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2015 Hosted Unified Communications Buyers’ Guide : Future-proofing Communications Investments

  • January 2015
  • -
  • Frost & Sullivan
  • -
  • 141 pages

Summary

Table of Contents

Executive Summary—Competitors at a Glance

Businesses recognize the benefits of cloud communications and are increasingly migrating to hosted IP telephony and UCC services. However, many well-established and emerging providers are vying for customers’ attention and investment dollars. It is therefore critical that business decision makers conduct their due diligence and thoroughly assess the available offerings in order to make wise investments that best address their specific needs.

Over the years providers have made concerted efforts to expand their solutions portfolios to deliver a broad set of hosted applications including telephony, voicemail, unified messaging, instant messaging (IM) and presence, audio, web and video conferencing, mobility, contact center, analytics and more. However, businesses looking to deploy hosted communications must also assess providers’ ability to deliver high service quality and reliability.

The competitive hosted IP telephony landscape remains highly fragmented with over 100 providers vying for market share. There has been notable merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in recent years. Service providers will continue to pursue M&A as means to accelerate growth and leverage synergies for greater profitability. They will also seek to enhance their channels in order to extend market reach and improve customer service and support. Providers will grow their channel by focusing on resellers with both voice and data expertise, IT skills that enable them to integrate communications with business applications, and a consultative sales approach. Prospective customers must assess provider long-term viability and channel strategies in order to develop sustainable partnerships as well as reduce risks and potential switching costs.
Emerging solutions based on multi-instance platforms will rapidly gain traction and present a viable alternative to the more established multi-tenant platform-based solutions. Customers must weigh a number of factors when selecting between the two architectures, including cost, simplicity, security, customization, as well as the ability to re-use existing terminals or integrate with existing infrastructure based on the same vendor technology.
Going forward, small businesses and large enterprises will continue to have different requirements in terms of functionality, service reliability and price. Therefore, IT decision makers must assess providers and solutions taking into account provider focus on a certain customer segment and ability to address the specific needs of that target market.

Other key provider and solution characteristics impacting the customer experience include quality of service and network reliability, a consultative sales approach, efficient back-end (OSS/BSS) platforms and processes, and effective customer onboarding and on-going management. Prospective customers must consider these factors in their due diligence process.

Furthermore, as the market consolidates and matures, broader market reach will become a critical factor for provider success. Eventually market share, growth rates, profitability and reference customer accounts must also become key considerations in customer selection of cloud communications providers.
Selecting the right solution and provider requires a complex and structured approach that goes beyond features and functionality. However, most businesses start their assessment process by comparing competitive offerings based on the specific hosted communications capabilities included in the service bundle. Exhibit 1 provides a comparison of the top x U.S. and the top 1 Canadian hosted IP telephony providers, ranked according to Frost & Sullivan’s quantitative research on full-year 2013 market share by installed users. The providers have been compared based on key features and functionality.

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