Sergey Nivens - Fotolia
The UCaaS market has undergone a rapid transformation in the last several years as providers have added new features. New startups have emerged while existing vendors have merged or been acquired, and those delivering on-premises platforms to the UCaaS market have shifted to a cloud-first model, validating the long-term direction of a shift to the cloud. On the buy-side, IT leaders increasingly are adopting a when not if approach as they evaluate and plan for cloud transition.
Nemertes Research Group Inc.'s "Unified Communications and Collaboration: 2018-19 Research Study" -- based on data gathered from more than 600 end-user organizations in North America, Western Europe, and Southeast Asia -- showed that already 29% were already in the UCaaS market, using cloud-based platforms for all of their collaboration needs -- not just for real-time services, but also for apps like file sharing, mail and calendars. Approximately 14% (mostly smaller companies) are using UCaaS, while the rest (mostly larger companies) typically use hosted UC platforms that are custom-built but sold on a subscription basis.
Another important development in the UCaaS market is the rapid evolution of services, including the following:
- incorporation of team and workstream collaboration features supporting persistent workspaces, private and group chat, and application integrations to enable the team space to become a work hub for projects and other activities;
- integrated contact center capabilities, either natively or through partnerships;
- APIs and, in some cases, development platforms or drag-and-drop capabilities to enable custom integrations and workflows;
- AI and machine learning features that enable optimization of functions like call routing and team collaboration;
- addition of more functions including surveys and CRM;
- growing availability of UCaaS from network service providers and value-added resellers, often bundled with internet access, on-premises managed network and Wi-Fi services, mobile services and other features designed to provide a single set of services for all technology needs;
- integration of messaging, enabling sending and receiving of text and multimedia messages and potentially even social messages to consumer services like Apple Messenger, Facebook Messenger, and WhatsApp;
- communications platform-as-a-service capabilities that include the ability to integrate workflows with messaging, provision virtual phone numbers, and support features like calling without sharing a phone number;
- integration of SD-WAN to enable UCaaS customers to use lower-cost internet services to connect to service providers;
- intelligent edge routing designed to keep voice and video traffic on-net to improve performance and reliability; and
- increased ability of UCaaS providers to support large, global organizations requiring local points of presence in established and emerging markets.
We at Nemertes expect UCaaS adoption to continue to grow in the coming years as enterprise IT buyers increasingly see the value, and rate of new feature availability, as being superior in the cloud model. IT leaders should evaluate what's offered in the UCaaS market, focusing on the ability of vendors to provide predictable costs, integrate a variety of collaboration and communications functions and enable rapid adoption of emerging capabilities.