The industry worked to achieve more seamless integration of IP voice and UC modules to meet enterprises’ business-centric communication needs
The enterprise communications market, with each passing year, has been becoming a more closely-knit whole comprising the two broad discrete pieces—Enterprise Telephony, and Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C). Various events in 2013 made that progression more pronounced.
Notably, two of the key enterprise telephony vendors, Mitel and Aastra, merged to form a single entity under the Mitel brand. The merger was estimated to have made the combined entity a top-5 brand in the enterprise telephony segment.
In another significant development, that more specifically reflected the blending of the telephony and UC segments, Siemens Enterprise Communications was rebranded as Unify. The new entity was timed well ahead of launch for its Project Ansible, a communications and collaboration platform that earned much acclaim from customers and analysts on previews. The platform is currently in beta and its general availability is due anytime soon.
Key Players & Trends
Competition stayed intense in the Enterprise Communication market, with the presence of heavyweights like Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, Google, Polycom and Siemens (now Unify) among others in-the-fray, with their diverse offerings ranging from enterprise voice to UC&C applications. Of late, Microsoft Lync has been gaining significant traction. At the same time, Cisco and Polycom are competing more aggressively in the video conferencing systems segment.
Unified Communications & Collaboration (UC&C) platforms are now inseparable part of enterprise communication. Enterprises have also mostly deployed IP infrastructure to make the most of their UC&C investments, which have grown over time. With the essentials already in place, businesses are now weighing between the various vendor offerings so as to select the best-of-breed solutions for meeting their business goals. These include increasing productivity, improving customer satisfaction, and reducing cost. They are also putting due emphasis on the integration of the underlying processes and infrastructure, as the efficacy of the solutions also depends significantly on how well the legacy and new applications are assimilated.
The key driving factors that determine the use of UC&C along with enterprise telephony across various enterprise verticals are mobility, video, social business, and managed and hosted services.
The number of mobile workers is increasing almost at an exponential scale, across all verticals, including healthcare, hospitality, logistics and transportation, IT and BSFI, though the scale of adoption would vary from one sector to another. The new generation of mobile workers, armed with smart devices and a host of enterprise mobility apps, is highly productive even on the move. The rise of geographically dispersed workers to support the needs of an increasingly globalized economy requires that communication is also more collaborative. This has continued to be a driving factor for the enterprise communications market.
Enterprises are also conscious of the need to ensure that as communication platforms move to an IP environment, they are not vulnerable to the usual information and IT security threats. As such, they also invested more in mobile data management solutions and secure mobile-based UC&C applications, among others.
A key engagement sub-system of the broader UC&C system is social media. These social media platforms play an increasingly critical role in building brands and security loyalty from employees, customers and partners by way of communicating the right messages effectively. In addition, social media engagements also encourage a collaborative temperament to work towards the common organizational goals of innovation, business development and improvement of total customer experience.
The new-age enterprise communication platforms are also letting organizations reduce the IT cost per employee with hosted and managed services.
Going forward, a greater integration of IP PBX and UC&C platforms would be expected. While some of the existing hosted platforms do offer certain UC stacks along with IP PBX, the features are not thorough enough, chiefly because the integrations are not as deep and wide as an enterprise-grade offering would need to be. The Unify Ansible, due for general availability in 2014, could prompt the industry into further integrating the various enterprise communication platforms.
The need to integrate the diverse sub-systems could also trigger a related need for consolidation in the industry. In February 2014, Alcatel-Lucent received a binding offer for the acquisition of its Enterprise business. As a consequence it will move forward in exclusive discussions with Huaxin, an existing partner of Alcatel-Lucent’s Alcatel Shanghai Bell joint venture in China. The deal is expected to close in third quarter of 2014.