Gemma Maroney is Solution IP’s Marketing Manager. She writes about what is new and exciting in the business communications world

New study finds that smaller businesses in the US are still slow to adopt UC strategies (but don’t worry, the UK UC market remains healthy)

The worldwide Unified Communications (UC) industry is predicted to be worth $5.3Bn by 2018, according to market research firm Wainhouse .

However, a new report from US based telecom advisory group Software Advice indicates that whilst UC is being adopted by larger organisations and is now being targeted heavily, with increasing success, at the mid-market, smaller businesses within America are slower to adopt UC strategies.

The group conducted an online survey of random SMBs and small business owners and employees within the United States and gathered 2,017 responses.

For the purposes of this blog post, before delving into the findings of this industry report, it is perhaps best to further define the term ‘SMB’.

IT Group Analysts DCIG have the following definition:

Small and Midsize Business (SMB.) 

This size organization only has a part-time individual managing its data and/or IT infrastructure. This individual does everything (manage backups, databases, the network, new technology purchases, support contracts, etc.). He/she spends at most 20 hours a week on these tasks, and the organization may even outsource this task to a third party contractor.

This definition seems pertinent when assessing some of Software Advice’s reported findings:

  • Two thirds of business owners and employees lack access to Unified Presence Information (the ability to be able to see another employees ‘presence’ or availability at the time of communication)
  • 46% of owners and 44% of employees are still using multiple phone numbers
  • More than half of the respondents conduct business via their personal mobile phones

The seemingly slow adoption might, in some part, be attributable to the time constraints and conflicting commitments faced by SMB’s, as stated above. Typically, a smaller organisation may have only a part time IT professional available to assess the current communications infrastructure that exists, a common barrier when it comes to updating infrastructures for many businesses.

Interestingly, many of the respondents were keen to point out the benefits to be had from adopting UC within their operational structures, with a combined 29 percent of respondents identifying that it would make communication easier by feeding information into a centrally managed application. Single number identity was also cited as a commonly acknowledged benefit, despite a mere 9 percent of business owners who responded having actually implemented this strategy within their own businesses.

Most Important Unified Communications Feature for Owners

Most Important Unified Communications Feature for Owners

The report points out that another reason for the slow take-up amongst smaller businesses may be that Unified Communications is very much about taking an existing system, and making it more intelligent, centralised and efficient. It is not a strategy that seeks to replace or fix anything that is broken, which is why many smaller, growing companies may be so slow to adopt UC strategies- as a priority, upgrading an existing system could be demoted beneath other perceived business critical priorities.

Software Advice suggest that there is much room for UC providers to look at their small business solutions, and tailor their offerings more adroitly to the needs of these SMBs. A full version of their report can be found here.

Meanwhile, here in the UK, according to research by Frost and Sullivan, Unified Communications implementation is currently growing at more than 30 percent a year, with 60 percent of UK respondents to their survey having already employed the technology.

Predictions for further UC adoption look healthy, and are bolstered by the growth of BYOD working policies, the increased availability of 4G and the successful rolling out of superfast broadband across the UK, encouraged by the Government’s  Connection Voucher Scheme.

Another report by Baseline Magazine puts the number of businesses using some element of Unified Communications tech, such as VoIP and video conferencing, at a smaller 40%- which is still a very healthy figure, and likely to continue increasing over the coming years. Baseline’s figures suggest that another 84 per cent of businesses have indicated they are ‘at least considering the prospect of deploying such technology within the next three years.’

In summary, despite slower take-up from smaller businesses, the outlook for Unified Communications implementation is, at the moment, very healthy. More and more businesses are recognising the real benefits of Unified strategies, and understanding that they can become more efficient, more responsive, and more productive enterprises as a result of upgrading their existing infrastructure to incorporate Unified Communications applications.

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