Economy Set to Drive rather than Inhibit UC Market say Datamonitor

A new report by independent market analyst Datamonitor discusses the key trends in the unified communications market in 2008. It reveals that although uptake of such solutions has been relatively slow, environmental, social and economic factors will help drive growth going forwards. The report, Trends to Watch 2008: Unified Communications , analyses five important developments that will be impacting this market over the next twelve months. Whilst concerns over green IT, employee productivity and the economy may inhibit investments in some emerging technologies, Datamonitor believes that these issues will make unified communications a compelling business proposition for enterprises.

More interest in software as a service as a result of the economic slowdown

Datamonitor does not expect that there will be dramatic cuts in enterprise IT budgets in 2008. However, enterprises are highly likely to rethink their IT strategies after recent financial pressure and uncertainty. Datamonitor Technology Analyst, Aphrodite Brinsmead says “More software solutions will be run as a managed service, particularly for new technologies. The main benefits for enterprises are that payments will be staggered and there will be less pressure on the in-house IT team. There has been an increase in the number of such solutions with vendors providing hosted IP PBX (telephone switching system within an enterprise that switches calls between voice over Internet Protocol users on local lines while allowing all users to share a certain number of external phone lines), unified communications and conferencing services.”

Video conferencing can save on travel costs and ease environmental concerns

The continued media focus on green IT is also likely to affect the unified communications market positively. Vendors will continue to market solutions from this perspective, helping to reduce businesses carbon footprints. Video conferencing can be used instead of long-distance travel to meetings; whereas presence and unified messaging can help keep home workers connected, meaning less time is spent commuting. There is now a wide variety of high-end video conferencing solutions, including Telepresence from Cisco and Microsoft s RoundTable, and these developments mean that there is now a feasible alternative for global business meetings. Considering the current economic climate, enterprises will be encouraged by the cost saving benefits from reduced travel.

“Inhibitors for deploying conferencing systems are likely to have been the cost and business case for deployment in the past says Brinsmead, but considering the benefits from reduced travel and environmental concerns, Datamonitor expects to see a higher uptake in 2008.”

Consumer IT activity is influencing enterprise communications and enterprises are becoming more supportive of flexible working

Internet-based technologies such as IM, Skype and social networking sites are becoming more widespread in the home. Demand from users will see that these technologies also have a role in the workplace and enterprises need to adapt to keep up with changing consumer trends. Despite initial worries about employee productivity, there are clear business benefits for using these technologies. Integrated contacts, presence and the sharing of information online will be high on enterprises’ IT agendas. The importance of maintaining good customer relations when business growth is struggling is paramount.

In addition, working patterns are changing and employers are beginning to accommodate flexible working. In order to support home workers, a combination of mobility and unified communications solutions needs to be deployed to allow them to work effectively with colleagues in different locations. Consequently mobility is also likely to play a more vital role in this market.

Brinsmead concludes: “Mobility is becoming a more significant factor in unified communications from a productivity and cost savings point of view and is likely to help drive investments. To achieve the full benefits of presence, integrated directories and messaging, employees need access to the same functionality on the mobile device as they have on the desktop.”

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