Gartner UC Magic Quadrant 2014 - A Clear Picture of the Changing Landscape

5 Aug 2014

The Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications 2014 is here, highlighting several important trends and changes in the UC landscape. Let's look first at the quadrants, then focus on what this means and on how the market is changing, from Gartner's perspective. (Note: If you are a Gartner subscriber, this is Research Report G00262527. Also, Microsoft offers a reprint link here.)

To recap, all Gartner Magic Quadrants categorize the qualifying vendors in a defined market area (i.e. UC in this case) on two dimensions: Completeness of Vision (horizontal axis) and Ability to Execute (vertical axis). Clockwise from top right are Leaders, Visionaries, Niche Players, and Challengers.

This year the Leaders are Microsoft, Cisco, Mitel and Avaya. Mitel moved into the Leaders category based on their acquisition of Aastra this year, resulting a combined portfolio of UC and IP Telephony assets with multi-regional presence. Unify (formerly Siemens Enterprise Communications) moved from the Leaders to the Visionaries category, primarily based on uncertainty about the management changes, about the announced plans for staff reductions of about 50% over the next 6 quarters, and about market acceptance of the innovative Project Ansible.

This year's Visionaries are Unify and IBM, where IBM gets credit from Gartner for IBM's transformative approach to UC through integration of IBM Sametime with IBM Smart Cloud, Connections and WebSphere.

The Challengers, continuing from last year, are NEC and Alcatel-Lucent.

The Niche Players, also continuing from last year, are ShoreTel and Interactive Intelligence, joined by Huawei who moved down from last year's Challenger's group.

What does this all mean?

First, the definition of UC remains very consistent. Quoting from the 2014 UC MQ report, Gartner makes the point again this year that, "The primary goal of unified communications (UC) is to improve user productivity and to enhance business processes." Also, "Gartner defines UC products (equipment, software and services) as those that facilitate the use of multiple enterprise communications methods to obtain that goal."

Of course, we at UCStrategies agree with that; we have defined UC since 2006 as communications integrated to optimize business processes. We define UC-U for user productivity and UC-B for business processes, and we emphasize that the measurable ROI mostly comes from UC-B projects.

Gartner divides UC into six broad product categories: Telephony, Conferencing, Messaging, Presence and IM, Clients, and Communications-enabled Applications. To be included in the Magic Quadrant, a vendor's solution must include all six categories and must be offered in multiple regions. Also, the vendor must have a significant market presence in at least three of the categories, including telephony, and earn annual enterprise communications revenue of at least $150M. The UC functionality must be integrated into a consistent user interface. Both customer and distribution partner references must be provided to Gartner.

Second, UC is entering what appears to be a major revenue growth phase. Gartner opens the report with, "The midsize and large enterprise UC markets are now considered by Gartner to be in the early mainstream adoption phase, and the best practices for deployment and end-user adoption are maturing. However, most enterprises currently operate with non-unified-communications solutions." This means that UC is accepted in the market, but not widely deployed, offering many opportunities for vendors to expand deliver of their products, solutions and services, immediately and for some years into the future.

Third, the Magic Quadrant points out that a number of vendors are succeeding by deploying new UC functionality alongside the customers' existing communications assets (PBXs, IP PBXs, video room systems, etc.). This seems consistent with articles posted on UC Strategies that show this 'overlay' approach both is more economical and has a higher return on investment. Gartner points to successes with this approach for (quotes are from the UC MQ report):

  • Microsoft Lync: "In many cases, it is initially deployed for its IM, presence and Web conferencing functionalities, with gradual incremental deployments of telephony and video added as follow-on phased deployments for specifically targeted groups or regions."

  • IBM Sametime: "IBM approaches UC from a collaborative and social business perspective, which means that enterprises will obtain more value from Sametime when it is deployed as part of the broader portfolio. IBM also offers a range of cloud-based options under its SmartCloud brand." IBM Sametime integrates with many PBX brands, rather than seeking to replace them.

  • Mitel MiCollab UC Suite: Mitel will use MiCollab as the common UC user experience interface across all of their current MiVoice Business and acquired platforms including MiVoice MX-One, A400, A5000, and Clearspan (all from Aastra). This seems to me like a brilliant move by Mitel to provide the best user experiences to all of their customers at the fastest pace and with the least disruption to the customers' existing investments.

  • Unify Project Ansible: Unify is making a major bet on UC as separate from the PBX, since Project Ansible will initially be SaaS based so that it will be available to the entire market, independent of any customer's current PBX brand while also serving all Unify OpenScape customers.

Fourth, we can now see more clearly where the vendors in the UC market are placing their attention. Microsoft and IBM are building on their strengths to be leaders in integrating UC with business processes and applications. Microsoft is doing this through integration with their widely used Office suite including Outlook/Exchange email and Sharepoint workspaces, while also very successfully offering UC from the cloud via Office 365 and Skype. IBM is building on their great strengths in computing technology and vertical industry apps to bring UC to all of their customers via IBM Connections and IBM Smart Cloud; we've yet to see how many of the new apps developed in partnership with Apple will also include some elements of Sametime UC - safe bet it will be many of them.

Further on this point, Gartner notes that Avaya, in order to succeed in UC will need to focus on increased UC adoption and market momentum for UC, rather than depending primarily on the company's strengths in telephony and contact center product lines. Gartner also notes that Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group may be challenged in sustaining UC innovation and leadership in the context of Cisco's overall business and channel emphasis on network-centric architectures and services.

Lastly, again this year Gartner highlights five areas that will be key for vendor and product success in UC:

  • User Experience (UX): This is key to drive user adoption and to actually increase productivity.

  • Mobility: A major user expectation including integration with mobile consumer applications.

  • Interoperability: Key to transformation in B2B, B2P (partners), and B2C (customer) interactions.

  • Cloud and Hybrid: Cloud offers new speed and flexibility, yet must work with premises systems.

  • Broad Solution Appeal: UC must deliver business value to execs and also be embraced by IT.

Well, there's a view of the UC landscape from Gartner for 2014, with a bit of commentary added for perspective. Looks like things UC is growing and blossoming and that the flora are differentiating as the market matures. Your comments are welcome.

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