As the enterprise UC market continues to mature, we expect more consolidation and increased user expectations — prompting an emphasis on vendors’ telephony capabilities and financial viability. Enterprise planners must match their own priorities to vendor strengths before committing to a solution.
The focus of this research is enterprise unified communications (UC) solutions that are intended for on-premises deployment. Midsize UC solutions are covered in “Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications for Midsize Enterprises, North America,” and cloud UC products are covered in “Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service, Worldwide.” “Critical Capabilities for Unified Communications” (forthcoming at the time of publication) will provide additional information on the solutions reviewed in this document.
The primary goal of all UC solutions is to improve user productivity and to enhance the business processes related to communications and collaboration. Gartner defines UC products (equipment, software and services) as those that facilitate the use of multiple enterprise communications methods to obtain that productivity goal. UC products integrate communications channels (media), and networks and systems, as well as IT business applications and, in some cases, consumer applications and devices.
UC offers the ability to significantly improve how individuals, groups and companies interact and perform. The UC products that enterprises deploy range from a single vendor (stand-alone) suite, to a portfolio of integrated applications and platforms spanning multiple vendors. In many cases, UC is deployed to extend and add functionality to established communications investments.
UC products are used by individuals to facilitate personal communications, and by enterprises to support workgroup and collaborative communications and business workflows. Some products may extend UC beyond company boundaries: to enhance communications between organizations, to support interactions among large public communities, or for personal communications. UC applications are increasingly being integrated with, or offered in concert with, collaboration applications to form unified communications and collaboration (UCC) solutions and, in some cases, are being integrated with business applications and workflows or are being targeted at vertical user groups.
It is useful to divide UC into six broad communications product areas:
- Telephony — This area includes fixed, mobile and soft telephony, as well as the evolution of PBXs and IP PBXs. This category includes options for voice and video that bypass traditional connectivity methods such as direct internet-based connections.
- Conferencing — This area includes multiparty voice (audio) conferencing, videoconferencing, web conferencing that includes document and application sharing capabilities, and various forms of unified conferencing capabilities.
- Messaging — This area includes email, which has become an indispensable business tool, voice mail and various approaches to unified messaging (UM).
- Presence and instant messaging (IM) — IM allows individuals to send text and added information to others, or to groups, in real time. Presence services allow individuals to see the status of other people and resources.
- Clients — Unified clients enable access to multiple communications functions from a consistent interface. These may take different forms, including thick desktop clients, thin browser clients and clients for mobile devices — such as smartphones and tablets — as well as specialized clients embedded within business applications.
- Communications-enabled business processes (CEBPs) — The ability to integrate the UC solution with other business and communications applications creates significant value for users; for instance, integrating UC with field-service or purchasing applications.