UC Adoption Up in 5 Sectors, CDW Poll Finds

Solution providers looking for an excuse to get into the unified communications space may now have a reason: According to technology provider CDW, unified communications is slowly but surely maturing to become a must-have technology for end users.

The CDW 2010 Unified Communications Tracking Poll shows a definite trend in UC adoption in the five sectors it polled: enterprise, federal government, state and local government, higher education, K-12 education and health care. According to the poll results, the percentage of organizations that have prepared a business case or strategic plan for UC adoption has increased to 67 percent from 55 percent in 2009.

And of those that have already implemented UC and track the return on investment, a whopping 71 percent believe the ROI has met or exceeded their expectations – making a strong business case for UC adoption.

“ROI is one of the major benefits of unified communications,” said Brian Kopf, manager of UC practice at CDW. “Every organization is going to be different in how it measures ROI, but in the corporate world we see a lot of organizations trying to reduce their operating costs and increase efficiency. The fact that ROI is the biggest driver in implementing unified communications just drives home that point.”

What’s driving UC in large part is the need to accomplish more with tighter budgets. UC’s many components – instant messaging, video, Web conferencing, unified messaging and presence, to name a few – have been infiltrating the workplace and demonstrating a positive impact on productivity. That fact alone makes the cost argument effectively moot.

The poll results bear that out: Of the 915 IT executives surveyed, 54 percent said operating cost reduction is the top benefit of UC, followed by increased productivity (50 percent) and more reliable communication (44 percent). And concern about capital costs for UC decreased significantly with business case preparation and solution implementation.

So where is the greatest adoption rate? According to the poll, the federal government is now the biggest fan of UC, with 75 percent of organizations reporting having prepared a business case or strategic plan. That’s up 14 percent over last year’s results.

Second in line is health care – a strong market for pretty much any technology these days. The poll shows that 69 percent of health care IT executives polled had a business case or strategic plan for UC, up from 58 percent a year ago.

“In the health care space, they are looking to improve the quality of service to their patients and unified communications falls perfectly in that concern area,” Kopf said. “Improving communications between doctors, nurses, other health care professionals – right down to the bed level – is very important. We weren’t terribly surprised that health care is embracing unified communications, but the increased percentage shows what we’ve been seeing and hearing is real.”

Higher education and enterprise tied at third, with 66 percent of each having a business case or strategic plan. In higher education, that number is up from a paltry 41 percent a year ago; enterprises, on the other hand, actually experienced a 1 percent decrease.

Rounding out the list was K-12 education, which also is adopting UC, albeit at a slightly slower pace. In its first year as part of the survey, the K-12 sector reported that 64 percent with a business case or strategic plan.

“In education for the most part it comes down to cost. We hear every day about schools reducing programs, and one way for them to reduce their costs is to communicate better. By improving that, it brings down operating costs, and that’s the major driver,” Kopf said.

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