Looking into the Crystal Ball: What Does 2013 Have in Stock for the UCC Market?
As the new year approaches, we are all trying to predict what it will be like for the unified communications and collaboration (UCC) market and the information and communications (ICT) industry as a whole. We wish to know what tools and technologies will best resonate with end users and what decision-makers who hold the company budget will choose to invest in.
With flailing European economies, concerns about the Chinese markets, and a fiscal cliff threatening a recession in the U.S. and neighboring countries, the North American UCC market must prepare for an uphill battle in 2013.
The UCC industry is also morphing from within as technologies mature and converge. While technologies are evolving faster than ever before, disruptive innovation is becoming rarer and harder to accomplish.
Moreover, businesses have become more conservative in their technology investment practices under pressure from more frequent economic downturns and the need for greater caution in aligning their ICT roadmap with continually evolving technologies. To an extent, rapid technology evolution is slowing down mainstream technology adoption.
There are, however, pockets of the UCC market where technology adoption is on the rise, primarily where UCC solutions most effectively address specific IT or end-user pain points or broader mega trends.
Here follow some highlights from recent Frost & Sullivan surveys of North American C-level decision makers and IT management that provide a glimpse of what 2013 is going to be like for the UCC market.
Budgets: Sixty-five percent of respondents expect budgets to stay the same in the coming year; only 35 percent expect an increase. More recent macro-economic developments may further shifts budget plans toward the more conservative end.
IT Operational Challenges: Less than half of the respondents believe that their IT infrastructure allows them to work more efficiently. Less than a third believe that they are able to make effective technology investments and that their IT and business strategies are well aligned. Only 20 percent state that their IT staff is able to work on more strategic projects.
Technology Challenges: Devising and implementing a mobile strategy and leveraging social media in the enterprise and with customers rank as most important among technology challenges.
Consumerization of IT: The vast majority of respondent organizations (71 percent) allow the use of consumer devices and applications in the enterprise, even though only 44 percent provide full or partial support for these tools.
Organizational Transformation: Currently, 26 percent of the respondent organizations’ workforce is either mobile or remote. Within the next five years, this percentage is expected to increase to 32 percent.
Investment Criteria: Security and price rank much higher than any other investment criteria including technology maturity, cutting-edge features, and open standards.
Social Media: Social media tools are expected to see much greater increase in usage next year compared to any other applications, though increased usage is expected for all UCC tools surveyed.
Mobility: Tablets are likely to see the greatest increase in usage among all communications endpoints.
Video: Video conferencing is much more extensively used on desktop PCs and laptops than on room systems or telepresence solutions.
Infrastructure Optimization: Almost half (49 percent) of the respondents currently use multi-vendor technologies that are not integrated. Within two years, this percentage is expected to decline to 24 percent with the rest of businesses almost equally split between single-vendor solutions and more tightly integrated multi-vendor architectures. UCC virtualization is only now gaining traction.
Alternative Delivery Models: Currently, 25 percent of respondents use hosted services. More than half anticipate increased usage over the next 12 months. Also, 42 percent of non-users expect to deploy hosted services in the future.
Competitive Landscape: Macro-economic and industry-specific trends have combined to drive growing consolidation and considerable merger-and-acquisition (M&A) activity in the UCC market.
Overall, external and industry-specific forces have set the communications industry well on its way to becoming absorbed in the broader IT industry, which will have a profound impact on the industry’s ability to grow and generate profits in the future. This trend will determine the evolution of the UCC market in 2013, but more profound transformation will unfold in the years to come. However, pockets of disruptive innovation in mobile, social, visual, and cloud technologies will drive customer demand and industry growth both in the near and the long term.