• Enterprises should look at vendor platforms beyond Microsoft and Cisco and demand interoperability between platforms and applications.
• Unified communications (UC) and mobility are now intrinsically linked.
2015 has been the year that UC solutions have really started to achieve market traction. Take-up is far from universal, but for most UC features CA’s own research suggests that usage amongst enterprises is above 50%. The uptick in usage is down to a number of factors–for example, falling prices and the maturity of the technology–however, it is the improvement of the business case for UC that seems to have had the biggest impact. Vodafone, for example, has reported a strong response from customers following the development of new proof of concept demonstrations and a new approach to training and educating its workforce. So the initial message for enterprise users is that a conversation with your provider concerning unified communications is likely to be more centred on achieving better business outcomes, and therefore a more worthwhile experience.
Looking forward to 2016, there are a number of trends that are likely to emerge and that will have an impact on buying decisions:
Vendor Platforms: The UC landscape is heavily dominated by Cisco and Microsoft at the moment. This has led to a degree of homogeneity in the solutions offered by providers. This is not necessarily a problem as both HCS and Skype for Business are very strong solutions, and there can be certain benefits to limiting the number of platforms. However, more providers are starting to look to alternatives such as Unify, Broadsoft and Google Apps. In their desire to gain market presence, these platform vendors are competing on ingenuity, often on price, and increasingly on their ability to integrate with Microsoft and Cisco and other platforms and applications. Enterprises should prepare to ask providers if different platforms are likely to be more suitable for their needs rather than relying on the familiarity of Microsoft.
Federation and Integration: A number of platform vendors and providers have in late 2015 announced that they will begin 2016 by launching UC platforms/services that are preconfigured to be integrated with other applications and UC platforms. In 2016, enterprise customers should ask their providers how their solution will integrate with CRM applications, contact centres, and other internal databases and customer-facing media. Enterprises should also ask how their own UC solutions will work when communicating with those outside the organisation – e.g., with partners and suppliers. Too often problems are encountered when seeking to allow people from outside the organisation to access audio/web/video conference bridges or collaborative working groups.
UC and Mobility: The distinction between UC and mobility is quickly eroding. Indeed, enterprises should now consider the two as intrinsically linked. Fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) should now be viewed as a central part of UC, as should the ability to use the mobile device to receive IMs and to join web and video conferences. Enterprise customers should also ensure that access to corporate voice networks will be possible over 3G/4G and WiFi.
There is a growing number of powerful ‘smarter working’ solutions available to enterprises. Those who do not use them risk losing out, but enterprises should not avoid asking the right questions before choosing a solution.