Distinctions between the components of unified communications and collaboration (UCC) will no longer exist by 2013, according to Gartner. Analysts say that more than 50% of the vendors in this space will fail to meet all the communications needs of collaborative workers.

“Business end-users typically treat the UCC components – voice, messaging, conferencing, instant messaging (IM)/presence, applications, clients, social networks and collaboration tools – in silos,” says Jeff Mann, research vice-president at Gartner. “They can no longer work this way as UCC represents a fusion of different communications cultures and work styles. The artificial separation they are used to will become a thing of the past.”
“Combining communications with collaboration makes both sets of services easier to access and adds richer ways for teams to work together. We’ll also see organisations combine the groups responsible for voice and collaborations to better support UCC,” says Mann.
The value for organisations will include simplified and more effective usage of the increasingly broad range of communications and collaboration options, improved responsiveness of individuals and groups to events, and increased integration of communication functionality with applications.
Essentially, UCC helps organisations to meet the top three business priorities identified by the Gartner Executive Programs (EXP) annual survey of more than 1 500 CIOs: improving business process, reducing enterprise costs and improving workforce effectiveness.
Organisations are today dealing with multiple products and vendors performing overlapping communications and collaboration functions and by the time the integration occurs, Gartner expects a reduction in the number of strategic communication partners used by an organisation. To simplify and minimise the cost of integration, Gartner recommends that organisations develop a convergence road map, and migrate platforms, especially using standards, towards increasing levels of interoperability.
Gartner says that consumer markets – and not the UCC vendors – are driving innovation in the UCC space. “They are driving corporate user expectations and requirements, particularly as the blurring of work and leisure tasks and time drives a demand for personal products to be used for work purposes,” says Mann.
Gartner predicts that the global UCC market will reach $7,4-billion in 2009, a 22% increase from 2008. Microsoft, IBM and Cisco accounted for more than 30% of the total market in 2008.
"The vendors that survive consolidation will be those that can provide more of the collective components of UCC that previously existed separately,” says Steve Blood, research vice-president at Gartner. “The move to UCC threatens the established status quo between traditional voice and data vendors.
"It also presents a significant opportunity for public portal vendors such as Yahoo!, MSN, Google and AOL to gain fee-based traction in the corporate market. Venerable telecoms vendors such as Siemens, Alcatel-Lucent, Avaya and Aastra will struggle to remain relevant as organisations increasingly seek rich and integrated UC and collaboration services.”