Unified communications can provide significant benefits to organizations of any size,
including the ability for IT to manage all communications as a single entity, the ability
for users to have a single interface into all of their communications functions, the ability
for organizations to make faster decisions, and reduced overall costs because of the
integration of today’s distinct communication silos into a single communications
However, deploying, configuring and managing a unified communications system is no
small feat. Issues like the up-front and ongoing costs of many unified communications
solutions, the difficulty of justifying the technology to senior management, and lack of
management buy-in – coupled with the negative impact of the recession on IT budgets
– have all contributed to the somewhat slower than expected growth of unified
• Unified communications provides a number of benefits compared to the disparate
collection of communication silos in use today. These benefits include the ability to
integrate email, voice and instant messaging into a more cohesive communications
system than most organizations have available to them today; faster corporate
decision making; and lower overall costs because of the integration of IT and
telephony functions into an integrated system.
• Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 (OCS) and its successor, Lync Server,
are becoming an increasingly important component of many organizations’
communications platforms and will become the dominant unified communications
system in Exchange-enabled organizations.
• However, many organizations have yet to fully deploy OCS because they perceive it
to be too expensive to deploy and/or too complicated to manage. Plus, many
organizations lack the IT expertise to deploy OCS properly, and they lack both the IT
expertise and staff to monitor and manage it.
• Consequently, many decision makers are looking to Microsoft Lync Server 2010, the
next generation of the Microsoft unified communications family server series
(originally code-named CS14) to be an easier and less expensive way of deploying
unified communications. Even so, there continue to be a variety of unknowns
surrounding OCS – and even more for Lync Server – that may continue to inhibit
adoption of unified communications unless organizations can realize their benefits
without the ongoing difficulties and expense of deployment and IT management
BACKGROUND AND METHODOLOGY
Osterman Research conducted an in-depth survey of North American organizations in
support of this white paper. The survey was conducted with 121 organizations in a wide
range of industries during September 2010 that had a mean of more than 13,000
employees (the median was 1,100). Respondents to the online survey were queried
about their opinions about the impact of unified communications, the penetration of
these systems currently deployed in their organizations, and their views on various
issues both enabling and inhibiting the growth of unified communications over the next
few years. In addition, content from the Osterman Research report Unified
Communications Market Trends, 2010-2013 was also used in writing this white paper.
ABOUT THIS WHITE PAPER
This white paper discuss the results of the survey mentioned above, as well as the
various benefits and challenges that organizations face as they attempt to deploy unified
communications – and Microsoft solutions – in particular. The paper also provides a
brief overview of the sponsor’s (Azaleos Corporation) OCS/Lync Server service offerings.
The Importance of Unified Communications
Unified communications is becoming a more top of mind priority for many IT and
business decision makers because of the benefits that it offers, even in small
• The ability for users to launch a Web conference, audio conference or
videoconference easily and from within another communications tool, thereby
enhancing their productivity.
• The ability to integrate email, voice and instant messaging into a more cohesive
communications experience than most users have available to them today.
• Potentially faster decision-making because all of the data that users and
organizations need is available on any platform (desktop, laptop, smartphone, home
computer, etc.). This permits users to communicate with others inside and outside
their organization more easily and more quickly.
• Reduced overall IT and telecommunications costs, particularly for labor, because of
the inherent economies of scale available with an integrated communications
However, one of the key issues that organizations will need to resolve is where to start
deploying unified communications. For example, should an organization use its existing
PBX as the starting point and then add capabilities like video conferencing, email,
mobility and presence into that infrastructure? Should it begin with its email system and
then slowly add IM /presence, audio conferencing and then finally enterprise voice into
the mix? Should it choose a middle route and preserve its email and PBX infrastructures
as they are now and simply “glue” them together to provide unified communications
Further complicating the decision is the fact that there are different ways of deploying
unified communications systems: completely on-premise; using a public cloud based
software-as-a-service (SaaS) model; as a managed service in which infrastructure is in a
private cloud and/or on-premise but management is remote; or a combination of these
The decision about deploying unified communications and how to manage it is not an
easy one and will often involve some resolution of philosophical differences between
decision makers. The decision will sometimes be a “political” one as email- and
telephony-oriented decision makers decide who will manage the project – the IT group,
the telecom group or some task force comprised of members drawn from both. The
decision will also be guided by an organization’s legacy investments in email and PBX
systems – a key issue, since organizations are unlikely to be at a point at which both
systems are in need of a major upgrade simultaneously. Add to this the fact that in a
difficult economy, IT and telecom budgets are often being cut or holding steady. Then,
factor in the cost savings and gains in employee productivity that organizations will
realize from unified communications and the decision becomes all the more complicated.
Last, but not least, is the sometimes-conflicting information that decision makers hear
from vendors who emphasize different aspects of the unified communications problem
and who are coming at the problem from various philosophical viewpoints.
