The advent of Unified Communications (UC) some five years ago received not-so-enthusiastic reception in the market. Enterprises already had large investments in existing infrastructure and early solutions did not have the depth of functionality. However, with the passage of time, the UC began to mature because an increasing number of enterprises began to switch to Unified Communications to cut operating costs and improve business processes. While IP telephony remains the dominant driver, new technologies such as telepresence and unified messaging are gaining momentum.
The value of the India’s unified communications market is expected to rise from $670 million in 2008 to $1 billion by 2010 as businesses start investing in voice and video on their networks.
Majority of this includes enterprise IP telephony, and applications like telepresence, mobility, conferencing and collaboration are still used to a limited extent by organisations and therefore comprise only 10 per cent of the market.
Unified communications involves the integration of different tools and applications used within an enterprise and with external partners for business communications. With the use of UC applications enterprise user productivity is improved. It enhances collaboration by integrating and converging various enterprise communication channels.
Unified communications is generally attributed to a set of products that integrate real-time communication services such as IP telephony, video conferencing, chats, etc. with non-real-time communication services like e-mail, SMS, voicemail, fax, etc., providing a synchronized, user-friendly interface.
“As unified communications applications become more prevalent in the extended workspace, more organisations are also realising the associated benefits. Results documented by Sage Research demonstrate a multitude of benefits – both in terms of employee time savings and financial savings,” says Minhaj Zia, National Sales Manager, Unified Communications, Cisco, India & SAARC. He adds, “Unified business communications applications not only facilitate productivity improvements for employees wherever their work takes them, they can also enhance the way in which all employees communicate.”
According to an independent report from Forrester Research Inc., the market for Unified Communications within enterprises in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific is forecast to reach US$14.5 billion in 2015. In its February 2009 report, “Market Overview: Sizing Unified Communications”, Forrester also predicts that “companies will deploy enhanced UC capabilities to about 60 per cent of employees in functions that will benefit most from embedding communications features like wireless and video directly into their business applications”.
The global market for visual communication managed services is projected to experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 162 per cent between 2008 and 2015, rising from nearly US$83 million to reach approximately US$940 million. Total demand for visual communication solutions and services is projected to reach US$8.6 billion, with a CAGR of 17.8 per cent between 2008 and 2013.
According to a Frost & Sullivan study, currently, India leads the SAARC region's UC market in terms of total spending and better overall awareness of UC. India has a good potential for growth of UC applications as demonstrated by the CAGR of 7.9 per cent in the period from 2008 to 2015.
“With continued adoption by several key verticals such as BFSI, IT/ ITeS, etc., the Indian market is anticipated to weather the economic slowdown and emerge as a strong market for UC vendors,” says Minhaj Zia.
In a recent survey by Ovum with multinational corporations, it was detected despite fierce budget constraints, they are upping the pace of unified communications (UC) implementation and integration.
UC rollout has progressed painfully slowly in these huge organisations, but many individual UC applications are now deployed, with a strong focus on video in the coming year. Extending to mobile devices is a priority for many.
According to the Ovum survey, Email and IM are the most commonly deployed applications on handheld devices today.
However, in India, it is mainly the large and medium enterprises that seek to implement UC solutions. According to AMI Partners, SMBs in the Indian subcontinent will spend US$48.8 million on unified communications (UC) in 2009. “Indian SMBs are looking at UC as a low-cost tool to communicate effectively with customers and suppliers as well as facilitate communication across multiple branch locations,” says Minhaj Zia. “These SMBs seem to be finding smarter ways to cut travel costs, maximise operational efficiency and improve business and customer strategies by streamlining their communication infrastructure. Conferencing and collaboration tools such as video, audio, web conferencing and instant messaging will account for a majority of the total UC spending,” adds Minhaj Zia.
In today’s competitive environment, organisations of all sizes and across industries are trying to contain costs without limiting their ability to execute and innovate. As businesses look to remove the barriers of distance communication, it is becoming evident that visual communication solutions are mission-critical for competitive advantage.
“And it is not only in the enterprise space that Unified Communications has taken off – the SMB market in India has also embraced unified communications,” according to Neeraj Gill, Managing Director, Polycom India & SAARC.
“The adoption of UC solutions has gone beyond the boardrooms of large MNCs and has found its way even in the SMB segment. In fact, SMBs have been enjoying the benefits of UC solutions to collaborate with various stakeholders. Voice conferencing has found application across the SMB segment. With increased awareness about the vast benefits of visual collaboration solutions, the SMB market is fast adopting this technology as well,” says Neeraj Gill.
