The size of Unified Communications market is growing and it is poised to exceed $57 billion by the year 2024. Both team-chat innovations and ongoing UC growth and adoption are driving the large percentage of customer engagements. In an exclusive interview with TechObserver.in Sanjay Singh, Unify Square CEO John Case says, “We are in the most successful cycle in our company’s history in terms of customer growth, and we anticipate continued expansion. This growth is coming from PowerSuite performance and operations software offerings as well as our newly launched Teams services.”
Looking at the Unified Communications and Collaboration market in 2018, what are some trends you’re watching closely?
I’m very optimistic about the Unified Communications market this year, especially given the new ‘infusion’ of collaboration elements. Market size is growing and poised to exceed $57 billion by the year 2024. Both team-chat innovations and ongoing UC growth and adoption are driving the large percentage of customer engagements. There are three trends we’re watching closely. First, we’re tracking the growing competition between Slack, as the original team-chat vendor, and the emerging contenders, such as Teams. Microsoft’s latest announcement of Teams’ integration with voice assistant Cortana, as well as the addition of transcription and translation features that allow users to record, transcribe and save meetings to the cloud, are furthering the gap between the two collaboration apps.
Second, as this month marks the one-year birthday milestone of Teams, we’re already seeing accelerated Skype for Business to Teams piloting (and in some cases full migrations) in enterprises, and we anticipate even more movement as Microsoft completes the exercise of moving all key current Skype for Business voice features to Teams.
Third, for customers who are still committed to the notion of UC on-premises, we’re also expecting the new Skype for Business 2019 server (shipping later this year) to spark a lot of activity. While those customers may also use Teams, or something else, for groups and chat, we expect many large enterprises to continue to invest in and utilize their current server UC architectures for the next 2-3 years.
Apart from collaboration apps and web conferencing platforms, is it possible to have performance management tools that can tie together all the technologies inside a conference room for enterprise?
Every collaboration app and web conferencing platform offers a different variation of features and tools to increase productivity and overhaul the way knowledge workers collaborate. The trick is not just managing them all (so that they can do what they’re designed to do well), but helping the end-user to understand how best to leverage the technology. The challenge is that although we refer to the market as “unified” communications, most platforms don’t really communicate in a unified manner. One of the key focus areas of our PowerSuite software is helping to improve the end-user experience when using UC technology. Being able to anticipate and then pinpoint vulnerabilities through integrated scenarios and operational intelligence, PowerSuite today offers a solution with innovative automation and smart analytics, but the UC industry still has work to do to truly unify all conference room technologies in a way that will delight the end user.
What role do you see of predictive and automated analytics in conference room?
According to Nemertes Research, 32 percent of enterprises said their conference room technology did not include adequate performance management tools. As enterprises continue to diversify the devices and resources within the conference room (as evidenced by Microsoft’s recent announcement at Enterprise Connect showcasing new Skype Room Systems partners and offerings), analytics will play a crucial role. Predictive and automated analytics provide the metrics necessary to determine whether conference rooms are best meeting collaboration needs and whether they are returning the technology investment.
With the launch of WhatsApp Business, do you see any impact of it on the UC&C market? Will that impact the sales of solutions like Microsoft Kaizala, Cisco Spark etc?
When a company like WhatsApp has a daily user base of over 1 billion, an impact is to be expected. But WhatsApp can’t do everything. It’s also important to remember that today, WhatsApp is only targeting the small business…not the enterprise. For example, there used to be a cap on how many people could be added to groups within the application, which is an area Kaizala addressed. Microsoft introduced Kaizala as a messaging app that does more than just enable a few friends to talk to each other. Users can add as many people to the group and do things like create polls, documents and surveys, acting in more of a project management capacity.
It’s also important to distinguish between solutions like WhatApp and Kaizala versus team-chat apps like Spark, Slack and Teams. The former category are meant to be simple (but highly efficient) messaging apps which are more smartphone-centric vs VOIP. The team-chat category is targeting VOIP-based enterprise communications AND collaboration and even bringing in the notion of the workplace hub with Slack and Microsoft starting to battle it out for enterprise AppStore prominence. Over the long term there may be a convergence between these two categories, but in the near term, they each occupy their own separate ecosystem.
How is Unify Square’s business doing?
We are in the most successful cycle in our company’s history in terms of customer growth, and we anticipate continued expansion. This growth is coming from our industry-leading PowerSuite performance and operations software offerings as well as our newly launched Teams services. PowerSuite is continuing to pioneer new functionality in the industry such as benchmarking, AI-driven predictive analytics and device management. In fact, we just announced expanded device management functionality in PowerSuite and a global partnership with Jabra to enhance enterprise device management for UC headsets. We also recently opened a new development office in Vilnius, Lithuania (to complement our existing development centers in Bellevue and Zurich).
Regarding Teams, we’re already helping enterprises pilot and transition to Teams and we just rolled out the industry’s first Teams managed service. In addition, our other new Teams consulting offerings focus on migration/best practices and user adoption, and will aid both current Microsoft customers, as well as transitioning Slack and Cisco customers as they make the move to Microsoft’s Intelligent Communications platform.