Wednesday, February 13, 2013
How many times have you seen toddlers shake their head “no” or simply lock their jaws closed in bitter defiance when offered a new type of food? Of course, it’s a common occurrence in child-rearing, likely attributable to a fear of the unknown or lack of valuable life experience that most of us eventually overcome.
Other than those early adopters who give the bell curve its shape, reluctance to try something new is an innate trait that most of us possess. The same principle can be applied to businesses, especially the SMB segment, where investment dollars are often hard to come by. That’s why new technologies are often adopted from the enterprise-level down; with IT teams from large organizations, their solution provider partners and the vendor community helping to develop applications and systems that will give them an edge over their competition.
In the business world, mystery can be a gamble, especially for up-and-coming entrepreneurs, who tend to be cautious with new investments and other major decisions. Until the business case for a new technology or more advanced tool has been properly vetted, many organizations will sit on the sidelines and wait for others to experiment with their resources. The rise of unified communications (UC) is a perfect example of that delay and study approach, as many businesses and solution providers sat on the sidelines waiting for a real value proposition to appear. According to a number of IT industry professionals and a cross-section of respected business experts, that time is here.
As detailed in a recent Wall Street Journal article by Joel Schectman titled “Unified Communications Is Gaining Traction,”
the availability of multiple messaging platforms is finally driving the value and adoption levels of UC in the small business space. The lack of interoperability has been a major stumbling block for all but the most advanced integrators, but technology advances and competition have opened up a number of new options for the IT channel.
As Schectman notes in his article, recent developments even allow providers to connect formerly siloed products from Cisco (WebEx) and Microsoft (Office Communicator, since replaced by Lync). When those applications are integrated, an end-user has access to IP-based phone service, video conferencing and instant messaging – all from a simple control panel. That helps increase business efficiency and productivity while allowing organizations to communicate more effectively with their employees, current and prospective customers and other associates.
Of course, technological advances rarely drive demand; they merely fulfill a specific personal or business operation need. The growing interest in and spending on UC applications are more likely the result of the continued progress of its value proposition, as more companies implement the systems and tell their story. The best thing that can happen for any technology is promotion of its benefits, especially when business owners and executives are willing to share their results with their peers.
A recent survey conducted by UC provider BroadSoft
suggests that many end-users remain unsatisfied with their communication technologies. Approximately 78 percent are displeased with information delays, 69 percent get frustrated trying to locate and contact someone and 76 percent believe email is an ineffective communications tool. More than three out of four respondents said they would be willing to adopt UC solutions.
While the BroadSoft survey was conducted with end-users, that’s exactly where business demand for the latest technologies originates these days. Bring your own device (BYOD) solutions serve as a great example, gaining traction in many organizations based on employee interest. The demand originated from workers who wanted to use their own smart phones, tablets and other mobile technologies at work. The market for UC solutions is developing in a similar manner, as companies are encouraged to implement integrated communications platforms that can improve the speed and ease of information delivery. After a few years of experience with a variety of consumer-grade solutions (Skype, WebEx, iOS), end-users have a lot more communication knowledge now than at any time before and are also more likely to discuss ideas and requests with their company’s IT team.
What does that mean for solution providers? Opportunity! If you want to learn more about the UC market drivers to see if the technologies make sense for your customers, check out some of the resources developed by members of the CompTIA Unified Communications Community
. If you’re interested in joining the industry discussion or learning more about the group, contact Katherine Hunt, CompTIA’s director of member communities, at email@example.com
. Brian Sherman is founder of Tech Success Communications, specializing in editorial content and consulting for the IT channel. His previous roles include chief editor at Business Solutions magazine and senior director of industry alliances with Autotask. Contact Brian at Bsherman@techsuccesscommunications.com.