“One of the best case examples of SMB adoption of Video Collaboration would be Reliance Web Worlds which offers Video Conferencing across 241 locations in India. Having witnessed good ROI from such meetings at public rooms, we do see a good traction from SMB segment for in-house video conferencing facilities as an extension to public rooms,” says Neeraj Gill.
“We can say the increasingly, more and more of our customers are coming from the mid-market segment as they are quickly finding out that UC solutions need not necessarily cost an arm and a leg plus, if usage and adoption is relatively high, the technology virtually pays for itself,” says Dinesh Sehgal, Regional Director, Tandberg India.
There is a huge potential for Unified Communications in small towns as it is currently an untapped market. As companies get more globalised, UC will be more in demand.
One of the biggest infrastructure challenges would be the availability of good broadband infrastructure.
The UC market has been growing steadily in India. There are, however, a few challenges as far as adoption of UC in small towns across the country is concerned.
“Unified Communications technology can not reach its optimum utilisation without the integration with video. With fibers being laid out pan-India, reduction in maintenance and higher level of services available, the above challenges will be overcome fast. Also, interoperability is not a challenge at all with Polycom Solutions, as they are standards-based and integrate with standards-based high definition as well as traditional, standard definition conferencing systems irrespective of their endpoints or networks,” says Neeraj Gill.
Factors driving demands of Unified Communications
Business continuity is critical for companies that want to sustain operations in the face of interruptions large and small. It is a much stronger, broader and more meaningful effort, and its focus is as much on customers as on employees – that is, the ability to support customers as though it were business as usual, even if it is not.
A Frost & Sullivan report on business continuity cited the criticality of on-demand collaborative communications technologies for business continuity. “If employees are well prepared and comfortable collaborating remotely, they are much more likely to stay focussed and productive, allowing them to continue supporting customers and positively impact the company’s bottom line.” (Source: Critical Communications for Business Continuity: How to Ensure Employees, Partners and Customers Stay Connected)
The major growth drivers for the adoption of Unified Communication solutions are:
• Visual Collaboration technologies are being viewed as business enablers in this tough economic scenario, as a means of business continuity and containing costs
• Organisations have been able to get a rapid ROI when implementing visual collaboration technologies saving real, hard money by directly minimising business travel expenses
• Training/ HR – Training can often lead to the success or failure of an organisation. Polycom’s UC solutions are used in all facets of HR policy administration – from the hiring process to training as well as employee communication.
• Collaboration – Video enables true lifelike visual collaboration between teams working across multiple geographies
• Rapid Turnaround Time – Unified Communications solutions help businesses reduce product development cycles, enhance team communications and move products to the market sooner, resulting in higher productivity, shorter time to revenue and increased customer satisfaction
• Reduction in cost of connectivity and maintenance
• Enhanced availability of bandwidth – more players, rollout of fiber all across India
Also, with specific relevance to India, globalisation has become a major driving factor for adoption of conferencing solutions. As organisations are becoming more and more diverse in business applications, acquisitions and mergers have become more commonplace and multinational workforces become the standard. Everyone is pressed for time – organisations are increasingly facing the business challenges of faster decision-making while collaborating amongst a dispersed/decentralised workforce – Unified Communications solutions help in overcoming these challenges.
“The big catalyst for growth now has to be access to broadband. Enterprise use of video integrated with robust phone features is more than just employees viewing streaming video clips or using social networking sites during the workday. Current videoconferencing technology has improved the user experience such that it is now a viable mode of business communications internally among employees and externally with partners and customers. The seamless blending of high-quality audio and video provides additional advantages to users on both sides of a virtual meeting, since all are privy to the nonverbal cues that add more context to the dialogue,” says Dinesh Sehgal.
And in today's dynamic business environment, perhaps the most important benefit comes from having a communications system that can change and grow at a moment's notice, enabling new capabilities for more effective business communications, employee mobility, streamlining business processes, and improving profitability.
Opportunities for Channel
The buzz surrounding Unified Communications presents channel with an opportunity to help organisations realise the competitive advantages offered by streamlining corporate communication processes. Apart from obvious benefits such as saving on telecommunications costs, Unified Communications also offers new business abilities such as remote working and extending customer service beyond the contact centre. All this makes UC a compelling proposition.
Cisco’s complete business is through channel partners. It is of paramount importance to ensure that its partners accelerate growth, differentiate their business and increase profitability using Cisco certifications, specialisations and incentives. This helps partners to define skill sets required to successfully deploy and operate Cisco solutions, optimise the technology performance and to deduce deployment risk.
According to Cisco, UC should be open and interoperable. It should be inclusive in nature. Cisco works with every vendor in this space which includes Nortel, Avaya, Siemens, Alcatel, Microsoft, IBM, etc. Everybody needs to have a framework where they can interoperate and work with each other. That is when the true value of UC would surface.
