Australian enterprises will look to hybrid of on-premise and hosted unified communications

Wednesday, 13 June, 2012

Australian enterprises have started evaluating unified communications as a service (UCaaS) as a realistic alternative to on-premises UC, but most will choose some hybrid of unified communications and collaboration (UCC) and UCaaS in a phased migration, according to Gartner.

By the end of 2012, all major Australian service providers plan to make hosted unified communications and collaboration (UCC) software or unified communications as a service (UCaaS) generally available, Gartner said.

According to Geoff Johnson, research vice president for Gartner, with UCC software licences expiring every two to three years, the majority of Australian businesses will only evaluate alternatives to their traditional on-premises deployments of UCC. Many are not at the stage where they are considering switching to a UCaaS provider.

“Most organisations have at least two UC suppliers and multiple licences expiring at different times, so buyers will generally see no urgent or pressing need to review existing UCC. This is complicated by multiple choices of UC suites and collaboration partners available, often with two or more competing suppliers deployed with overlapping UC functions,” Johnson said.

Gartner expects SMBs to be early adopters as they are not likely to have made major IP telephony purchases in the last few years. They are also the most significant long-term beneficiaries of UCaaS, as they are attracted to monthly payments rather than capital expenditure, reduced need for technical staff, high innovation and competitive technology refresh rates.

“Larger enterprises are likely to adopt UCaaS more sparingly and only when it can be shown to suit business productivity, network integration and application control needs,” Johnson said.

“Since integration issues can be complex and expensive, the most practical choice for most enterprises will be UCaaS suites from their preferred vendor, rather than pursuing best-of-breed UCC, which can carry substantial system-integration costs. The availability of major UCaaS providers' suites will test any enterprise's commitment to its current UCC vendors,” Johnson added.

A mix of traditional UC suite vendors now deliver hosted UC (Cisco) or cloud UC (Microsoft Office 365 or Google Apps), as well as communications service providers delivering those services (Optus or Telstra). Although many ISPs and smaller hosting providers now offer email, telephony or collaboration from the cloud, none will approach the scale of these market leaders. Gartner expects that only the major cloud UC suite vendors and their CSP partners will dominate subscription UC in Australia for the next two to three years.

Businesses should expect heavily marketed bundles of services from major UCaaS vendors to be offered this year. Telstra and Optus will also bundle their own telco packages with UCaaS core services.

“Buyers should be aware that Telstra and Optus sales staff are struggling to make the necessary transition from utility selling to value selling, and must treat their proposals critically,” Johnson said.

Gartner estimates upwards of 80% of businesses have no UC road map and are vulnerable to buying as a reaction to expected aggressive promotion and sales activity, rather than according to their own considered plans. Choosing the appropriate hybrid mix of UCC and subscription UC (hosted UC/UCaaS) will remain the central challenge for all businesses before 2017.

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