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Infrastructure, endpoints to drive UC tech budget boom in 2018

UC budgets are expected to rise in 2018 as organizations look to update aging voice infrastructure, promote user adoption and extend UC into contact centers.

Unified communications budgets are on the rise as organizations invest more in infrastructure, endpoints and staff.

Many organizations are increasing their unified communications (UC) budgets in 2018 by an average of 12.3%, according to a report from Nemertes Research, an advisory firm based in Mokena, Ill. The tech-budget increase is driven by organizations looking to compete in an increasingly digital world, said Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes.

Specifically, organizations are investing in new infrastructure to support UC apps, the report found.

Gareiss said many companies are still on older, end-of-life voice infrastructure such as time-division multiplexing. As an example, she cited one Fortune 100 company that is buying replacement parts for its voice infrastructure on eBay because its PBXs are out of date. The company is increasing its UC tech budget to update its infrastructure.

"You can't compete in a digital economy when PBXs are 30 or 40 years old," she said.

Headsets are hot as endpoint spending ramps up

Organizations are also looking to update their aging infrastructure to support digital transformation initiatives. The Nemertes report, based on a survey of more than 700 IT decision-makers, found organizations that successfully implemented digital transformation spent 72% more on unified communications and collaboration.

You can't compete in a digital economy when PBXs are 30 or 40 years old.
Robin Gareisspresident, Nemertes Research

"If you've got people from all over the globe trying to get into a video conference to make key decisions and the network can't support it -- that does not bode well for IT," Gareiss said.

Organizations are also increasing spending on unified communications endpoints, particularly headsets, as more companies implement UC clients and employees increasingly use mobile devices. Three-quarters of organizations are using, planning to use or evaluating headsets, according to the report. Gareiss said IT budgets generally cover endpoint spending, but line-of-business budgets can overlap.

Line-of-business spending is intersecting with IT budgets as business units, such as sales or marketing, become more involved in UC decision-making, said IDC analyst Richard Costello.

"It's a combination of picking what apps the line of business wants for its department, but also kicking in some money to do it," he said.

UC tech-budget spending targets staffing

Organizations moving UC to the cloud plan to increase spending on staff to manage cloud providers and fill more strategic roles around UC. Organizations are also hiring IT staff with backgrounds outside of IT, such as marketing, for user adoption and awareness programs, Gareiss said.

During cloud migrations, the UC tech budget is examined more closely, and IT needs to ensure paid licenses are used. User adoption and awareness programs teach users how to use UC and collaboration apps and why they should use them, she said.

Improving the customer experience is another driver for organizations investing in UC. An organization's customers can range from internal customers, such as employees, to external ones, such as consumers.

Providing new collaboration apps is one way organizations are improving the customer experience. Nearly 20% of organizations are already using team collaboration apps, while nearly one-quarter is planning to use or evaluating team collaboration, the report found.

Team collaboration is a major talking point for UC vendors as end users look to improve these workflows, Costello said.

According to IDC, 41% of organizations currently use UC, while another 22% plan to deploy UC in the next year. The top drivers to deploy UC include cost savings, productivity increases and improved employee collaboration.

Contact centers are another focus of UC tech budgets for organizations with up-to-date infrastructure and basic UC apps rolled out. Gareiss said these organizations are looking to improve the user experience, expand the contact-center experience and integrate the contact center with employee communications.

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