Unified communications is not necessarily the most often discussed topic in the news these days, but is certainly a system that the vast majority of organizations in North America rely upon for collaboration purposes. Voice over Internet Protocol business phone services, video conferencing solutions, unified messaging and more are all becoming more vital in the average business, and virtually all of these tools are continuing to evolve thanks to increased competition among vendors.
Small-business owners have been at the forefront of these deployments given their affordable and intuitive nature, especially those solutions that are based in cloud computing environments and hosted by a managed service provider. As time passes, other trends facing the private and public sectors are coming along with UC implications, including enterprise mobility and the Internet of Things, serving as yet another driver of enhanced cloud-based deployments.
Companies that do not yet have a UC system or strategy in place will need to craft one soon or run the risk of falling behind the times in their respective markets, as employees and consumers increasingly expect the ability to access the technology. Additionally, those that have not yet unified their communications frameworks are likely paying a little more than they need to, and would not be optimally positioned to excel in the collaboration category of operations.
If you would like a little information regarding the more progressive types of UC technology and how business leaders ought to be approaching them, check out this video from Cisco on the topic - beware, nerdy, awkward, zany humor will immediately follow the click:
So, with all this in mind, we thought it might be helpful to give a roundup of sorts that looks into some of the news stories released this month relating back to UC, as well as the insights of experts who have been watching the market closely. Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to business decision-making, and entrepreneurs who keep up with research into the technologies they are most heavily reliant upon will be better positioned to excel in the coming years.
VoIP still growing
VoIP was arguably the first step in the UC direction, taken nearly two decades ago when companies began to switch from landlines to IP telephony for cost reduction and functional enhancement purposes. Ever since, VoIP has spread quickly throughout the public and private sectors and, as more countries begin to gain access to modernized IT and telecommunications infrastructure, the market has remained a strong one.
Transparency Market Research released a report this month on the VoIP service market, looking at global trends in demand and spending to identify whether this somewhat long-standing trend in communications technology will remain sustainable in the coming years. Considering the fact that some trends and technologies will reach maximum adoption relatively quickly, which then hinders further investment and, in turn, could stifle innovation among competing vendors, the findings of the report were solid, to say the least.
According to the analysts, companies around the globe spent a total of $70.9 billion on VoIP services in 2014, and this number is now forecast to rise to $136.8 billion in annual spending by the end of this decade. What's more, the firm believes that nearly 350 million entities will subscribe to a VoIP service by 2020, which would represent a relatively large piece of the overall puzzle.
All in all, Transparency Market Research predicted a 9.7 percent compound annual growth rate between 2014 and 2020, which shows just how powerful this particular segment of the UC market has become.
The ROI question
One of the predominant topics among boardroom decision-makers, small-business owners and others when approaching new technology has been return on investment, which many firms have struggled to maximize in the past few years. Because it takes a little while to get used to the general measurement requirements and metric techniques involved in measuring ROI, this can be a bit more difficult than first meets the eye.
On top of that, actually boosting the returns received on investments is an extremely complex and challenging process in some situations, though a bit more seamless when a reliable managed service provider is being used. CIO Magazine recently suggested some other methods leaders can utilize to ensure that their ROI is not only trackable, but strong, for investments made on UC solutions, systems and managed services.
The news provider urged leaders to have a plan in place to govern the implementation, management and optimization stages of UC deployments, with a specific focus on aligning the various components therein with core missions and objectives. As aforementioned, the source also noted that measurement needs to be a priority, and companies will have a far more difficult time improving upon their UC performance in the long-run without accurate, efficient means to measure.
Furthermore, CIO Magazine argued that many companies have not done much work with respect to engaging employees - notably end-users from each department - in conversations about their experiences. Without buy-in, the source explained, enterprises will struggle to maximize ROI.
"Cloud-based video conferencing is booming."
Video conferencing's rise
Global Market Firm released a study this month that called for massive growth in the cloud-based video conferencing industry through 2019, and that adjective was not at all hyperbole. According to the analysts, companies will spend far more on cloud-based video conferencing as the years go on, to the tune of a compound annual growth rate of 39.1 percent between 2014 and 2019.
Now, this particular trend is very telling when looking at the current UC market, in that it shows how quickly companies are beginning to migrate their communications systems into the cloud. Small-business owners who have not yet considered this change should do so soon, as the tools tend to be far more flexible, adaptable, affordable and manageable than those based in legacy systems.
With the right MSP in play, entrepreneurs can maximize the ROI and power of their UC frameworks, then sustain that optimal performance for longer periods of time.