2020 saw technology and innovation race forward to meet the rapidly evolving needs of a changing world. Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) was at the forefront of the transition to remote working, ensuring at least some form of business continuity through connectivity and collaboration. But the rapid transition also led to a rapid rise in UCC complexity.
As we move into the new year and organizations continue to grapple with multi-vendor, multi-platform, hybrid cloud environments, new requirements for success are beginning to make themselves known. Join James Brennan, Head of Collaborate Products, and Anna Byrne, Business Manager, Marketing & Product, as they share their insights on the UCC topics, trends and themes that should be top of mind for enterprise organizations and service providers to ensure success in 2021 and beyond.
IR | BrightTALK
2021: the year of hybrid and blended work environments and tolerance of issues. These are just some of the topics that we're going to be discussing in today's webinar on the 2021 Trends in UCC that you should be watching out for.
But first, I'm Anna Byrne. I’m IR’s resident challenge seeker here. And I'm joined today by our Head of Product for the Collaborate Solutions, James Brennan.
Hi, everyone. Pleasure to be here.
Thanks for joining us today, James. Now, you have only recently joined IR and you've been here for five months now.
Four months, yeah.
So, how has it been?
It's been a crazy time to join. Very ambitious goals and releases that we've had in the four months that I've been here. Very happy to say it's been a great experience getting to know the members of the team and our customers and partners out there and successfully bringing to market a whole host of new products, including our solutions for Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
Brilliant. Yeah, this has been a big highlight, right? When we just come in straight off the bat, that we have such exciting new products out the door.
It's a great place to join, starting from a launch of brand new products. So as a product leader, I couldn't ask for more.
Nice. But you've been working in UCC space for quite a while. And tell us a little bit more about your background, because a lot of people might not have met him—before, it is.
Yeah, so I hate to say it, but I've been in the UCC industry for about 20 years, in different variants—both in product and development, as well as sales and marketing for companies like Polycom and BlueJeans, Pexip, Kaltura.
So I've seen a lot of different angles and a lot of different changes in the market from building some of the first reservationless audio conferencing bridges to seeing video conferencing take off during the pandemic. It's been really great.
There's been quite a lot of change over the years, I can imagine. So before we dive into our topics of today, I wanted to ask you—we're coming up to the end of January now—how have your new resolutions been going?
Wow, out of the blue.
New Year's resolution for this year is really about balancing health and work. So I do a lot of cycling. So hopefully this year, I'll get in some good cycling, I do a lot of cycling for charity. So I hope to be more than this year.
And I think that getting the balance right between work and home is something that we've all had a bit of a challenge with last year. So, hopefully, 2021 will be a little bit better.
Excited to actually be back in the office this year.
Yes, it is fantastic. We've come back this week. And it's great to see some faces that we haven't seen in a while. So it's good to be taken on a new path this year. So, hopefully, you can continue.
Alright, so before we jump into the topics, there are a couple of housekeeping I want to let you know about.
If you want to submit questions throughout the webinar, you can drop them in. Also, we’ll refer to a couple of different resources, they’re in the “Download” area. And we'll look at some questions that have come through towards the end of the webinar.
All right, so let's talk about one of the key trends in the Unified Communications industry that has been around for a few years and let’s understand the 2021 take on us.
I've been hearing a lot about 2021 is “The Year of Hybrid”, but I'm a little bit skeptical about it. So what's your view on it?
Yeah, I think I'm the only one who has been saying that. So, I coined that. Last year, the Cloud was everything.
Cloud was the superhero of the pandemic, if you will, especially in the UC space. Last year, a lot of our customers and a lot of organizations that I worked with, really scrambled to figure out what to do to keep their teams collaborative and to move quickly. So, organizations that were looking at a 12 to 18-month plan to move from their On-Premise solutions to Cloud turned overnight.
Huge organizations, government agencies, banks, conservative type companies, they moved to Cloud immediately. Within one to three months, they had all of their staff up on Multiple Cloud solutions. And Cloud was really the only way to make that successful.
