Unified Communications in 2017: A Digital Transformation

By John De Los Reyes March 03, 2017

2017 has already been a groundbreaking year for Unified Communications (UC) technology. Starting with Microsoft Teams hitting the ground running, the launch of Slack Enterprise Grid, Fuze announcing $140M in funding and finally, Amazon unveiling Amazon Chime.  And it’s only March. As the landscape starts to shift, what can we expect from the 2017 UC market? Let’s take a look…

The Current Landscape

According to a recent study conducted by Spiceworks, Microsoft’s Skype for Business is leading the UC market, with 36 percent of businesses currently deploying the technology. That number is expected to jump up to 47 percent in the next two years. Behind Skype, Google Hangouts is bringing in 16 percent of organizations and Slack has 13 percent. However, in the next two years, Microsoft Teams — Microsoft’s new UC platform targeted at startup users — is projected to overtake Slack with 20 percent of businesses planning to deploy the software by 2018.

Changing Collaboration Tools

When organizations are looking for UC tools currently, they have to ask themselves a key question — are they looking to boost collaboration or are they working towards a digital transformation?

Slack is currently leading the collaboration sector — every player in the collaboration market including Google Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, Avaya’s Zang and Cisco’s Spark is looking to mirror Slack’s success as a collaboration platform. However, employee chat tools are just one part of a larger digital transformation. With the launch of Slack Enterprise Grid, it’s clear that the company is looking to extend beyond its collaboration tools and compete with Skype for Business in the digital transformation sphere.

The Rise of Digital Transformation

Skype for Business’ success as a market leader can be attributed to its extended platform capabilities. For example, users can create a meeting within their email and invite others. During that meeting, they can chat message others, set up a conference bridge, a collaboration capability, a whiteboard, allow others to control their desktop and share video with an entire team. For digital transformation to take hold within an organization, it needs to seamlessly integrate across departments, support a range of business needs and be embraced by management. Changing how people work goes beyond a good application or tool; it's about helping businesses transition through the new digital paradigm.

Cloud-Based UC Takes Hold

Fuze’s big funding announcement and Amazon’s Chime launch have certainly generated significant buzz in the UC market. But above all else, Fuze and Chime indicate the direction the market is heading by illustrating how important cloud-based UC has become. Organizations are moving away from legacy on premise deployments to a cloud-based UC strategy. Across the board, infrastructure is migrating to the cloud as CIOs gain confidence in cloud-based technology. Cell phones have lowered the expectation of voice quality, making room for the rise of IP based telephony. Now that transformation is on its way to the cloud, those who were resistant to cloud-based UC are starting to pay attention.

Looking Ahead

So what do these UC developments mean? When looking at Amazon Chime, for example, it’s still hard to tell. It’s obvious to those in the computing world that Amazon is a formidable player in the Infrastructure as a Service market. However, the communications market is an entirely different beast. Back in the day, WebEx set the bar for conferencing services. Microsoft changed the game when it took that same capability and made it a communications platform that integrated into your entire business. Amazon Chime is in its infancy and appears to be well thought out, but we’ll have to wait to see how it fares.

Despite the rapidly changing landscape, here’s what we do know about the UC market: in the next five years, the importance of “phone” calls will be marginalized. The concept of business phone numbers will ebb, and the persistence of chat communication will grow. Most importantly, the marketing term UC will morph into something bigger, beyond even UC&C. How we work will transform into a truly digital era.

About the Author

John De Los Reyes is a Unified Communications expert. Currently, he serves as the SkypeSimple practice lead at SoftwareONE, a software portfolio management organization. In this role, he helps companies find a flexible UC approach that addresses their unique challenges when merging their technology strategy with their commercial and compliance needs. Before joining SoftwareONE, De Los Reyes held VP positions at Enghouse Interactive and Zeacom. 




Edited by Alicia Young
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