Gartner UC&C 2013 MQ

With Gartner about to release the UC MQ 2013, here are two Microsoft perspectives of the report.  Click on the link to the bottom of the blogs to download the report.

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http://windowspbx.blogspot.com/2013/08/gartner-magic-quadrant-for-unified.html

http://msunified.net/2013/08/09/gartner-magic-quadrant-for-unified-communications-2013/

What does collaboration mean to you ?

Ever since Garter added the C to UC  and made it UC&C, there has been several and  varying thought processes around what really collaboration means.  To some, it means web and native ability of clients to create, share and participate in integrated audio/video/desktop collaboration. To others, it means a generous dose of social collaboration to the UC portfolio to ‘consumerize’ the product.  And to yet another set of thinkers, it means teamspace/workspace/workflow management systems integrated with the UC infrastructure.

To me, it means all of the above.  As June 2013 draws to a close and software based solutions pervade both the premise and hosted clouds, UC&C solutions exhibit strong comprehensive feature sets.  In that vein,  any true UC&C solution should also have all of the aforementioned collaboration  components.  Users should have the ability ( web or native ) to quickly fire up a conference ( audio/video/desktop ). Users  should be able to federate with customers/partners/eco-system at will using social media from within the solution.  And finally, users should be able to seamlessly work with workspace/teamspace tools in the enterprise to drive projects/products.  This is a tall ask but many vendors are slowly inching towards this goal.  Take a look at Lync 2013 and all the strong federation/collaboration integration it provides.  It’s only a matter of time before others vendors follow suit.   Here is a mockup that could visualize what I have in mind :

Collaboration (2)

In short, collaboration with teamspace and integrated social networking has the potential to replace email. The reactive nature of email has made it ubiquitous since its inception. A thoroughly integrated tool will have to provide as much ease of user experience or more to be seen as a replacement.

Enterprise UC

Unified Communications in the enterprise is a huge 13-15B business as of 1Q 2011.  Market ownership is divided almost as a duopoly between Avaya and Cisco.  There are several reasons why smaller players like the ones noted in the research below are unable to crack this duopoly.  Some of the more important ones are as below:

  1. Large companies like Microsoft are solely software vendors – they try to build UC solutions( Lync, Exchange )  with OEM vendors (AASTRA) providing phones and gateways. This never works because inter-opping a piece meal solutions is easier said than done.  Enterprises are not  interop forums – they need a communications network right off the shelf.  Lack of hardware infrastructure (both manufacturing expertise and also internal leadership experience and strength) is an insurmountable weakness.  Defensive acquisitions can give these companies that much needed hardware suite to go with their strong software offerings.
  2. Siemens, IBM and Alcatel-Lucent are legacy and old world conservative companies with monolithic solutions – transforming those humongous PBX “hall size hardware”  into pure IP solutions  for the enterprise market is more than a little challenging.   What we have now are patchwork TDM solutions with IP side functionalities = these firms implement their legacy feature sets onto these hybrid solutions and hence gain a sliver of the segment.
  3. Most of the larger PBX  based firms start at the top of the product  hierarchy working their way down with contact center solutions, SBC’s and high end gateways which are hacked versions of their  legacy PBX’es.   These still have interfaces and API’s which make it difficult to support current applications like CRM, Salesforce.com etc.  Another way of stating this is that services and features sell solutions and not the other way around.
  4. Smaller firms like Interactive Intelligence and Mitel try to swim up the river by focusing on scalability – this comes a cropper as well because of the lack of intrinsic scalability or 5 or 6 9’s in their fundamental design.  This is like trying to load up the Prius with more power so that it can compete with the muscle cars at Nascar  – a very “average” idea indeed.
  5. Somewhere in the middle lie Cisco and Avaya. Cisco with its strong routing and switch background easily implement and support large enterprises  with IP solutions and so enterprise UC is merely an extension of their DNA. Avaya built an enterprise based company with a specific segment focus and hence they rule as well.

Gartner and UC

Someone asked me recently about defining UC and this post immediately came to my mind : http://blogs.gartner.com/nick_jones/2010/09/07/is-unified-communications-the-biggest-scam-since-ponzi/

If a senior analyst at Gartner is skeptic  about the mish-mash of solutions all bundled together ( aka UC ) , I wonder how customers truly feel when they have opaque solutions from different vendors on their desktop.  It possibly isn’t too different from that of the analyst albeit mostly usability reasons !