In order to ramp up that many users, to make it easy, to use to get them moving that quickly, you couldn't do that with On-Premise solutions, both from a scale perspective or from a cost perspective. So Cloud really was the hero last year.
It's interesting, since Cloud is the hero, you would think that a lot of companies would have welcomed this.
So, I'm confused. If we go one step forward, going Hybrid is like a step back. We were thinking we go Hybrid, and then eventually, Cloud. But we've gone full hog into Cloud.
So where's this notion of Hybrid coming into it?
Yeah. I think it depends on your organization. And where you are both in your scale in your buying cycle.
For smaller organizations who made the jump to Cloud, they're probably ready to ditch everything On-Premise and go full in the Cloud. But for IR’s typical customers who tend to be larger organizations, this is where I think that Hybrid notion is really going to come into play.
So they jumped into Cloud full boat and their users love the Cloud solutions that they've gotten. And they went through this phase last year, where they just did whatever it took to be successful. And then they looked at: “How do we do this better this year?”
They're really looking at the innovation cycle around that. So, depending on the organization, if they were fortunate to be at a cycle in their buying patterns, where they could just fully move into Cloud, some of them are moving into Cloud.
But most organizations that we work with have large investments in On-Premise solutions for PBXs and Call Centers, they may have another three to five years on maintenance contracts on those; they've made massive investments. Or, potentially they've got global calling plans, or they've got global staff, where they can't do everything in the Cloud.
So this year, they're definitely staying with their primary tools in the Cloud, things like Microsoft Teams, or Zoom and things like that from the ends and collaboration. But they're going to look at how they now combine their On-Premise, PBXs, Contact Center tools, and basically create full end-to-end solutions.
And that's going to create that Hybrid, at least for our larger customers. That's why I’m calling it “The Year of Hybrid”.
Okay. I'm kind of convinced now. Yeah, I get the idea that you want to sweat those existing assets, especially in an environment that has so much uncertainty, it makes sense.
Are there any challenges that—going backwards a little bit to hybrid, or maybe embracing it more—any challenges that bring?
Yeah. Probably the biggest thing is that it changes the IT's perspective on their desire for Single Vendor versus Multi-Vendor, multi-technology environments.
So if we look back, even two years ago, Wainhouse Research did a study where they looked at preferences for CIOs, whether they had a preference for Multi-Vendor or Single Vendor environments.
And even just two years ago, in 2018, the preference was strongly to Single Vendor environments. 75% said that they would prefer and design a Single Vendor solution. In 2020, that completely flipped. So they did an update on that study, and found that it was just the opposite. 75% now say that they are preferring and looking to architect Multi-Vendor solutions.
I think that's massive for it to completely change over the space of two years, and we see that there's going to be more Multi-Vendor this year or we see it being the same as last year, and how does the multi-solutions (work)—how does that play into it?
Yeah, so I see that continuing in 2021. And the reason for that is, again, as they start to look to combine these solutions together, it's more likely that they're going to be from different vendors.
A lot of our customers have On-Premise Cisco, and Avaya systems, potentially. And they've made a jump to Microsoft Teams or Zoom. But interestingly, we're actually seeing a lot of our customers offering multiple solutions to their end-users. So in 2020, a lot of organizations just threw tools at their staff; they literally turned up everything.
And the vendors themselves made that possible, because they gave away free three month enterprise licenses, and things like that. Organizations just rolled out everything. And some organizations have now ramped back and said: “Okay, now that we've gotten feedback, we're gonna ramp down to one.”
But we have some major organizations globally that say: “We're gonna let our users choose their strong preferences for this tool and this tool. They both work, let's let users choose their preference.” Or potentially, they choose to use one tool internally for collaboration and one externally with their customers, potentially, if they feel it's a little more secure, works better for those kinds of use cases. Or potentially, the European team does this and the North American team does this. We see that quite a bit.
I think it's going to be a year where you're going to have multiple solutions On-Prem, in the Cloud. So IT managers having to manage that is going to be the norm.
That’s what I was going to ask, actually. How are our IT managers—how are they dealing with that, right?
