Survey: Unified Communications Has Market Potential

Unified communications (UC) could carry a spark through an increasingly dimming economic landscape if trends in an industry-conducted poll hold true. Vernon Hills, Ill.-based CDW, a provider of technology solutions, claimed "gathering momentum for UC adoption" within the next two years, based on a survey of 766 IT professionals.

The poll was conducted during November of 2008, with results announced on Monday. Based on those results, UC could bolster the bottom lines of hardware and software vendors serving various vertical markets, CDW suggested.

Those polled, while involved with IT organizations, aren't mavericks with pipedreams. They have the money, said Pat Scheckel, senior director of products and solutions at CDW.

"We are certainly seeing these projects still budgeted at the executive level and still moving forward. For all those big players, Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, any of them looking at this, I would say this is a positive development. There are still buyers out there," he said.

Those polled are described as IT professionals who work on UC or component technologies. Even if this is but a sliver of the market, it's significant that only six percent of these respondents described their UC deployments as "complete" while 20 percent are in the process of implementing UC and 33 percent are planning for it.

"Fifty-three percent are in the planning and deploying stage, so we're not at that fat part of the bell curve but we're approaching it," Scheckel said. He added that based on survey responses, "We're seeing this as a wave over the next 18 to 24 months where we move through that fat part of the bell curve."

The next two years might be a favorable timeline if the recession wanes in that time. The gradual implementation of UC could ease the economic bite on hardware and software vendors.

The UC segment isn't the only potential bright spot in the IT space, according to the survey.

"We're seeing some [good news about] verticals that have strong return on investment associated with them, [such as] virtualization," Scheckel said. "You have to spend money to implement virtualization, be it server or client virtualization, just as you have to spend some money on unified communications. But the ongoing return puts you in a much better position. We're seeing customers continue to spend money on each of these."

On the other hand, businesses selling new PCs are getting short shrift "because they're not seeing the immediate ROI" like these other segments, Scheckel explained.

The poll sampled participants in multiple vertical markets in the UC space, including business, government, higher education and healthcare. While there was a push for UC adoption across all of those markets, the federal government "was more likely to consider the continuity of operations as a major benefit," he said.

Forty-three percent of those polled in the federal government segment favored continuity versus 27 percent of the rest of the group. Scheckel added that "state and local [governments] are more likely to take an e-mail approach to unified communications versus a rich media or telephony-centric approach."

UC installations at the customer premises were heavily favored in the study.

"The overwhelming majority of respondents are still going for premise-based solutions," Scheckel said. "We found the biggest drivers were increased productivity and reduced operating costs, both of which speak to doing more with less. It's a bright spot in an otherwise bleak picture."

About the Author

Jim Barthold is a freelance writer based in Delanco, N.J. covering a variety of technology subjects.

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