Unified Communications Market Trends: What Every Business Should Know
Businesses in every industry face intense competitive pressures and high customer expectations. That's why many companies are looking for ways to enhance their internal and external communications systems.
For many companies, unified communications (UC) systems are an important step forward.
What Are UC Systems?
Simply put, a UC system unites multiple communication methods for a business. It brings together disparate tools, such as business phone systems and chat and video conferencing, in one platform. Imagine the new levels of efficiency your business can reach with a unified communications approach.
Every organization’s needs are unique. The only way to know if switching to a UC system is the right approach for your business is by doing your homework. You need to understand unified communications market trends and perform a cost-benefit analysis.
We'll walk you through these critical steps to help clarify whether a unified communications system is the right next step for your company.
Unified Communications Market Trends
Unified communications systems have fundamentally changed how we work and collaborate. With UC, companies can centralize communications in the cloud. That approach gives them the flexibility to deploy communications tools without the expense of an on-premise communications infrastructure. Also, companies can scale their communications with ease as business needs evolve.
Here are some of the UC market trends to understand when looking to adopt UC systems for your business:
Spending Is on the Rise
The unified communications market has seen massive growth in recent years and is poised for continued expansion. According to global tech research firm Gartner:
- The UC market size has grown over 20% for every year since 2015 (23% in 2017 and 21% in 2018)
- Users spent $1.791 billion on unified communications as a service (UCaaS) in 2018, up from $1.480 billion the year before
- Gartner estimates that the UC market segment will reach $2.146 billion in 2019
To date, unified communications systems have gained significant traction with enterprises. Government, healthcare and educational organizations rely on UC systems as well, according to Grand View Research.
Industry watchers who assess unified communications future trends expect the market's rapid growth to continue.
New Innovations Every Year
UC solution providers are bringing new innovations to the market every year.
For example, artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) technologies are gaining ground in the UC space. Some forward-thinking companies are using AI-powered chatbots for contact center communications. With chatbots, companies can help answer simple customer inquiries and collect key data for service representatives.
Managed Services Will Grow in Importance
Managed service providers (MSPs) will become more important. The growth of cloud-based communications platforms can boost productivity and connect even the most remote offices. However, greater complexity can pose challenges for businesses that are just beginning to adopt UC products.
Existing IT infrastructure needs to be moved to the cloud and tested to prevent communication gaps. Larger companies might rely on multiple vendors whose cloud platforms might not be easily integrated. MSPs can help manage disparate cloud communication platforms to help companies get the most out of their UC investments.
Many Businesses Are Choosing UCaaS
Today, one of the most popular UC solutions is UCaaS or unified communications as a service. With a cloud-based UCaaS solution, businesses can take advantage of:
- Enterprise-wide messaging
- Video conferencing
- Meeting/collaboration tools
This suite of tools offers businesses a cost-effective way to improve collaboration. UCaaS lets business users instantly communicate across multiple platforms, including mobile devices and social networks.
Many companies are finding that UCaaS offers them significant savings over traditional conferencing and telephony solutions. As a study from Grand View Research reveals, the major reason behind the technological shift is simple: “Companies are looking at ways to decrease costs, improve efficiency and increase productivity.”
UCaaS also supports businesses with virtual teams distributed across several locations. Companies are realizing that it is no longer practical to center operations around traditional landline telephony systems. The days of employees being co-located in a single place are behind us. With UCaaS, teams can work anytime, anywhere and collaborate effectively.
Also, UCaaS allows for streamlined communications with customers, vendors and partners. Businesses of any size can achieve a global footprint with UCaaS.
Unified Communications Cost-Benefit Analysis
Now that you have context on unified communications market trends, you can analyze how a UC system will benefit your business. You may have a legacy private branch exchange (PBX) system in place and need to understand the costs of switching to a UC system.
Working through a cost-benefit analysis (CBA) can help you compare alternatives and make the right choice for your needs.
So what is a cost-benefit analysis? It's a process that compares the benefits of a solution with its associated costs. At the end of the analysis, you'll know if the solution provides genuine benefits. You can then compare several solutions side by side to determine which one offers the highest returns.
How to Perform a Unified Communication Cost-Benefit Analysis
There are three general steps to follow when performing a cost-benefit analysis. They are:
- Step 1: List all options available
- Step 2: Calculate the costs and benefits for each option
- Step 3: Determine the cost-benefit ratio
If you've never done a Cost Benefit Ananysis before, looking at an example can be helpful. Let's suppose that Company A is considering a UC solution. The company has a current PBX solution that it may want to replace.