Because it's obviously much more complex, if they’re trying to manage multiple vendors, multiple solutions. And then trying to deal with all those preferences separately as users have. How are they—from talking to customers—how are they dealing with it or how are they handling it?
Yeah, some of the challenges are around the adoption and process and how you roll these out. But thankfully, the tools nowadays are so easy to use that that problem is common and have gone away.
But what they do need to be able to do better is to manage those. “How do we monitor and maintain those systems? How do we make sure that they're going to continue to work together?”
And when there's issues, where is that issue? That's probably the biggest complication with a solution like that is when something goes wrong, is it this piece of the equation? Or is it this piece of the equation? And when I go to the vendor, and they try to point the finger here, I need to be able to say: “No, it's actually something you need to help me out with.”
Yeah, because it's not like collaboration tools are invasive anymore. Now they're the mission-critical solution. And it's—I know when we were chatting about this earlier, we were talking about are they more mission-critical this year than they were last year?
What's your take on that?
Yeah, I think they were incredibly mission-critical last year, purely because we were forced to use them.
We were forced into a situation where it was really the only option. And some companies and, even some industries, only survived because these tools were available. So if you think about it, 10 years ago if we were locked down, we would have been trying to do everything over audio conference and it would have been really frustrating.
So thankfully tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom and WebEx and these things have matured to the point where we really continued—a lot of industries continued on without much of a hiccup, because these technologies existed. So they were absolutely mission-critical last year.
But what I would say is this year, they're going to be just as mission-critical this year if not more so, because now that people have really started to adopt them, they love them.
You're gonna have to pry them from their cold dead hands. This year we're actually anticipating a continuation of the growth.
So we had a massive spike last year, but then the continued growth after the spike. That growth is predicted to continue both from what we're seeing from our customers and from what we've seen from analysts like Gartner; the prediction is that that level of usage and that continued growth is going to continue through 2021, specifically because now that people have done it and they love it and they know how good it is, that organic growth is going to continue.
And is it organic growth when we're talking about the numbers of users? Or is it just how much they’re actually using the tools that they’re going to use more features? Because I would have thought that that big cohort of users, that spike would have meant that most people are there. But are the analysts saying that more users are going to be brought on this year?
Yes. So it's a combination.
So last year there were massive spikes, lots of different stats put out, where the growth rates in terms of daily meeting participants and meeting minutes and things like that, we're growing in the hundreds of percents.
700%, 800% for tools like Zoom. Microsoft did incredibly well also. Massive growth in terms of usage, but if we look at—again, kind of back again to the enterprise market, that's the core of the customers that we deal with, the growth of paid licenses for Unified Collaboration tools last year increased by over 50%.
It's not just small business, it's not just people at home jumping on Zoom for all sorts of personal meetings with their trainer and stuff like that. And SMBs had a huge growth, but the enterprise licenses in the collaboration space grew by over 50% last year. So we probably won't see as large a growth this year, but typically it grows in the 10 to 12% range for the last couple years. It's probably going to be more in that 15 to 20% growth this year. Over the next couple of years likely.
The growth has continued; it's going to continue just not at the rate that it did last year, which is fair enough.
So we've been talking a lot about how users—and they got used to it, right? Because they were thrown in the deep end last year. They like it, they're hooked on it.
What impact is that having on their expectations now? Because they're obviously matured as users. Are they more tolerant of issues or are they less tolerant and—I guess one of the other things I'm quite curious about is that we have all these influences from a consumer perspective. Are they knocking on into the enterprise environment?
Yeah, so it's interesting and my perspective has kind of changed since joining IR.
Previously being with the vendors, my goal was to create a great product and get as many customers on it as possible. It was more about: “How easy to use it? How much can we scale it? And make it secure?” And things like that.
When I came to IR, I had a different perspective, which is: “How do I make sure that users have an amazing experience? How are they enjoying that meeting? And when you have a problem, how does that really impact the user’s desire to want to continue using that product?”
