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UC Roundup: Strong Demand for UCaaS Solutions Expected in 2021

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Demand for UCaaS solutions will remain solid into next year and after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

As previously reported, demand for UCaaS solutions exploded early on in the pandemic due to the massive transition to work from home. The initial surge leveled off early this summer, but remains brisk heading into 2021.

Analysts say UCaaS solutions are here to stay as organizations make them a permanent part of doing business.

451 Research's Raul Castanon-Martinez

451 Research’s Raul Castanon

Raul Castanon is senior research analyst with 451 Research, part of S&P Global Market Intelligence. He said the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to influence adoption of UCaaS solutions.

“Our most recent Q3 Voice of the Enterprise: Workforce Productivity and Collaboration survey (November 2020) shows that 17% of respondents are currently in the process of replacing on-premises PBX with cloud-based telephony,” he said.

Jon Arnold

Arnold & Associates’ Jon Arnold

Jon Arnold is principal of J Arnold & Associates. He said the pandemic has been an accelerant for UCaaS solutions and cloud.

“It’s caused businesses to move to the cloud faster than they otherwise would,” he said. “I think that’s the main thrust of this. And that’s an ongoing thing because when they go to the cloud for these things, they don’t necessarily go one shot. It’s a gradual migration. They may do other applications now and kind of take their time getting to the cloud. So there’s still kind of that migration happening. So it’s still a strong storyline and continues to be on an upward uptrend.”

And if people start returning to the office, it’s not like UCaaS solutions will no longer be necessary, Arnold said.

“That’s a good thing for the U.S. vendors,” he said. “If they continue working from home, then these will probably become the standard platforms that they’ll do their workflows around, whether it’s Cisco WebEx, Microsoft Teams, Slack or whatever. And when they do or if they go back to an office environment, those same tools will be there for them. That’s actually a draw in a way that says you’ve become accustomed to getting your work done in a new way now at home. So if and when you’re ready to come back to the office, you won’t miss a beat.”

S&P Global research shows that, nearly nine months into the shutdown, organizations are adjusting their operations for altered conditions in the long term, Castanon said.

“As they move beyond their initial response, organizations are looking to extend or make permanent some of the changes they implemented in the early days of the outbreak,” he said. “For example, survey data shows that most organizations plan to adopt (51%) or extend (45%) existing remote-work policies and adopt (41%) or extend (39%) existing travel restrictions. Our expectation is that demand for collaboration technologies such as video conferencing will level off from the surge in demand during the early days of the pandemic, but will continue to thrive. Survey data shows that one out of two organizations will continue to invest in video conferencing (51%) over the next six months.”

Earlier this week, news of progress on COVID-19 vaccines caused Zoom’s stock price to plummet, along with other stocks that benefitted from stay-at-home trends. Arnold said this wasn’t surprising, but doesn’t indicate any long-term trend.

“Just like the way stocks tanked early on with COVID-19, most of those gains have come back,” he said. “Most of those losses have recovered and Zoom will be no different. But … one of my outlooks for 2021 is there will be a bit of a pushback against being on video calls all day long, because … that term Zoom fatigue, it is a real thing. I think there will be a bit more of a balancing of the intensity of using video. It was cool when we started like that, but the novelty kind of wears off after a while.”

The shift to remote work doesn’t mean the meeting room is gone, Castanon said. On the contrary, it will require that organizations rethink their technology to effectively support the hybrid workplace. That includes in-person and remote participants.

“I also think that mobility will be very relevant,” he said. “While some UcaaS vendors are good at mobile-first, for many it has been more of an afterthought. The post-pandemic workplace will require UCaaS solutions that are optimized for mobile devices.”

Security will be another factor in the spotlight in 2021, Castanon said. Organizations will evaluate the capacity that their collaboration technologies have to support privacy, security and compliance requirements.

“We will see more vendors looking to support end-to-end encrypted communications, for example,” he said.

Arnold also expects more use of AI applications to better manage productivity remotely. Many tasks can be managed by AI, improving collaboration.

In addition, the ability to federate across platforms like Teams and Webex is becoming increasingly important, Arnold said.

“It’s especially needed on…

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