The unified communications and collaboration (UCC) market is poised for significant growth as a result of sharp increases in its usage, according to a new report from Forrester Research.
UCC Fits the Bill
According to the Forrester report “Unified Communications and Collaboration is Poised for Growth as Demand Rises,” UCC is becoming a “standard communication infrastructure” because it provides a single infrastructure that can effectively manage multichannel communications across a distributed enterprise.
Forrester data indicates one-third of global companies have implemented UCC infrastructure and another third plan to.
Vendors Respond to Demand
Naturally, IT vendors are not ignoring this significant uptick in demand for UCC technology. Forrester reports vendors are actively providing tools including UCC point solutions that perform a single task such as the WebEx conferencing application, as well as integrated toolsets that address multiple tasks such as the Huddle platform.
Other popular UCC applications include extensible UCC toolsets that tie enterprise collaboration tools to specific business solutions such as SAP Workstream, which connects UCC functionality to SAP ERP modules. Forrester also cites vendors including Google, IBM and Microsoft as developing platforms to support “online information workplaces” that integrate UCC tools with productivity and business applications.
UCC on Steady Development Path
Forrester identifies three key areas of business value delivered by UCC: IT operations, business unit productivity/profitability and strategic benefits, and estimates ROI of some UCC rollouts to exceed 300 percent. Thus UCC trials are increasingly turning into live deployments, abetted by a gradual economic recovery in the US. Business models using on-premises, cloud and hybrid deployment of UCC technology are all developing.
Defining the Role of UCC
Forrester advises organizations trying to build a case for UCC deployment to first define a specific role for UCC in their business. This means answering questions such as what tools are needed, which employees need tools, is basic or enhanced UCC needed, and how will UCC’s function in the enterprise be communicated. Then organizations must engage workers in designing UCC capabilities, design UCC service catalogs, and ultimately use a “trial and measure” approach to see how exactly UCC best works in their specific environment.
A Look Ahead
Looking ahead, Forrester predicts the video communications portion of UCC will hit a “tipping point” as video communications become a standard channel. Already Forrester research shows that more than 50 percent of enterprise IT decision-makers are implementing or expanding video communications capabilities.
In addition, the booming popularity of mobile and BYOD technology (43 percent of IT workers use a personal mobile device on the job) will require all UCC solutions to integrate with a wide variety of devices, while similar growth in the popularity of enterprise social media will necessitate UCC applications to be accessible via social layers.
Lync Plans Show UCC Direction
Microsoft’s plans for the new Lync 2013 communications platform illustrate the direction in which UCC technology is headed. Lync 2013 will be compatible with Windows 8 and Windows RT-based devices and available as both a mobile app and desktop client. In addition, the new mobile app will deliver VoIP and video to Windows Phone, iOS and Android devices and be compatible both Lync Server 2010 and Lync Server 2013.
Microsoft also plans to connect Lync to the Skype VoIP service, which it purchased in May 2011. Lync users will have full access to Skype users, including “seeing” their availability and directly communicating with them via IM, phone call or telepresence. Furthermore, connections between Lync and Microsoft Office will enable activities such as presence information, click-to-communicate capabilities and social network integration. In addition, Office users will have direct access to Lync communications and meetings directly from Office documents, and the new SharedOneNote feature will let Lync Meeting attendees all share and work from the same iteration of a note created in Office.
VoIP Grows Up
In February 2011, Network World was already predicting the evolution of varied communications channel into UCC by saying that VoIP (voice over IP) was “morphing into” UCC. “Today, the shift is from simply using IP based voice communications to actually creating an immersive communications experience,” stated the article. “Video, presence, enterprise social networking and that new term collaboration are moving in to stay. I write this with the understanding that many may not believe it.”
The article goes on to try to convince UCC naysayers that the technology would inevitably develop and “revolutionize” business communications. There are probably far fewer naysayers today, less than two years later. Imagine where UCC will be in November 2014.