So last year with everybody being thrown into it, I started asking myself the same question. Are users you know getting used to the problems? Because all of us last year ran into multiple problems. You've got a bad WiFi network at home or someone's In a noisy environment or even just some of the services during the early days had trouble scaling to meet the demand.
We all had our share of issues last year in our team calls or Zoom calls or whatever. So did people just get used to it and think: “Yeah, whatever. It’ll get better. I'll just start redial back in.” Or did they start to get really frustrated by it?
So we asked a number of our customers. I went out to my colleagues who continue to work for vendors and things like that and also some of the analysts, including Gartner, and ask that question.
And it's interesting that we're seeing kind of a split that people no longer really care about point-to-point telephone calls. If your telephony quality is bad, you just hang up and recall. And the next call is probably going to be better. So you're a little bit more tolerant and people aren't doing as many audio calls.
PSTN calling, for example, in an enterprise. A typical user would do 200 minutes a month. They’re now doing a hundred minutes a month, PSTN calling. So it seems that users don't care as much about PSTN calls or even their mobile calls.
So from that perspective, the expectations are lower on your UC calling. But what's increased is meetings. And that's where people's expectations have actually gone through the roof. People are less tolerant of problems in their meetings, because you're on a lot of meetings nowadays on video. And if you're running into problems, you're going to get frustrated, and you're wasting people's time.
People have become really aware of their time in meetings now because you're in so many that if you know it takes 10 minutes to get the call going if you've got a bad audio problem, if you can't hear or understand somebody if you keep getting dropped, those are going to be frustrations that people are no longer going to put up with.
Yeah, it's that fatigue of doing long-term.
All right. There's another topic that I wanted to discuss with you because I think it's one that has gotten a lot of attention in the last year. And that's blended work environments.
I know that working from home, the office, and blurred the lines. It has probably been covered so much that it’s probably nothing more going down that route. But I'm curious about the collaboration space at home when people are working from home and the impacted devices and the impacted space that they have.
And what's your take on what we're going to see in the next 12 months in this area?
Yeah, so huge changes in that space in terms of the vendors in that space, but also the type of devices that we're seeing come out and what the goal of those devices is.
We're starting to see—here at IR, we're coming back to the office a couple of days a week. So we are absolutely starting to see that blend of every meeting that you're in has half the people in the office and half the people at home. And it's really interesting to see the change.
It used to be this huddle room concept where you had these small little rooms designed. You could cram in two or three people into the room and the facilities guys loved it because they saved a lot of money building these little rooms and you just went in there. Those little rooms, you're no longer allowed to put two or three people into a tiny space anymore, so I think there's no one-size-fits-all solution but the biggest thing is that there's still a lack of clarity.
They're not sure what's going to happen. So the last thing that IT managers and Facility managers want to do is invest a whole bunch of money on something. So they want it to be quick and simple, they want it to be flexible, they want to be able to put it in this space today and adapt it to a different space tomorrow if things change.
So the days of having a half-million-dollar immersive telepresence system, I can't remember the last time I saw one of those and the new people investing in those. And the huddle room may be dead or at least, changed forever. It's not exactly the way it was a couple of years ago.
But again, it's about having that flexibility. And the other interesting part is the home worker. So we've all been just working from our laptops and headsets and then grabbing a webcam, but what we're starting to see is more dedicated devices aimed specifically at the home user to make sure that their experience is better and that they're not tying up their laptops.
So there's smaller devices from the likes of Lenovo. They've got the ThinkSmart View. D10 just came out with some really cool—I think they’re calling them Zoom home devices or something like that. It's basically a touch screen that's your monitor, your camera, everything's built for Zoom. So we're seeing this really interesting innovation in the home worker space.
Yeah, it's really exploding and I suppose initially, a lot of your basics like your desks, etc. But it's great to see from a technology perspective now, this explosion of new stuff coming out on the market. So we'll keep an eye on that one.
And there is one last key trend that has come up. Probably we're more aware of it, given the size of our customers, etc. But that's managed service providers.
Are we going to see more growth, decline, or would they just plateau this year?
