Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications 2018 – Mature!

By Marty Parker
7 Aug 2018

That one word – mature – sums up this year’s Gartner Magic Quadrant for Unified Communications (UCMQ), for on-premises solutions. Some form of the word “mature” shows up about a dozen times, including in this headline sentence: “The customer premises equipment market for unified communications has reached maturity.”

As Gartner goes on to say, this changes the purpose of the 2018 UCMQ. The primary purpose is no longer for the initial selection of one UC vendor over another. Rather, as the second headline statement says, “This research serves to validate vendor selection as part of a program of upgrades or platform consolidation as new investments shift to services from cloud-based UC providers.”

This statement rings true from our consulting experience, since most of our clients have licenses for UC platforms and components from more than one, and often from three or four, vendors. IT departments are spending a lot of time trying to decide which combination of solutions is best and then trying to economize by reducing licensing, infrastructure, and support staff for the duplicated capabilities.

Of course, this is accelerated and emphasized by the pressures of cloud-based options. Essentially every vendor in the UCMQ has a cloud-based option, though some are still actually hosted solutions, not pure multi-tenant options with the shared infrastructure that really drives down the cloud solution costs. Some, especially Microsoft and to some extent Cisco, are actually pushing the cloud option to the extent that they are reducing future roadmap investments in the on-premises solutions. Of course, hybrid premises and cloud solutions are the most likely for the next five years or so.

Now for some details. As noted last year, this UCMQ is written for larger enterprises, especially those with multi-national requirements for products and support. Gartner continues to point out that, “(UC) solutions are intended principally to improve user productivity and enhance business processes that relate to communications and collaboration.” Inclusion in the UCMQ requires that a vendor have at least $150M in annual revenue from enterprise communications and have significant market share in three or more of these six areas: Telephony, Meeting Solutions, Messaging, Presence and Instant Messaging (IM), Clients (user interface software), and Communications-enabled business processes (i.e. the needed integration capabilities).

There are eight companies in this year’s UCMQ, as the industry continues to consolidate (ShoreTel acquired by Mitel since last year). These eight are positioned in the four quadrants as:

Leaders: Cisco, Microsoft, Avaya, Mitel. However, Cisco and Microsoft are rated far above the others in Ability to Execute and somewhat ahead of the others in Completeness of Vision, with Cisco leading as Microsoft is evolving their UC offers towards Microsoft Teams in Office 365. Gartner points out that all four of these vendors are continuing to sort out their portfolios as driven both by cloud investments and by rationalization of acquisitions (Mitel) and overlapping offers (Cisco, Microsoft and Avaya).

Challengers: Huawei, with a complete UC offer, but with limited market presence, particularly in North America.

Visionaries: Unify, a division of ATOS, for the breadth and flexibility of their UC Suite, though again with uneven global distribution, references and support.

Niche Players: NEC and ALE (Alcatel Lucent Enterprise). It is a bit surprising to find NEC in this position, given their global telephony market share, but Gartner points out that not all elements of the NEC UC suite are available in all regions. ALE is rated lowest of all vendors in Ability to Execute based on the apparently limited investment by China Huaxin, ALE’s new owner.

As you can infer from this article, Gartner advises that in this mature market, “it is important organizations can be confident in a strategy of continued investment with a supplier.” So, while it may seem that an enterprise can rest easy in a mature market, vigilance and diligence are still the order of the day.

Gartner finalizes the report by noting a number of trends that will likely influence the UC market segment and that deserve attention of planners and technologists:

  • User Experience
  • Mobility
  • Interoperability
  • Broad solution appeal
  • Cloud and hybrid services
  • Contact Center
  • Midsize UC
  • Workstream Collaboration
  • Video interoperability
  • cPaaS
  • Megabundles

You can read about all of this in the 19-page Gartner report by downloading it from those vendors who are offering a reprint. My copy came from Avaya, who were trumpeting their return to the Leaders quadrant, and are offering a download here.

This is a year when those who have already invested in UC, which is most of our readers, can and should be reaping the benefits for your organization’s results and your users’ productivity. It might even be time for a bit of cost-cutting consolidation. We wish you the best in all of these endeavors.

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