Cisco and Microsoft work together in many areas of their businesses and both compete and collaborate in areas such as Unified Communications and collaboration. Cisco and Microsoft have a strong track record of collaboration around our respective products and technologies, and we continue to look for opportunities to build on these successful initiatives, and to new collaboration and integration points moving forward. Many customers use both Microsoft and Cisco technologies in their networks, so Cisco believes it is important that our products and roadmaps for the future are aligned.
Polycom continues to expand its partnerships with the leaders in network infrastructure and Unified Communications, announcing new solutions and deepened relationships with BroadSoft, IBM, and Siemens Enterprise Communication Group. Polycom’s integration efforts with these leading platform providers support Polycom’s Open Collaboration Network strategy for delivering open and interoperable conferencing and collaboration solutions that provide customers with greater flexibility and investment protection within their UC environments.
As organisations look to reduce operational expenditure (OPEX) costs, while at the same time improve productivity and efficiency, UC traction will continue in some verticals that include Education, Health and Government as well as retail/wholesale.
Cisco is aggressively tapping industry verticals such as Banking, Retail, Healthcare and Manufacturing, apart from IT sector which has been one of the early adopters of UC. Cisco leverages its networking expertise to combine UC solutions along with wireless and security applications for enhanced productivity and business benefits. Some of our recent clients who have implemented Unified Communications solutions are BALCO, Yes Bank, MindTree Consulting, etc.
According to Dinesh Sehgal, the top five verticals, which are high on adoption for Unified Communications, are Banking & Finance, Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Professional Services and Medical.
The channel structure that Polycom has established in India helps ensure regional assistance is available to all our end-customers, for every requirement; eliminating the possibility of any inconvenience that a customer could face due to faraway operations.
Polycom is aggressively focussing its efforts on the Indian market. Visual communication is becoming a mission-critical tool for corporate and government sectors in achieving continued improvements in innovation, productivity and efficiency, and Polycom has a well-defined strategy for targeting those sectors that embraces our partners. We have also aligned our channel and distribution strategy to reach out to the SMB and SOHO segments, and we are carefully considering potential business growth opportunities such as retail.
In addition, to help partners maximise their opportunities in the fast-growing Unified Communications market, Polycom is introducing the Polycom Choice Partner Programme, which will “go live” across the Asia-Pacific region on 1st July, 2010. The first phase of the APAC programme – the Polycom Choice Partner Programme for Solution Providers – is designed to strategically align solution provider partners with the needs of customers, and to invest appropriately with partners to achieve mutual business growth.
Targeted at value-added resellers, system integrators and service providers, the Polycom Choice Partner Programme for Solution Providers establishes a framework to support the business model of solution provider partners in a Unified Communications ecosystem, and enable them to grow their businesses with Polycom training, sales, marketing, and technical support and a range of other exclusive benefits.
The Polycom Choice Partner Programme for Solution Providers is underpinned by an objectives-based model that allows partners to measure their abilities and advance within the programme. Polycom Registered Choice Partner Level is the entry level for the programme, and partners can then rise to higher levels – Gold and Platinum – by completing a business plan, investing in specialisations and achieving certain levels of revenue performance.
Trends in Unified Communications
According to Polycom, the current business landscape is driving two important imperatives for CIOs: convergence and collaboration. The IT approach to linking convergence and collaboration is Unified Communications (UC). Enabling users to instantly collaborate using their device of choice is fundamental to the success of a UC strategy.
The deployment of High Definition (HD) telepresence and video conferencing solutions across a UC environment helps promote close and regular collaboration among work teams of all sizes – not just between individuals or small groups.
The challenge faced by most organisations is that the cost of an immediate and full end-to-end UC implementation is prohibitive, and may require an expensive and disruptive “rip-and-replace” approach.
Visual communication is becoming a business imperative because it provides a rapid and quantifiable return on investment that can help cost-justify UC deployments. Global organisations are continuing to focus on travel reduction as a way to significantly cut costs.
Polycom provides a full suite of telepresence, video and voice solutions that enable people to instantly collaborate in lifelike realism with other individuals or groups anywhere in the world – without the need for travel. With its multi-vendor UC approach, Polycom’s solutions ensure protection for existing IT investments and allow organisations to transition to UC at their own pace.
Polycom is also the largest independent provider of scale for voice, video and immersive telepresence systems. This independent and platform-agnostic position is why Polycom is the preferred video partner of choice for the leading UC vendors, including Microsoft, Juniper, HP, BroadSoft, IBM, Avaya/Nortel and Siemens.
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