SMBs Opt For Fragmented “Unified Communications”


Businesses continue to opt for disparate UC products with a pick and mix approach

New research has once again talked up the prospects of Unified Communications (UC), but admitted that businesses tend to opt for a mix of technologies rather than a full UC solution.

Although AMI-Partners’ “2011-2012 North America SMB Unified Communications Overview” found that deployment of full or complete UC solutions in North America is low, it did find that adoption of its individual components is actually rather high.

UC Resistance

More than half of small and midsize businesses (with one to 999 employees) are using at least one individual UC component, rather than a complete solution. The report noted that the discrepancy indicates a need for a better-segmented product bundle.

“SMBs in North America have shown resistance to adopting full UC solutions, not realizing that they already pay for a number of the individual components,” says Brian Galgay, manager of cloud at AMI. “The challenge is guiding these SMBs to the full solution. Once SMBs break the initial pay barrier, up-selling from a basic solution to a fully integrated UC solution will need guidance and structure.”

North American SMB service providers wishing to compete for this opportunity need to segment their UC portfolio, targeting a range of SMBs from basic single-point solutions users to full UC solution customers and all segments in between, Galgay said. Most providers today offer either a full UC suite or only operate in specialised areas of voice, conferencing, or messaging services.

More often than not, SMBs opt out of the full UC solution and patch together a mix from these fragmented offerings.

“Most SMBs need several UC components on a daily basis, but not necessarily all elements of a complete solution. Currently, few vendors are willing to break apart their full UC suite to capture the share and revenues from a structured series of UC bundles mapped to SMB needs,” Galgay said.

Healthy Outlook

The report concluded that the overall UC outlook is attractive: Over the next five years, the SMB opportunity for UC components in North America is expected to more than double.

Given the massive potential size of the total addressable market for UC components, adoption of single solutions will continue, with “bootstrapped” solutions aimed at the low end of the market. However, as advanced customers develop more use-cases and needs, the number of SMBs using multiple UC components will reach a tipping point, and the full UC providers’ opportunity will become more prominent.

“The revenue opportunity in winning full UC SMB customers is large, but to do so, vendors need to provide structure and guide these SMBs along the path from single components to a full UC solution,” Galgay said.

The “2011-2012 North America SMB Unified Communications Overview” is part of AMI’s Unified Communications Practice, which provides research-based market intelligence on the demand for UC products and services among global SMBs and essential guidance on key elements of UC solutions to maximize the SMBs’ likelihood to purchase and corresponding uptake.

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