By now, email and VoIP phones have become fixtures in most offices. When considering the variety of tools that fall under the umbrella of unified communications, however, many businesses embrace only a small fraction of the technologies available today. Given the advancements in collaboration solutions over the past few years, West Unified Communications Services wanted to learn more about how widely-used various UC tools really are in the workplace.
We surveyed more than 250 IT managers to understand what UC technologies their organizations provide to employees, why certain tools were adopted and their companies' plans to invest in and implement additional communication solutions in the future. Here's a look at what we found.
Audio and web conferencing tools reign supreme, though many offices fail to integrate the two
The market for UC tools is diversifying fast, tempting organizations to flesh out their own resources. Sixty-eight percent of IT managers report that their companies use UC tools beyond tried-and-true email and voice systems.
Looking at the top UC tools available in surveyed organizations, however, it's clear that audio is still a communication king compared to newer, web-based technology:
- Audio conferencing (79%)
- Web conferencing (76%)
- IM/presence (73%)
- Video conferencing (68%)
- Screen sharing (67%)
- Social collaboration (43%)
Video conferencing still represents an underutilized source of value for many companies, and is the area respondents are most likely to invest in going forward. Thirty-six percent of IT managers expect to add or expand these capabilities in the next three years.
Despite these plans, respondents cite video conferencing platforms as one of the most difficult technologies for IT departments to maintain. Almost one-third of IT managers called out the challenge of supporting video and nearly half cited the same concern for social collaboration tools, which could explain its spotty adoption.
Rolling out a new enterprise communication tool starts by building a business case for how the technology will make the company stronger or end-users and key processes more efficient. Interestingly, the UC tools that IT managers feel are most important to their organizations' success parallel each platform's adoption rates.
Most Important Unified Communication Tools For Your Organization's Success
- Audio conferencing
- Web conferencing
- Video conferencing
- Screen sharing
The more UC platforms an organization uses, the more crucial it becomes for those platforms to integrate with each other. According to survey respondents, 67 percent say their organizations' employees can automatically forward incoming calls to their mobile device. Only 50 percent say staff can access their work voicemail from their email. Today's tech-savvy employees demand compatibility between the tools they use; employers that fail to satisfy these basic IT needs may suffer from low tech adoption and sub par ROI as a result.
Productivity and prompt adoption outweigh costs and vendor loyalty
We were also curious to understand what drives (and deters) IT departments to invest in new UC tools. Surprisingly, the top reason for delaying UC deployment (according to 52 percent of respondents) is not cost or budget, but that a technology isn't a "must have" priority. Less than a quarter of IT managers feel cost is a primary reason to put off adoption.
There are a variety of factors that push organizations to roll out new communication and collaboration tools, but most respondents agree that increasing productivity is grounds for investment.
What is your primary motivation for investing in a new UC tool?
- To increase productivity (53%)
- Existing tools are outdated/difficult to maintain (11%)
- Executive/upper management demand (10%)
- To reduce business travel costs (9%)
- Customer or vendor requirement (9%)
- Employee demand (8%)
Partnering with the right vendor is another essential part of the UC tool adoption process. While many IT leaders prefer buying all of their communication and collaboration solutions from one vendor, getting the best tools at the right time matters more than loyalty. Forty percent of respondents feel it's important to procure UC tools from a sole provider, but only 29 percent would delay investing in a new technology until their preferred vendor released its own version.
Ultimately, a quality product trumps brand relationships. More than half of IT leaders believe that relying on best-of-breed communication and collaboration tools is more important than adopting tools from the same vendor. Just 15 percent of respondents prioritize maintaining vendor continuity over leading solutions.
IT budget changes everything in unified communication adoption
As one might expect, the size of a company's IT budget can significantly influence the UC tools it offers employees. Case in point: IT departments with less funding are most likely to have no UC tools in place at all.
Among companies with budgets between $26,000 and $100,000, only around half have implemented UC tools beyond basic audio and email solutions. On the opposite end of the spectrum, 89 percent of companies with annual budgets over $5 million provide staff with solutions beyond email and voice.
The UC adoption differences across business budgets don't stop there. In fact, many capital-strapped companies lack standard communication tools. Among those with annual IT budgets under $25,000, 49 percent make audio conferencing available to employees, and only 39 percent use video conferencing. These businesses are also less likely to provide tools for internal collaboration: only 49 percent use some form of instant messaging, and 56 percent can share screens during conference calls.
Again, the picture looks dramatically different for businesses with budgets over $5 million, the majority of which use a wide range of UC tools.
UC adoption for companies with annual IT budgets over $5 million
- Audio conferencing (97%)
- Video conferencing (91%)
- IM presence (91%)
- Screen sharing (82%)
As the UC market continues to grow and innovate, a number of these technology price points are likely to drop, further lowering the barrier to adoption for smaller organizations.
Based on our survey findings, it's clear that most businesses have embraced unified communications technology in some respect. Organizational communication and collaboration, however, aren't static; the processes, behaviors and tools to enable them are always changing.
Implementing a new web conferencing platform alone doesn't mean an organization's UC duties are done. IT departments consistently need to think ahead about how to improve their businesses' UC strategies, whether that means pursuing more advanced tools or enabling integration across existing solutions.
Few businesses are in the position (nor would it be wise) to rollout a suite of cutting-edge UC tools at once. But by staying attuned to employees' communication challenges and the organization's needs over time, IT leaders can develop UC environments that deliver returns and results.