Although Australia's IT expenditure in 2009-2010 will be significantly impacted by the global financial crisis, sales of Unified Communications (UC) solutions are set to benefit as organisations seek new ways to achieve cost savings, and as mergers and acquisitions continue to drive a need for integration and homogeneous solutions.
The findings are contained in the latest Australian UC market assessment to be released by consulting company, Frost & Sullivan: Australia Unified Communications User Behaviour Report 2009.
"The economic impact will undeniably affect IT expenditure in Australia this year," comments Audrey William, ANZ research director, Frost & Sullivan. "However, this doesn't have to be negative for the Australian UC industry. The need to achieve cost savings is going to be a strong driver for conferencing and collaboration tools and we anticipate interest from all sectors of the market. The key to capitalising on this interest will be the vendors' ability to quantify and demonstrate real life benefits from local UC deployments."
The study shows that interest in UC solutions is strongest within the government, banking, healthcare, professional services and education sectors. It identifies telephony, email, conferencing and collaboration, and instant messaging as the key UC applications to deliver value in the eyes of CIOs and IT managers. The need for cost savings in the current market is expected to drive higher rates of adoption of videoconferencing, especially within the Government and Healthcare markets, with almost 50 percent of all respondents planning to deploy videoconferencing or telepresence technologies in the 2009-2010 timeframe.
Applications that support, automate and create efficiencies in customer service will also remain in strong demand. This includes technologies such as interactive voice response (IVR), voice portals, speech recognition and performance optimisation.
The majority of CIOs and IT managers cite high costs and difficulty in justifying a return on investment (ROI) as the two biggest inhibitors to UC deployments. Almost 50 percent of decision makers stated that adoption of the technologies would be enhanced if vendors provided ROI tools and calculators. Additionally, respondents are seeking case studies of actual deployments explaining how UC applications are helping organisations to save costs and increase productivity and efficiency.
Forty percent of decision makers noted that it is important for UC to be integrated with business processes. This belief is reflected in the emerging interest in Communications Enabled Business Process (CEBP), or the automation of human communications with business applications. CEBP allows the communications and workflow aspects of a business process to be integrated with the underlying software applications that serve the business process. Linking UC applications such as presence to the business processes is witnessing good adoption from the contact centre segment.
The survey indicates that over 40 percent of organisations in Australia have deployed IP telephony solutions and that Australia is one of the key global markets experiencing a rapid uptake of software-based IP phones. Many contact centres, for example, are looking to have agents work from remote locations or home and are equipping them with IP soft phones. This prevalence of IP technologies is making it easier for many organisations to introduce and use UC applications.
With over 70 percent of respondents acknowledging that their organisations allow the use of instant messaging (IM), there is a clear shift towards collaborative tools and applications. Government sector CIOs and IT managers in particular indicated that the rate of IM usage has increased tremendously over the past year. However, the report cautions that IM within an organisation can only succeed with senior management buy-in.
Seventy-five percent of organisations nominated their preference for on-premise solutions rather than hosted UC services. Concern for "loss of control" dominated this decision, however Frost & Sullivan suggests that this may change in 2009 as organisations look to save costs by deploying UC as a service.
The Australian market is particularly strong when it comes to the adoption of unified messaging (UM) solutions by organisations with less than 500 employees. Much of this market penetration is due to the vendor practice of bundling small-to-medium business solutions with UM capabilities.
The rising complexity of integration between UC applications, networks and business processes has resulted in significant changes within the vendor and system integrator (SIs) marketplace. There is a noticeable trend amongst CIOs to select large global Sis and service providers for UC deployments, as evidenced by the nomination of Telstra and IBM as the preferred integrators to work with for a UC deployment in Australia.
While Cisco is the main supplier of telephony solutions in Australia, both Cisco and Microsoft have achieved strong mindshare in the Australian UC market. Almost 30 percent of CIOs and IT managers rate Microsoft as the vendor with the most comprehensive UC solution in Australia and close to 70 percent of CIOs state that they currently use Microsoft's email solutions.
Nokia is rated by CIOs and IT managers as having the best Enterprise Mobile Strategy in the local market, followed by RIM.
Microsoft, Cisco and IBM were rated as the preferred vendors for a UC deployment in Australia.
The Australian Unified Communications User Behaviour Report 2009 forms part of the Frost & Sullivan 2008 Unified Communications Program. All research services included in subscriptions provide detailed market opportunities and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants. Interviews with the press are available.
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