Unified communications tech key to SME remote collaboration strategy

10 February 2021

Embracing unified communications technology was always a business imperative for organizations, as inevitable digital transformation initiatives meant that virtual collaboration tools were more in the spotlight over the past couple of years.

On-premise and cloud-based UC systems were already taking over the contact center and other customer experience (CX) roles for larger organizations. But no one could have predicted the near-overnight demand for unified communications tech from small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and indeed, from enterprises around the world, as the pandemic forced rapid adoption of remote working and digital collaboration software upon organizations of every size, worldwide.

As part of the ‘new norm’ of a remotely distributed workforce, unified communications solutions are now considered to be a business necessity instead of a luxury. And this turnaround in perception has occurred in just under the space of a year, according to new research from Ribbon Communications.

The real-time software and IP optical transport solutions provider’s annual unified communications (UC) survey measured the UC purchase drivers and buying behaviors of enterprise and SME leaders from more than 4,500 technology decision makers across 18 countries in the Americas and Europe.

All survey respondents worked in companies with workforce strengths of at least five up to more than 5,000 employees, and the study found that remote working might be here to stay even in a post-pandemic setting.

Approximately one-third of all businesses covered in November 2020 expected to adopt work from home on a more regular basis, regardless of company size: this includes 36% of large firms over 1,000 staff, 35% of midsized companies with a staff strength ranging between 100-1,000, and 31% of smaller businesses comprising of less than a hundred workers.

The survey found that for all businesses the three most popular unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) platforms for supporting remote workers during the pandemic for large companies were joint leading platforms Microsoft Teams and Zoom (both 27% of those surveyed) followed by Skype for Business (21%).

It should come as little surprise that overnight sensation Zoom was the most popular UC&C solution among smaller (28%) and medium-sized (25%) enterprises, while Microsoft Teams was the solution of choice among large organizations with 28% of those surveyed saying they use it. But it was surprising that traditional big player Skype never really found its footing at the enterprise level, lagging five to six percentage points behind both Teams and Zoom.

The data showed a 103% increase compared to the previous year amongst small businesses which had deployed, were in the process of deploying, or were planning to deploy Microsoft Teams. Large companies, reported a 36% increase in Teams adoption against the previous year.

All in all, the number of small businesses planning to invest in UC&C solutions over the next two years was up to 38%, two and half times higher than the previous year. At the same time, two-thirds (66%) of large companies plan to invest in some form of UC solution over the next two years as well, showing the maturity of the unified communications space has really come into its own over the past year.

“The data reveals that there is still a significant market opportunity for IP communications and the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically accelerated interest in adoption of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) tools across the board, but particularly amongst small companies,” said Steven Bruny, executive vice-president of sales for the Americas at Ribbon.

“The demands of the shift to remote work, and the widespread availability of popular platforms like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, are key drivers in the increased interest in adopting UC&C.”