Yeah, I think 2021 is going to see a huge uptick in the services that managed service providers offer and the expectations on those. And it comes from two directions.
First, we've got a lot of small and mid-sized customers who are making the move to Cloud. They don't have the expertise in it and they want to get everything from one vendor. They want to go to potentially, even a service provider carrier, who can offer them their data plan, their telephony, their mobiles, their Unified Communications and wrap all the services around that, and just say: “I want a great communication capability”.
Managed service providers who are just providing the telephony and UCPs, they're looking to bundle those things together and to provide greater value for the end user. So from their perspective, if you look back two or three years ago, they would deploy large On-Premise solutions. ANd they would make good money in deploying and managing and configuring those systems.
A typical managed service provider would make 20 to 30% or more on a particular technology sale. But today, as a move to the Cloud, the value has kind of shifted around and a typical reseller managed provider only makes 8 to 10% at most.
Wow, that’s a big difference.
So they're looking for ways to add value-added services to their customers, things that their customers see as valuable and that's around bundling services together and around providing a great experience.
So that ties in with what we do, which is, I've got these solutions whether my users are at home or in the office, whether they're using the Cloud or some Hybrid, they need to make sure that those users have a great experience. And the customer doesn't want to deal with that. The customer just wants to say: “I had a bad call. I need you to figure out why.”
Or even better yet, the managed service provider can figure out that it's potentially a bad call of something happening in the network that's going to happen and proactively be able to inform the customer that they need to make some changes.
Yeah. Fair enough.
All right, well those were all the key trends that were top of mind. Are there any other key trends that you think people should be really watching out for this year in the UCC space?
I think those are the major ones. And we're going to continue to see changes in the market.
I'm always curious to see how things like mergers and acquisitions and consolidation changes things up.
Any predictions? Insider info?
No predictions, but I will predict that something will happen this year, there will be further consolidation or changes in the landscape. And I'm always curious to see those and what happens because of that. I've still got lots of friends who are in those companies, so always curious to see how that goes.
But what I would say is that this year is still a year of uncertainty. That, whether certain countries are going back to the office or not, whether—here in Australia, we thought everything was great. And then suddenly, we were plunged back into lockdown. I was just locked down for a couple of weeks in Northern Sydney. So I think we're going to go through these cycles and these waves, where we're not sure what's going to happen. And we need to be prepared for anything this year.
So I think that's the main thing, is that our customers want to manage through that uncertainty.
Yeah. Because there's just so many curveballs. And I know last year there was a lot of political turmoil but then this year, we have: “Will travel open up with vaccines rolling out at different rates in different countries?”
“How long will the vaccines take to work?” And all that stuff.
Yeah. Hopefully this year. I think everybody is quite agile and is really ready to take it on.
I think after getting through last year, we should be okay for this year.
We're gonna wrap up the session now. But before we do, I might just take a look at some questions that have come through from those of you who have been submitting them. Thank you for submitting them.
First one, James, for you is: “You mentioned Teams and Zoom a lot. And we—so this particular person, they use WebEx. And they're wondering: does IR have plans to support WebEx?
Yeah, absolutely. If you look at, let's say the Gartner Magic Quadrant. There's all sorts of different reports that provide similar info, but the big three players at the moment are Microsoft, Cisco, and Zoom.
Absolutely, we see especially in the enterprise space, the majority of our customers are using those platforms. We released our products for Teams and Zoom just this year, and very shortly we will have our solution for WebEx coming available, as well.
And that is also to support our managed service provider customers who we touched on. Those providers are looking to provide that monitoring and troubleshooting capability across all those solutions. So yes, we will have our full solution set rounded out with a major vendor shortly. Then we’ll look to continue to go further and deeper
That’s exciting news for those of you who are using WebEx. I'm sure you’ll be happy to hear that.
And the next question that's come in—we’ve touched on it a little bit just now, but it's: “What are the biggest causes of issues that your customers are seeing?” Presumably in their UCC environment?
That's tough to pinpoint. Actually, it goes across a couple of different things but I'd say there's a couple of key things.
