Can unifying comms help in a recession?

The industry is gearing up for a major push into unified communications, but what’s driving such confidence that there will be sufficient demand?

Can unified communications (UC) help save money in a recession?

Analyst firm, IDC thinks so, according to its published European Unified Comms Market report 2008-2013, which predicts demand for audio and videoconferencing as companies enforce travel embargoes and become more conscious of carbon emissions will be one of the very few tech sectors that will grow during this testing economic period.

This latest research by IDC found the UC market in Europe was worth $2.6 billion (1.58 billion) in 2008, and will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39 per cent to a value of $13.5 billion (8.2 billion) by 2013, making it one of the brightest spots in a very tough technology market.

"In such a challenging market, where spending is plummeting, there is a strong opportunity for solutions that can reduce expenses, such as travel, in the short term," said Chris Barnard, European Telecoms and Networking research director at IDC. "This means that UC, which includes video and audio conferencing and collaboration solutions, is one of the few technology areas well placed to grow during the recession."

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He added that, in addition to cost savings, environmental issues were becoming a major driver of the overall UC market, and in specific submarkets such as high-end videoconferencing particularly. "Not only can UC reduce an organisation's travel budget, it can also reduce that company's carbon footprint and improve its corporate social responsibility standing," Barnard said.

"In addition, we believe that the real longer term UC opportunity lies with communications event management platforms that enable the enterprise to build new applications and enhance existing applications in order to streamline voice-intensive processes and deliver productivity gains."

Further independent research among end-using organisations bears out the need for more technologies to support flexible working, streamlined and cost-effective communication infrastructures and a reduced reliance on carbon-hungry travel budgets offered by UC such as internet protocol (IP) based telephony, fixed to mobile convergence (FMC), unified messaging, presence and telepresence features and new, distributed contact centre services.

The latest data from a Flexible Working 2009' survey of more than 3,500 workers across France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Russia and the UK, carried out on behalf of Avaya by research consultancy, Dynamic Markets found flexible working could save workers across Europe almost an hour and a quarter every day, through abandoning the daily commute.

Not only can more flexible working remove the need for commuting and business travel, eliminating more car journeys and flights, the Avaya data also suggested that businesses could be losing out on competitive advantage through higher productivity, as well as in terms of creating a more fulfilled workforce, better able to balance the demands of personal and professional lives.

"UC solutions can help companies to make flexible working easy for employees. Our report shows that it not only supports green initiatives, but also provides employees with greater control over their working lives. The reduction in commuting that results has a huge positive impact for the individual and the environment but it's the financial consequences that are most interesting," said Michael Bayer, Avaya's president of field operations for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

"The effect of increased productivity and the extra time spent working by a dedicated one fifth of employees could have a profound impact on European businesses. Extrapolate this up to the level of the economy and you can imagine flexible working as a turbo-charge for productivity across the region," he added.

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