Despite a recent slowdown this year, the unified communications (UC) market will continue to grow around 20 percent year over year. EY’s Tom Loozen believes channel partners can benefit from offering more integrated solutions.

The switch to remote work led to significant growth for video conferencing solutions. But it also resulted in a shift to cloud-based applications and an increase in unified communications solutions such as instant messaging, collaboration, whiteboarding, and workflow. This opened up opportunities for managed service providers (MSPs) and other integrators.

This year, as many enterprises resumed work at their facilities, MSPs and other channel partners are enabling hybrid work solutions in a more competitive market. To get a glimpse of the current state of the unified communications market and the opportunities for the channel, we spoke with Tom Loozen, Partner and Global Telecommunications and EMEIA TMT Leader at EY.

The following is a transcription of our conversation with Loozen, edited for clarity.

The Channelist:    Good morning, Tom; great to talk to you again. For the first time, the pandemic forced millions of people to work from home and created the most significant uptake in unified communications services. Now that many employees are back in their offices and workplaces, and many enterprises are debating hybrid work, how do you see the UC market in the foreseeable future?

Tom Loozen:     Thank you, Pablo; how we looked at it, UC had super growth in the last few years. We project that it continues to grow. Now it depends a little bit on the definition. But suppose you take a combination of instant messaging and video conferencing, IP telephony. In that case, there are few other messaging services. When you put that all together, we think it’s a $100 billion market, and we expect it to triple over the next five to six years. So that would be a CAGR of 20.5 percent.

We definitely continue to see growth in that space. And what’s driving it? We’ve done quite a bit of research, and it’s clear that there is a little bit of tension between the employees and employers. Employees expect to work at least two or three days from home. They do expect actually to be very effective when they’re at home. They do expect to bring their own devices.

There continues to be a push to have platforms to facilitate that, both in terms of bringing the functionality to the users and doing that cost-effectively.

The Channelist:    When you’re looking at channels and service management, service providers, and the guys implementing the solutions, what do you think they need to do to sell these solutions successfully?

Tom Loozen:     If we look at what we get back from enterprises, the opportunity still sits in laying out the upside and showing that there is not so much downside, if anything.

We continuously get back that they need to show how this will help the company that will buy the services in terms of cost savings or maybe address specific sales opportunities they’re unable to address.

But typically, it’s about saving money and being able; I would say, to support the freedom of choice in terms of devices and the freedom of choice to work from a certain place.

We do quite a bit of research into enterprises and ask them about uptake for certain services. We also ask them about unified communications, what would make them buy it, and what keeps them from buying it. It’s not always clear and articulated how all these phone numbers and different applications and different devices would work together, so clarity of solutions is essential.

And the second one is about what happens with the data. Where is it stored? Is this done securely when we make the connection, whether it’s over video or phone? So, those are the two dominant ones that you should address.

The Channelist:    When you’re looking at, for example, the integrators that specialize primarily in UC, do you think they should work mainly with one platform, or should they be looking for more opportunities mixing different providers and working together with other companies that they are providing other services for the enterprise?

Tom Loozen:    We see it more in the mixing, actually. Providing different kinds of solutions is a smart way to do it. Quite a few companies have already made choices in the past. Maybe it’s a Microsoft platform on which they want to continue to build. And so that’s something, of course. Cisco is an important player in this space similarly. So being able to provide different solutions makes a lot of sense.

Of course, it depends a little bit on the markets in which you operate, but also augmenting unified communications solutions with productivity applications, whether it’s Google, Google Mail or Google Drive, Google Meet, or from a different provider. Adding more productivity-like applications would help enterprises operate from anywhere and remotely in the office.

The Channelist:    Thank you, Tom; always great to hear from you and get your insights into the telecom industry.

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