The unified communications market has evolved significantly in a relatively short period of time, and more businesses are now using advanced Voice over Internet Protocol, video conference, presence, instant messaging and other tools on a regular basis. Because IT and UC have become so converged in a relatively short period of time, firms have effectively managed to reduce their expenditures while simultaneously empowering their employees with the most advanced collaboration tools out there.
One of the main themes in this discussion has been the impact of enterprise mobility on UC, and how companies can enable the mobile workforce through the use of flexible apps that can be accessed from a wide range of devices and users regardless of location or what time of day it might be. VoIP apps are already being offered through mobile platforms, while other solutions are beginning to gain steam in this regard as well.
"The goal should be to bolster communications efficiency."
The goal should always be to bolster the communication efficiency of the business while modernizing the collaboration frameworks in the process, and working to leverage cloud-based UC options can push strategies in the right direction. Firms that do not embrace the modern era of UC will likely struggle to maintain high engagement among employees, which can then quickly begin to hinder the operational performance of each department and the company at large.
Small-business owners have a better opportunity to embrace novel technologies today than ever before, as the solutions have become far more affordable and intuitive, while managed service providers are helping to cover the maintenance and backend management demands of the tools in use. The most interesting segment of the UC market today appears to be videoconferencing, which is moving away from hardware and toward localized apps.
Market at a glance
International Data Corporation recently released a report on the global telepresence and videoconferencing industry, affirming that equipment revenues dropped by 21 percent between the fourth quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of this year. As a note, the market did expand by 2.2 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2014, but this significant drop between the end of last year and the beginning of this one is certainly notable.
Interestingly, the industry grew much faster when looking at the number of units shipped than the revenues vendors enjoyed, which is one of the many signs that these technologies are becoming more affordable. For example, in terms of year-over-year growth, the number of units shipped increased by 20.5 percent, compared to the 2.2 percent increase in revenues that was recorded during this time.
One of the main reasons behind this is the rapid transformation of the technology itself, as well as the types of solutions business leaders are looking for today compared to their preferences in the past. The common goal appears to be the provisioning of intuitive solutions that can be easily deployed, do not come with high startup costs and are accessible through a wealth of devices and platforms rather than only personal computers.
"The video equipment market results continue to reflect the on-going market transition from a primarily hardware-based reporting model to one impacted by lower-cost endpoints and growing interest in more software-based solutions and cloud services," Rich Costello, IDC senior analyst for Enterprise Communications Infrastructure, explained. "A first-quarter highlight had room-based and personal videoconferencing systems showing year-over-year growth in both revenue and unit shipments."
Perhaps not that surprisingly, Cisco remains firmly in the driver's seat when it comes to penetration and market share, as IDC found that the firm holds 42.6 percent of all video conferencing technology in the world today, and saw an 8.8 percent increase in sales between the first quarters of 2014 and 2015.
"IDC survey adoption data indicates that video is still a key component of collaboration and continues to place high on the list of priorities for many organizations," Petr Jirovsky, IDC Research Manager for Worldwide Networking Trackers, added. "And customers continue to work through determining how best to provision their video deployments, as more software-centric and cloud-based service offerings become part of the enterprise video market landscape."
Finally, the United States saw among the slightest decreases in revenues for the telepresence and video conferencing markets, especially compared to Latin America, but Europe, the Middle East and Africa held the most steady in the past year.
What comes next?
Small-business owners must ensure that they are taking the initiative to get all of the necessary communication and collaboration tools into their workplaces as soon as possible, as employees continue to become more demanding in this regard. Staff members now have much higher expectations by way of technological prowess among their employers, and failure to meet these demands can end up leading to poor retention and engagement.
"Entrepreneurs should not throw caution to the wind."
However, this does not mean that entrepreneurs should throw caution to the wind and simply be aggressive in their investments and deployments of new technologies, but rather that there needs to be at least a slight sense of urgency in these endeavors. Working closely with a managed service provider that offers a wide range of UC solutions, support and implementation tools will often be the best way to navigate this relatively complex marketplace.
The focus should remain on being efficient in the provisioning process, only selecting and deploying tools that closely align with the specific objectives, requirements and demands of the business. Furthermore, in the future, entrepreneurs might benefit from getting more ground-level employees involved in the decision-making process, perhaps electing representatives from each department to participate in discussions related to forthcoming investments.
This can help to reduce the risk of poor user adoption, experiences and engagement, all the while safeguarding the decisions made on collaboration tools since the employees will indeed be giving recommendations regarding which types will be the most desirable. The time is now to get moving on these strategies, and working to ensure that all users and devices are supported by the foundation of UC, and that managers have the tools they need to properly oversee activity, can go a long way to improving corporate performances across the board.