To complete step 1, the company lists all available options. In our example, those options are:
- Option 1: Staying with the current on-site PBX
- Option 2: Going with a unified communications solution
For step 2, we perform cost and benefit calculations. At this stage, it's essential to list all benefits and costs.
Below are the key points for each alternative:
Option 1: Staying With the Current On-Site PBX
- Complete control over privacy and security
- Loss of internet doesn't disable phones
- Costs: $850 + 3 days to add phone
- $500/mo maintenance fee
- $250 to add a new phone
- $100/hr for any on-site technical support
- Can take up to 3 days to add a new phone
- Loss of power disables phones
Option 2: Going With a Unified Communications Solution
- Can add new phones immediately through an admin panel
- Loss of power in the office doesn't disable phones
- $450 total fee
- Loss of internet disables system
Tallying the Results of Your Cost-Benefit Analysis
As you can see, our lists above include a mix of quantitative and non-quantitative values. How does that affect our analysis? A CBA ultimately focuses on quantitative factors. Looking at the purely monetary cost, we have $850 for option 1 versus $450 for option 2.
Is there a way for us to quantify the benefits? Looking back at some of the PBX benefits, we have "complete control over privacy and security." But how can you quantify that? It probably can be quantified, but then you have to consider the confidence you might have in that quantification.
Next for PBX benefits is "loss of internet doesn't disable phones." On the flip side, the UC solution lists that it isn't affected by a power loss. Each of those might be considered a lost day of sales and, therefore, cancel each other out.
Now consider the "adding new phones immediately through the admin panel" benefit associated with the UC option. Can that be quantified? Observe that in the PBX approach, each additional phone costs $250. You may also need to factor in other staffing-related costs for the new phone setup. This analysis helps quantify the value of going with the new UC system.
In this scenario, the two options are very close, but option 2 is better. Why is that the case? The lower costs and higher benefits of the UC system provide a higher CBR (cost-benefit ratio), which is an indicator showing the relationship between the costs and benefits of a project. Remember that a CBR is based purely on quantifiable results.
Does that mean that a UC system is the right way to go? This is the case, but it's not a given. When two options have close CBRs, you should take a closer look at the benefits you can't qualify. You may decide that those qualitative benefits outweigh a slightly higher CBR. It isn't necessarily wrong at that point to choose the lower CBR.
Why a Cost-Benefit Analysis Is Useful
Implementing a new communications system is a big commitment. You must understand the exact types of communications services that meet your sales and customer service goals. Taking the disciplined approach of a cost-benefit analysis helps you clarify your options. You need to examine quantifiable costs and benefits, as well as the intangible factors that affect your operations.
Through your Cost Benefit Analysisi, you may find that a unified communications system is an immediate need, or you may identify it as a future goal. There's no one-size-fits-all answer. The only right choice is the one that makes the best sense for your business.
Understanding Unified Communications Trends and Opportunities
Unified communications systems truly represent the future of business communications. While larger enterprises with a distributed workforce see clear benefits from UC systems, UC offers value to small and medium-sized businesses as well.
Many businesses will migrate to UC solutions eventually, but each company has its own way forward. It's valuable for any business owner to stay abreast of unified communications and collaboration trends. New UC technologies are emerging, and the market is evolving rapidly. These trends indicate that companies like yours may see more value and competitive pricing in the years ahead.
Also, companies need to perform an individualized cost-benefit analysis. With that approach, you can compare options side by side and choose the best one. You may find that moving ahead with a UC solution is the right answer, right now. Alternatively, you may need to table your migration for a few years and retain your legacy PBX system.
8x8 offers a powerful unified communications suite for your business. With 8x8, you can link diverse business applications and achieve real-time collaboration. You can benefit from web and audio conferencing, screen sharing and more--all on a single, secure platform.
Grow Your Business With Unified Communications
Whatever path you choose, you should know the immense opportunities UC solutions offer your business. You can collaborate with team members anywhere and provide exceptional customer service. You can build an organization with a global footprint without leaving your base of operations. Unified communications solutions are a true gateway to the world for every business.
Your business needs every cog in your machine to be as productive as possible. With 8x8's Unified Communications platform, your business gets the unified messaging it needs without the need for multiple disparate systems. Call 1-866-879-8647 or fill out an online form to request a no-obligation quote from an 8x8 product specialist.