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The State of Unified Communications As A Service in 2019

By Michael Dolloff


For years within the industry, I have not held back on my opinion on how Unified Communications has fallen short on actually being Unified. However, like most things in life as time passes and new technology or integrations come along my opinion remains flexible. In a recent video, I took the opportunity to discuss how the evolution of our industry has me rethinking the state of a true Unified Communications Landscape, and what the future holds for all of us.

Unified Communications Rises To The Cloud, Finally

At Inflow, we enjoy speaking to people every day about their Unified Communications and Contact Center Technology. We get to see it really in depth and work with companies of all shapes and sizes on how they are leveraging their solutions.

If you are in the industry or responsible for this technology at your organization, you have probably heard of the many options available to you. We have heard the term Unified Communications As A Service (UCaaS) for several years. We are now in the heart of the As A Service World in seemingly all we do is offered as a service. From how we consume entertainment to our shopping the convenience factor is second to none.

UCaaS has taken off over the past few years and with it brings the top questions: “Should our organization should move to cloud?” “Should we move from cloud provider to cloud provider?” Most often we are asked, “Are we getting the most from our technology we are currently utilizing?”

These are the discussions we enjoy having with our clients because the answer differs greatly depending on a wide range of factors, and I am going to lay out how we got here and where the industry is going.

RIP To Gartner’s Unified Communications Magic Quadrant

The Gartner Unified Communications Magic Quadrant has been a staple for years in the industry identifying new and existing players within communications. The biggest indicator for the shift in UC is that Gartner is not coming out with their analysis this year. This is a sign that the space is shifting from premise-based to cloud. This may not seem like a big surprise for other technology, however in UC that change has happened slower than for most others.

Looking at UCaaS from the traditional telephony background colliding with those from a collaboration background there are a lot of names that you may recognize and some you may not in this graphic.

Mitel, Cisco, Avaya, the traditional carriers like AT&T, for all of these players this has been their bread and butter for decades. We are seeing consolidation on this side of the market with Mitel’s recent acquisition of ShoreTel, and expect to see more in the near future. AT&T has been acquiring companies for years in their apparent path to gravitate back to the Ma Bell days of telecom.

Untraditional Competition Leads To Innovation Within Unified Communications

If we take a look at Mitel and their ability to adapt within the marketplace from a traditional on-premise-based solution to offering hybrid and cloud solutions, this is the path to long term success for the traditional players.

On the other side historically you have players you wouldn’t consider to be traditional communications players in the sense they are messaging or video based like Slack and Zoom. They have helped redefine what communications really means within the workplace as remote workers and even international remote working becomes a part of the workforce. Filesharing, video conferencing, messaging and more have evolved at a faster rate than ever before because of these new players.

In the middle, you have some players like Ring Central and 8×8 who are doing well to blend those two worlds together. The good news is that we all benefit from innovation, and features that seemed cutting edge are now part of a wide range of companies offering those services as part of their platform.

This is not binary by any means, however, this is a good illustration of what the landscape looks like. We are in an interesting time with worlds colliding of the traditional, new companies and hybrid as well. RingCentral and 8×8 were the ones a decade ago that forced traditional players to innovate. Before that and even back to the breakup of the Ma Bell monopoly the recipe has always been the same within Communications: Innovate, acquire or evolve.

Defining Your Use Case Brings Clarity In A Crowded Unified Communications Landscape

While traditionally all of these platforms were viewed within their own silo, we now know that they are all part of the same landscape, which means there has never been a better or more confusing time on how to integrate the right Unified Communications solution for your business.

Really focusing on the use case you are trying to solve with Unified Communications is the best way to cut through the noise. What is working? What’s winning? What should we do? All of these lead back to the use case for your business. What does each solution accomplish for your organization and what are you looking to accomplish in your organization?

Are you in retail or a distributive environment with remote workers? There are a lot of UC tools that can work against or WITH you.
Is mobility important to you? People want more than just telephony, we actually are Unified now after years of using that term sarcastically.

Ensuring Your Unified Communications Solution Plays Well With Others

The next consideration in UC is fitting within the broader tech environment. API and integrations for your contact center are more important for workflow and efficiencies and make it easier for end users to do their work. There are robust integrations to tools we rely on every day like calendar, mail, CRM and many more. Making all of these work in harmony is an expectation of today’s workforce. Fortunately for all of us, we have cleared the silo of segregated communications and changed my mind on our industry finally earning the term of Unified Communications!

These are just a few of the many questions our team can help you with. Set up a time to speak with our team to see how Inflow can help your company bring clarity in today’s crowded Unified Communications Space.