ABI: Unified Communications Market Worth Billions

Unified communications are on a steeply rising curve of adoption in the enterprise, according to a new ABI Research study. The market’s size was just $302 million in 2008, but will rise quickly to nearly $4.2 billion in 2014.

Part of the uptick will come as companies start to purchase more holistic, enterprise-wide solutions. “Companies have been buying only those component technologies that they think will deliver immediate value,” says ABI Research practice director Stan Schatt. “It’s only later that they start tying it all together as true unified communications.”

For example, many companies have messaging by voice and email, but when they are integrated, a user can “see” voicemails and have e-mails read aloud. Such synergies can deliver increased productivity and efficiency, and greater customer satisfaction.

ABI cautions that a lack of standardization is one hurdle in the market: Big corporations with multiple locations will benefit most immediately from unified communications, but many vendors’ systems are not interoperable. There are still gaps where no standards exist. Even the largest vendors such as Cisco Systems Inc. don’t make everything, so there’s a premium on partnerships. A few vendors will try to sell end-to-end solutions, but most others will attempt to integrate their offerings with the legacy components they find, ABI noted. That opens a tremendous opportunity in replacing older equipment.

Managed service will benefit from the boom. The largest companies may have the required integration expertise in-house, but, says Schatt, “we foresee a booming market for managed services, simply because unified communications is tricky and many companies won’t want to spend the time and effort to do it themselves. That applies to the market as a whole, but particularly to smaller businesses.”

Despite the large potential, unified communications vendors won’t find it all plain sailing. They are up against internal corporate “turf wars,” a widespread lack of understanding of the benefits unified communications can deliver, and a high initial cost.

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