A Schism In Unified Communications: Why Cloud Is Mounting A Takeover

Survey Says …

Businesses are increasingly turning to integrated communications solutions, a technology category known as Unified Communications that's increasingly critical to efficient and effective business operations.

But those organizations have very different perspectives and strategies on which tools and solutions to implement.

To gain insight on those attitudes and strategies, Evolve IP conducted its annual North American Business Communications Survey.

Wayne, Pa.-based cloud services provider Evolve IP surveyed more than 1,000 North American executives and IT professionals about their familiarity with the technology, preferred communications tools, demand for video, barriers to adoption and satisfaction with both their cloud-based and on-premises telephony systems.

Among the findings, mobility and the bring-your-own-device trend are driving a move to the cloud-based communications and collaboration tools.

Unified What?

Most of the professionals who responded to the Evolve IP survey didn't even know what "unified communications" means.

Because of that widespread unfamiliarity, Evolve IP suggested channel partners focus on specific UC features and business needs when marketing and messaging.

Google analytics prove that premise: Terms like "video conferencing" and "instant messaging" far outrank searches for "unified communications."

But the general lack of knowledge doesn't apply to larger organizations.

Of the respondents from companies with fewer than 100 employees, almost half weren't at all familiar with the term, and only 18.5 percent were very familiar with it. But of those from companies with more than 5,000 employees, 18.5 percent didn't know what "unified communications" means, and almost 40 percent were very familiar with the term.

Still King of Comm

Ringing a colleague the old-fashioned way remains the go-to method for communicating in the workplace, according to the survey.

Two-thirds or respondents said their phone was the tool they preferred above the many other components that make up modern business communications platforms.

Email and unified messaging followed closely, then audio conferencing and instant messaging behind them. SMS messaging was the least popular tool in the UC arsenal.

Responses to that question illustrate that while unified communications platforms can include many diverse components, organizations likely have specific features in mind as their primary reason for adoption, according to Evolve IP.

Communications Barriers

As VARs and system integrators recommend business communication and collaboration tools, it’s important to help their customers work through their barriers to adoption, according to Evolve IP.

The survey found there were several factors that inhibited businesses from choosing a UC platform.

The most prominent was simply the challenge of selecting the right system, cited as a major obstacle by 22 percent of respondents.

An additional 17.5 percent said selecting the right provider was a major obstacle, followed by 16.5 percent who cited employee adoption, and 13.5 percent who cited determining feature priorities.

But for each of those four issues, about 30 percent of respondents said they weren't much of an obstacle at all.

Premise-Based Phone On Top, But Perhaps Not For Long

Cloud verses on-premises is the big question these days across the spectrum of IT and communications technologies.

More than 80 percent of the organizations polled by Evolve IP host their own phone systems, but that's changing.

Of the organizations using premise-based systems, less than one-fourth confidently plan to stay with that approach when they upgrade their platform. While only 16.5 percent said they're planning a move to cloud-based communications, 60 percent are undecided.

For those using cloud platforms, there's a lot less uncertainty. More than 70 percent plan to stay in the cloud, and a tiny 2 percent plan on moving back on-premise.

Mobility Is Driving Phones To The Cloud

The expected shift to cloud or hosted systems is being driven by the new ways that people work, and the new locations they work from.

The survey indicates that organizations are using business communications platforms to enable their associates to work remotely, and those with cloud-based systems are more likely to allow their employees to do so.

Sixty-six percent of organizations with cloud phone systems have successfully implemented work-from-home programs while just 47 percent of premise-based companies have done so.

BYOD Policies Adding To Cloud Momentum

Bring-your-own-device policies are on the rise, and organizations with cloud-based communications platforms are more likely to allow their employees to use personal devices.

Of survey respondents with a BYOD policy, 46.5 percent use a premise-based UC system, and 58 percent host their communications in the cloud.

’Mobility enablement across the enterprise is a key driver and one that buyers latch onto quickly,’ said Evolve IP Chief Sales Officer Tim Allen.

Video From Home

Organizations that opt for working from home are more likely to adopt unified communications features that ease collaboration between on- and off-site co-workers.

Video communications is one tool more popular with companies that support a remote workforce, according to the survey.

Videoconferencing is used by 83.5 percent of survey respondents that allow employees to work from home. It's used by only 70 percent that don't.

Sharp Focus On Video

Increased use of video, for multiple purposes, indicates a strong demand for digital video communication features, according to Evolve IP.

More than three-fourths of respondents are using some form of video communications solution in their offices, the survey found.

Desktop or desk phone video calling is the feature most desired by those who don't already have it.

Forty-six percent of respondents said they think video communication will become ubiquitous in business within the next three years.

Cloud Is Just More Satisfying

Survey respondents hosting their communications systems in the cloud were generally more satisfied than those who weren't.

When asked specifically about mobility enablement, BYOD, productivity enhancement, scalability and flexibility, and control and ease of configuration, cloud customers were always more satisfied than their on-premise peers.

Those results, especially in mobility and BYOD, which had the biggest disparities, are driving cloud-based UC adoption, according to Evolve IP.

’Cloud customers are more satisfied with their system and are overwhelmingly committed to staying in the cloud for their next system," said Evolve IP's Allen.