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Managed Services for Unified Communications

The upside potential of Unified Communications (UC) -- merging IP telephony, conferencing and collaboration, and messaging -- are on a steeply rising curve of adoption within the enterprise.

According to a the latest market study by ABI Research, the market's size was just $302 million in 2008, but will rise quickly to nearly $4.2 billion in 2014.

"Companies have been buying only those component technologies that they think will deliver immediate value," says ABI Research practice director Stan Schatt. "It's only later that they start tying it all together as true Unified Communications."

Once that happens, synergies multiply: for example, many companies have messaging by voice and email, but when they are integrated, a user can see voicemails and have emails read aloud. Such synergies can deliver increased productivity and efficiency, and greater customer satisfaction.

Big corporations with multiple locations will benefit most immediately from Unified Communications, but many vendor systems are not interoperable. There are still gaps where no standards exist.

Even the largest vendors don't make everything, so there's a premium on partnerships. A few vendors will try to sell end-to-end solutions, but most others will attempt to integrate their offerings with the legacy components they find.

That opens a tremendous opportunity in replacing older equipment. Moreover, there are now hosted UC services that enables organizations to gain the benefits of of these advanced technologies without the cost and complexity of self-installed systems.

The largest companies may have the required integration expertise in-house, but, says Schatt, "We foresee a booming market for managed services, simply because Unified Communications is tricky and many companies won't want to spend the time and effort to do it themselves."

Despite the large potential, UC vendors won't find it all plain sailing. They are up against internal corporate turf wars, a widespread lack of understanding of the benefits Unified Communications can deliver, and a high initial cost.

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