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Collaboration Drives UC While Video Lags

Deployments of UC platforms have increased since 2013, but videoconferencing has yet to entice customers, according to a new survey.

A new survey on Unified Communications (UC) shows a 6% increase in respondents who have deployed and are using UC systems compared to last year: 44% have UC platforms in place, vs. 38% in 2013.

Those results come from the InformationWeek 2014 State of Unified Communications report, which surveyed 488 business technology professionals.

The survey also found a significant increase in the number of organizations where 76% to 100% of the user base has or will have UC capabilities. That number jumped to 34% in 2014 from 21% in 2013.

The need to improve collaboration—particularly when more employees are working outside the office—may be one reason for these upticks. As report author Michael Finneran writes, “Collaboration has become such an important facet of UC that in many cases vendors are labeling their programs ‘UC&C.’ Cisco dropped ‘UC’ out of its messaging altogether and now leads with ‘collaboration.’”

Collaboration is clearly top of mind for companies using or planning to deploy UC systems, with 62% citing it as the primary business driver. Collaboration handily beats initiatives such as improving communications with customers (30%) or reducing travel expenses (17%).

However, while collaboration platforms are on the rise, videoconferencing isn’t spurring much interest among users. When asked to pick UC’s three most beneficial features from among 18 options, the use of vide placed 9th for desktops and 14th for room-sized systems.


The poor showing for video doesn’t surprise me. I’m a remote worker on the East Coast, and I work closely with a team that’s primarily on the West Coast. We use pretty much all the tools in the collaboration toolbox: IM, presence, voice, and audio and Web conferences. But I don't see how much value video would add for one-on-one calls or small-group conversations.

The one case where video might keep me more engaged are larger meetings, where I’m dialing into a conference room where a group of five or more coworkers has gathered. I've noticed that the larger the group, the easier it is for me, the ghost on the phone, to space out.

Part of the problem is that the conference-room speakerphone is like an elderly uncle who's hard of hearing: unless you speak at it LOUDLY and DIRECTLY, it has a hard time picking up what’s being said. And inevitably there are sidebar conversations that happen among the folks in the conference room. Video would provide another input to help me follow the action.

And frankly, the camera would have its unblinking eye on me. I’m an adult professional with a very good attention span, but I also know my alertness and awareness can be kicked up a notch by surveillance. I may kick myself later for writing this, but I’m willing to admit the potential value of video for large-group meetings with remote attendees.

The 2014 State of Unified Communications report has a lot more survey data on UC trends, including adoption of UC as a service, vendor rankings, and the RIO and TCO of UC systems. You can download the report here. It’s free with registration.

Drew is formerly editor of Network Computing and currently director of content and community for Interop. View Full Bio

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