where we no longer have desk phones, but he found that perplexing. Gotta find a way to get a simple solution into the hands of the people. :-)
Christopher May 1/2/2014 3:44:17 PM

Thanks Stephen. I agree that the momentum is building for UCC and your points are very convincing.

However, let me add a couple of critical points that I believe add to your argument:
1. Architecture Optimization and Virtualization - the addition of UCC adds complexity to the network and as a result we see a concentration of architecture to simplify and improve the communications network. Centralized session management, SIP trunks and enterprise-wide dial plans means a more optimal operating environment, with lower costs. It also allows for the centralization of the network components and this in turn allows for the adoption of virtualization (often from a 3rd party data center). This means that the move to UCC comes with a significant optimization of the communications architecture with better redundancy and lower operating costs. This can greatly improve the business case for UCC.

2. UCC Automation - UCC automation tools have come a long way in the last 3-4 years. So while the complexity of UCC by definition means you need to re-train staff or hire UCC specialists, which has often been a barrier to the adoption of UCC, we are now seeing management tools that are specifically focused on UCC and multi-vendor UCC.
The cloud vendors all understand the need for UCC management tools and this is now part of their offering (e.g. Cisco HCS, which is being adopted by many of the leading UCaaS service providers, has fully integrated UCC automation sourced from VOSS Solutions). The same specialist UC management tools are now available to enterprise customer too, which will help lower complexity and operating costs - thereby further improving the UCC business case and driving the adoption curve for UCC.

Both the above capabilities are a result of the typical lifecycle of a new technology. Optimization and operational effectiveness becomes the primary focus of vendors as the adoption curve moves from early adopters to the mass market.
Steve Leaden 1/5/2014 7:43:35 AM

Alonzo -

Thanks for your comments - excellent questions. In my opinion, driving UCC adoption needs to start with the vision of the CIO and executive business leaders at the enterprise level and creating a strategic plan and rollout for UCC adoption and its benefits within their organization. Without their buy-in the enterprise will get little traction for UCC. Executive management needs to see clearly the benefits of UCC and how it can transform their organization. The end user community is already getting more educated with some of UCC feature and functionality available in the consumer space. And there are reasons for the CIO and executive management team to be proactive in adopting UCC for their enterprise, to support their user community, i.e., those CIOs who are not proactive may no longer be relevant in the not-too-distant future.

As far as partners playing a more strategic role, it is of course up to the manufacturers, the channel and the analyst and consultant community to have the vision to support the enterprise community and be the customer advocate. We are the industry's leaders and visionaries regarding what an enterprise can do with UCC and need to have the vision and expertise to support an enterprise’s UCC adoption. So in the end adoption clearly has like to do with the partner community creating awareness, tying in all the benefits and features and functionality, and helping to facilitate trialing and adoption in the enterprise organization. When combining both the partner and the CIO and business leaders communities, there is no stopping UCC adoption in 2014. CIOs will need to facilitate a strategic plan for adopting UCC in their enterprise using some of the touch points described in this article.
Steve Leaden 1/5/2014 7:44:20 AM

Barb -

Thanks and appreciate your comments, and from your two examples it is clear that small to midsize businesses are adopting UCC in their own enterprises in a strategic way, and for all of the areas you mentioned, including desktop sharing, conference calling, instant messaging, and click to call are all examples of leveraging UCC in their own enterprise. It is great to see these enterprises ‘take the plunge’ and leverage UCC tools in their own enterprise – it truly puts them ahead of the curve. Productivity enhancements are definitely part of the UCC suite, and hard dollar savings and cost avoidance, i.e., price reductions from 2 years ago, also help make the case.
Steve Leaden 1/5/2014 7:45:04 AM

Greg -

Thanks and your points are well taken. I agree that cloud-based services will play a big role eliminating the need to deploy these elements with in-house expertise. Yes, cloud-based services will simplify things, using the latest manufacturer deployment tools available and ease of implementation for the enterprise. We also have to keep in mind that there is a dependency on the cloud that is outside of our own control and we need to carefully select the uCaaS provider that best suits our enterprise for UCC adoption.

WebRTC will also be another great driver for UCC adoption for sure. Although in the early adopter stage, with standards still being developed amongst all the manufacturers, Web RTC shows the promise simplifying UCC adoption in a web browser interface, to your point. We should begin to see some Web RTC adoption in 2014 relative to UCC and it's drivers.
Steve Leaden 1/5/2014 7:45:48 AM

Holly -

Thanks for your points. Like any new technology those in the younger generations will adapt more quickly than others. For SMBs, I think we will begin to see some adoption of UCC in the enterprise with the "giveaway" of basic Microsoft Lync licensing as part of Microsoft Office 2013. Those small business owners will begin to play with Lync and begin to see the benefits. They are already using some components of UCC in the consumer space, including texting, and video conferencing, aka FaceTime in the Apple world. Referencing examples like those in the consumer space can make UCC intriguing to the small business owner in my opinion. So, to your point, maybe identifying UCC through example vs. the term ‘UC’ will likely get those individuals more engaged in the conversation and more willing to consider UC for their small business.
Steve Leaden 1/5/2014 7:46:35 AM

Christopher -

Many thanks for your great comments. All of your points are well taken and definitely add to the argument for UCC adoption in the year 2014. Yes, complexity is definitely one barrier to UCC adoption, and the introduction of session management, UCC automation tools, virtualization, and overall simplification of UCC deployment will definitely drive the adoption of UCC in the year 2014. Cloud vendors now have the tools to provide UCC and are definitely making adoption easier for the enterprise.

For example, we are involved with a large enterprise client, project managing deploying UCC in cloud for over 7,000 end points. The client is utilizing Cisco’s HCS solution with ESNA Tech (for Google Gmail integration). We are finding the ease of deployment factor high and frustration level low, to your point. We are also finding the adoption of UCC high in those departments that are (a) complex in their operations process, (b) spread across multiple geographies, and/or (c) use @Home workers. In all 3 instances, UCC helps ‘bring’ people together and speed process and approvals quickly.

Many thanks for your points, adding to the arguments and reasons for UCC adoption in 2014.
Joseph Ouko 1/20/2014 7:51:16 AM

I believe UCC will greately impact how businesses do business. Having said that, i also believe that there lacks models that organizations can use to adopt UCC into their business processes in order to ensure business process optimization and a well measurable ROI in business. Do you think this is a field that the academia world as well as IS business think tanks should direct research? By this i mean aspects like Cisco SONA provide frameworks that can be used to lay foundations for UCC adoption, however these like many others that are vendor centrism do not really provide a clear cut framework or model structure that organizations say in the Finance vertical can use in order to leaverage maximum return from UCC.

If such a model would exist, then what would be some of the key issues that it should address going forward? Especially with regard to business thinking and Technological implementation?
What are your opinions?
Hugh Goldstein 12/4/2014 7:02:49 PM

Hi Steve, now that 2014 is almost ready for the books, look forward to your insights for 2015! At Voxbone we are taking phone numbers around the world and plugging them into a global network so our customers can map them to new SIP & UC type services. From this angle telephony is very relevant. While TDM may be "dead" the telephone number is not. Freeing up global telephone numbers via porting into SIP Trunking platforms and allowing users to plug them instantly into software & API enabled systems anywhere is an important part of the maturity and widespread adoption seen this year in UC and Cloud communications scenarios.

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