VARs Find Opportunity In Unified Communications Market

In contrast to many technology areas, the worldwide market for unified communications products and services is holding up in this globally depressed economy.

The vast and growing unified communications (UC) market presents VARs with plentiful opportunities to improve communications and collaboration activities for clients – enabling VARs to make money from consultation, support and, of course, integration which is at the heart of all UC deployments.

Unified communications refers to the combination of instant messaging, web presence, VoIP, videoconferencing, and other technologies that workers can use to collaborate and communicate in real time through a single interface. Leading vendors in the space include Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, Nortel, and Siemens.

As there are many products under the UC umbrella and they all require a degree of integration, VARs have almost limitless opportunities to mix and match solutions, said Blair Pleasant, principal analyst at COMMfusion, a market research and consulting firm that specializes in UC.

In contrast to many technology areas, the worldwide market for unified communications products and services is holding up extremely well in this globally depressed economy, according to a report issued last year by COMMfusion and UCStrategies.

The report noted that worldwide gross revenues for Unified Communications are expected to grow from $9.52 billion in 2007 to $15.9 billion by 2012 -- at a compounded annual growth rate of 51.5 percent.

“One reason why the market is growing so much is that it is still pretty new,” said Pleasant. “Video conferencing is one of the hottest areas because it helps companies to cut travel costs while enabling them to meet and collaborate.”

Quick ROI Sought

The issue of cost-reduction is key to all customer interest in unified communications, said Eric LeBow, vice president, business transformation, Spanlink Communications.

“Companies are looking for hard-dollar cost reductions and very quick ROI on their purchases – within six to 12 months,” said LeBow, who singled out video conferencing, SIP trunking, and server virtualization as UC technologies that deliver some of the quickest ROIs.

However, LeBow noted, most customers in this economy want to leverage their existing UC technology purchases to take the technology to the next level.

Leveraging existing technology is the name of the game for many clients, agreed Steve McDonald, director of the unified communications practice at Softchoice, an IT solution provider.

“As clichéd as it is, companies want to do more with less,” said McDonald, who sees a lot of opportunity to deliver automated call distribution, integrated voice responses and computer telephony integration on a unified platform.

McDonald noted that much of Softchoice’s UC business comes from helping existing customers who want to streamline their operations, reduce cost and increase revenue.

Both McDonald and LeBow said they see heightened client interest in ‘web presence’ – the ability to determine the availability of an individual regardless of location or device.

“Customers are using enterprise class-instant communication tools (such as IBM’s SameTime or Microsoft Office Communicator) to turn their entire organizations into service centers, allowing call center agents to solve a customer’s problem by engaging, for example, a person in the engineering department,” said LeBow.

TAGS: services,voice,VoIP,communications,VARs

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