Survey Confirms IP Telephony Growing but UK Enterprises Struggle with UC

TeleWare, the provider of intelligent hosted and customer premises communication solutions, has announced details of a specially commissioned survey of UK organisations, which supports the high uptake of VoIP but highlights a lack of adoption and understanding of the value of Unified Communication.

The survey, conducted by analysts at PMP, uses a representative sample of senior IT decision makers from 100 UK organisations, with almost half the respondents from organisations with an annual turnover in excess of £250 million. Although a key finding shows almost 80% have a clear VoIP strategy, having either deployed or currently evaluating deployment, only 5% have implemented rudimentary unified voice and data communications systems and only 16% have integrated voice with another data application.

“The move to VoIP for many organisations is almost taken for granted now,” comments Lesley Hansen, Group Marketing Director for TeleWare plc. “The challenge now is building the next layer of useful services on top of the converged data and voice network and the survey seems to highlight the struggle UK organisations are having with the idea of unified communications,” she noted.

Hansen believes that part of the problem lies in confusion around interoperability and the message of single supplier requirement that many PBX vendors use to generate sales. Almost two thirds (64%) of the companies questioned used two or more telephony vendors and only a third of this sample had definite plans to standardise on a single vendor. For the organisations with more than one vendor’s telephony solutions, again, almost two thirds (62%) considered it a moderate to major problem to consolidate telephony services and dial plans across multiple vendors’ telephony solutions.

“Many organisations, especially at the larger end, tend to inherit PBXs from multiple vendors due to consolidations, mergers and acquisitions which makes standardisation on a single vendor trickier,” comments Hansen. “There seems to be an assumption that it is difficult to integrate telephony solutions from different sources into a consolidated telephony system which is somewhat of a myth propagated by hardware vendors,” she added.

Although the survey shows high level of acceptance on the benefits of UC, still only 5% have adopted the technology, with a further 18% having plans in the pipeline. “The data reminds me a bit of the early VoIP surveys where everybody can see it’s a good idea but only a few have actively taken the plunge. But if it follows the same adoption pattern as VoIP, then the next few years will be very interesting,” Hansen adds.

The survey also highlights a growth in newer approaches such as hosted services. 10% are currently using hosting, a further 10% are running evaluation trials and a further 28% would consider the technology. “What’s also interesting is that a further 27% just ‘don’t know’ – which suggests that there needs to be more effort across the channel on explaining the different practical methods of deploying UC to help speed up its adoption,” Hansen noted.

The survey was weighted towards larger organisations, with 39% of the respondents representing companies with 50 or more sites and 25% of the group in organisations with 10,000 or more employees. Hansen adds, “From our experience, larger organisations have embraced VoIP and been able to provide startling examples of ROI (return on investment) and cost savings through convergence and what we are seeing now is that the move to UC is being led by those same early VoIP adopters.”

“In these cases, most of the infrastructure to deliver UC is already in place as part of VoIP, so there is less capital cost but the easy-to-justify case for VoIP is much more subtle when it comes to UC – the benefits are there but they are within the realms of productivity, flexible working practices, the ability to scale up and down quickly – these are less easy to quantify but no less valuable than immediate savings on call costs,” said Hansen.

Hansen believes that all areas of the telephony industry need to help customers realise the benefits of what they have as opposed to trying to sell in more infrastructure. “The bulk of the benefits offered by UC can be delivered through software integration using existing infrastructure; UC is not the fork lift upgrade that the move to VoIP prompted, but a opportunity for the channel to help the customer improve business processes and gain operational and productivity benefits on top of the bottom line cost benefits of VoIP and this is where a consultative approach will pay dividends,” Hansen concludes.

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