It's clear that 50% of the issue is on the user. So it's outside of the network, outside of the LAN, outside of the UC provider, it is something with, having to do with that last little piece. But within that, there's a couple of different elements. It is potentially the network. It is potentially as simple as your WiFi network is overloaded. It could be something around your firewall configuration, or your prioritization on your WiFi. A lot of people haven't optimized their home WiFi to deal with wideo versus other traffic.
You have to prioritize it?
Yeah. So it's part of the network, the networking piece and how you optimize that working from home environment. When you've got lots of kids and family members who are homeschooling and watching videos and all sorts of stuff.
The last question that's come through from one of the guys—thank you for submitting it—is a person that—they are saying that their users love the Cloud solutions and management wants to make the most of their investment in PBX etc.
And they're wondering what way they should go and do you have any advice on that?
This is pretty common among bigger organizations and this has led to my prediction that 2021 will be a big year for Hybrid.
You're going to have to deal with both. There are ways that you can bring those together. Your users are not going to give up their Cloud tools. They’ve fallen in love with those and honestly, they're more productive with those, so you've got to maintain those.
But if you've invested hundreds of thousands or potentially, millions of dollars in your On-Premise PBXs, your connections into your carriers, your contact centers in particular, those are really hard to move to the Cloud as quickly as things have moved last year.
So it's about bringing those two things together. There's absolutely ways that you can use your On-Premise PBXs, all of the major Cloud vendors have. They call it different things, whether it's called Direct Routing or Bring-Your-Own-Carrier or Bring-Your-Own-Telephony, you can combine your telephony systems into the experience.
So it looks to the end user, that they're just using Teams or Zoom or WebEx. But behind the scenes, you're actually using your On-Premise PBX and Contact Center equipment. And the key thing in that is making sure that you have the ability to manage across all of that, because as we talked about, users are less tolerant about problems in their meetings. So if they're in a meeting today that includes work-from-home users, people in the video conference room, and someone on their telephony, let's say their desk phone, their Cisco desk phone.
If the problem is that Cisco desk phone, you better be able to pinpoint down to that. Where is the problem occurring? And then being able to really help users to get the best experience in their meeting.
We won't take any more questions on this session, but do keep sending them through. We will follow up with you afterwards and follow up with you directly, and help you to give you the answers to what you're looking for.
But just to summarize, some of the key trends that we've covered here today was: how it's going to be a year of Hybrid, we are going to take a little step back there. And Multi-Vendor multi-solution is a big trend for this year. And that those collaboration tools are going to be even more mission critical. And as we go into this year, and then move into next year, we talked a little bit about the tolerance of users where they have lots of tolerance for the one-to-one calls, not so much tolerance for the meetings this year.
And so I think that'll be interesting to see how that plays out. And then of course, we talked about the blended work environments. And the growth in MSPs from various and different aspects, but a lot of organic growth we're going to see with MSPs this year.
And so before we finish up, I just wanted to thank you all for your time for listening. Please do send us your feedback. And you're more than welcome to add myself or James on LinkedIn. So my name is Anna Byrne and you can find me if you type in “Anna Byrne at IR” and use the pop-up and James Brennan, he's our Head of Product in the Collaborate area here at IR.
So you can find us both there. And don't forget, there are some downloadable resources that you have access to as well.
Do you have any final comments before we finish up?
Yeah, I guess maybe I'll just end with a bit of a shameless plug. For our customers, thank you very much for joining us today.
If you haven't had a chance yet to check out our new Microsoft Teams solution for monitoring and troubleshooting Microsoft Teams, please reach out to your account manager or reach out to me on LinkedIn. We'd love to show you that product.
We also very recently, just before the holidays, launched our product for Zoom to monitor and troubleshoot that solution. We also have a great promotion for early adopter customers. It’s called the Zoom Forward Program, where essentially we're looking for a half-dozen or so customers to join us in an early adopter feedback program and with that, you get access to a free trial for that solution.
And for those of you who are WebEx users, stay tuned. We will have something for you very shortly. Thanks again for joining us.
Thank you, everyone.