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Webex vs. Zoom vs. Teams: Consider future needs, innovation

As organizations evaluate unified communications products from Cisco, Zoom and Microsoft, they should consider how the vendors are investing in their respective products.

When deciding among Cisco Webex vs. Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams, organizations should align their future investments, focus and business needs with the corresponding unified communications product. As organizations assess these three popular UC services, they need to determine their specific enterprise communications needs and where the organizations will be in five years, said Brent Kelly, principal analyst of KelCor Inc.

"Match your investments and business focus on where these vendors themselves are investing," he said, "because that's where you're going to see the innovation."

For example, both Cisco and Microsoft are currently investing in frontline applications and UC devices, such as room systems. Meanwhile, Zoom is investing in team workspaces and telephony. Organizations will need to consider these investment areas and roadmaps as they decide among Webex vs. Zoom vs. Teams.

Kelly and Phil Edholm, president and principal of PKE Consulting LLC, recently presented an Enterprise Connect webcast titled "Cisco vs. Microsoft vs. Zoom: Clearing the WFH Fog." Edholm, too, said organizations need to consider their transformation fit. In other words, organizations should evaluate how these UC products align with their own upcoming business and communications transformation.

Innovation as a buying decision

Cost is not the first criterion to consider when evaluating Webex vs. Zoom vs. Teams, Edholm and Kelly said. Instead, product and service innovation are increasingly becoming determining factors in the buying decision. In particular, the pace of innovation and feature updates of these cloud-based products now occur quite quickly -- within weeks, rather than years, like on-premises options.

Brent KellyBrent Kelly

"In the past, communications innovations were slow and not transformational, but innovations are coming," Edholm said. "There's going to be incredible innovation in this industry over the next two or three years."

In particular, he cited technologies such as first-line tools, virtual meeting assistants, augmented reality, virtual reality, business process bots and virtual personal assistants. Additionally, the cloud, development agility and stronger compute power will help drive product innovation. Even more currently -- and squarely in the UC vein -- businesses can see product innovation and updates on a weekly basis with meeting features such as multivideo display, virtual backgrounds and transcriptions.

Years ago, Edholm said, organizations bought telephone systems as a utility because it was something they had to have and the functionalities among systems were similar. As a result, cost and pricing were important buying factors. Now, however, the decision-making process and purchasing considerations are quite different because "you're buying a set of tools to transform your business," he said.

Adjacencies as a buying factor

In addition to future innovation and product roadmaps, organizations should consider other related areas in which the vendors exhibit strengths. These so-called adjacencies could help guide organizations during their buying process.

Phil EdholmPhil Edholm

Cisco's adjacencies, for example, include network infrastructure, contact center, IoT, data centers and telephony. Microsoft, on the other hand, boasts personal productivity software, business software and Azure cloud computing. Zoom, Edholm said, "now has this amazing and interesting adjacency with consumer video users -- those literally hundreds of millions of people that are now using video."

As organizations size up Webex vs. Zoom vs. Teams, they might want to consider these adjacencies and determine which ones are important to them and their business IT infrastructure.

"More and more, adjacency is becoming a critical part of defining value," Edholm said. "This value of adjacencies is critical because it varies by business, by your business processes and by your IT stack."

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