ADOPTION OF UC FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS TODAY
Our research found fairly significant penetration of various unified communications
systems, including Web conferencing, audio conferencing and real-time communications.
It is important to note that the data in the figure below does not represent the
penetration of these capabilities into the overall enterprise user base, but rather the
proportion of organizations that have deployed these capabilities for at least some of
WHAT IS DRIVING THE ADOPTION OF UC?
There are a number of important factors driving organizations to adopt unified
communications. For example, 71% of survey respondents cite improved collaboration
between employees and others as a driver or important driver in their decision to adopt
unified communications. Other drivers include improved employee productivity (68%),
cost savings provided by enterprise voice (56%), and cost savings from decreased travel
Organizations are also interested in a variety of specific capabilities that can be deployed
in the context of their unified communications systems. For example, a study conducted
by Osterman Research in August 2010 found that for 75% of organizations
telephony/voice services are driving the move to unified communications, while 50% are
being driven to unified communications by both enterprise instant messaging capabilities
and the ability to conduct videoconferences in unified communications systems.
Further, the survey conducted for this white paper found that enterprise voice, instant
messaging and Web conferencing are all key drivers in the migration to unified
communications systems, cited by 48% to 58% of respondents as drivers or significant
DOES UC REALLY HAVE ANY IMPACT?
In a word, yes. Our research found that in 7% of the organizations that are using any
sort of unified communications system it has had a major impact on the way that
employees work compared to their previous, pre-UC environment. An additional 22%
told us that unified communications has had a significant impact on users’ work
capabilities; only 9% of organizations report no changes from their use of unified
communications. In addition to productivity impacts, there is also a noticeable email
affect. Six percent (6%) of employees that are using unified communications use email
much less now than they did before, while email use is a “bit lower” for 32%.
PLATFORMS BEING DEPLOYED
Our research found that penetration of OCS has grown significantly over the past year,
increasing from 16% of the user base at the organizations surveyed in 2009 to 21% in
2010. Although OCS has the greatest penetration thus far, growth for other unified
communications platforms has also increased over the past year, including Cisco’s
unified communications solutions, Lotus Sametime, Skype, Google Talk and ShoreTel.
Perhaps indicating an additional growing interest in OCS among organizations that are
not using OCS today, 17% had conducted some sort of pilot program for OCS during the
past 18 months or they are doing so at present.
COMPARING OCS 2007 WITH LYNC SERVER 2010
We also queried organizations about their expectations for the differences between OCS
2007 and Lync Server. Despite the fact that Lync is not yet widely understood by many
decision makers, we found that there are many new capabilities in Lync that will make it
more palatable to decision makers than OCS 2007. For example:
• 57% anticipate that the virtualization support in Lync, allowing almost all Lync server
roles to be run as virtual machines, will make Lync more acceptable to decision
• 54% expect that Lync’s requirement for fewer physical servers (many configurations
will require only one physical server vs. four with OCS 2007) will make it a better
• 51% expect the use of a single client for every service (instant messaging, presence,
voice, voicemail, etc.) in Lync to be more desirable than the separation between the
Communicator client and the LiveMeeting client as is the case in OCS 2007.
Among the enhancements to Lync that will have the least impact on decision makers’
motivation to deploy the platform will be the Silverlight-based Communicator Web client,
the expanded “contact card” information, the improved Silverlight-based admin control
(configuration, routing and policy rules), and the new media bypass configuration that
reduces the need and expense for an additional Mediation Server to connect to the PBX.
It is important to note, however, that features cited as relatively unimportant may be
details of Lync that are not all that well understood today, but that will become more
important as decision makers evaluate Lync further.
SOME WILL DEPLOY LYNC SERVER QUICKLY
Our research found that 5% of organizations will deploy Lync quickly – within three
months after its introduction in late 2010 or early in 2011. Another 10% will do so
within six months of Lync’s introduction and another 15% will do so within a year after
its introduction. All told, 30% plan to jump on board within the first year, post launch!
Additionally, of the 41% who indicated that they have no plans to deploy, it would not
be surprising for this number to decrease over the course of the next two to three
months as new information regarding Lync Server is made available. We also found that
among organizations that have adopted a unified communications solution, but not on
the Microsoft OCS platform today, 23% will probably or definitely consider deploying
Planned Adoption of Lync Server
Factors Limiting Adoption of Unified Communications
THE RECESSION HAS IMPACTED UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS
Not surprisingly, the single most important factor that has inhibited the adoption of OCS
and other unified communications systems has been the lack of IT budget created by
the recession: 58% of organizations that are using or had at one point evaluated OCS
2007 told that this is issue was an inhibitor or serious inhibitor to using the platform.
We found similar results for non-OCS unified communications systems.
Other inhibitors to the deployment of OCS/Lync include the up-front cost of the solution
(48%), the on-going cost of the solution (45%), the difficulty of finding a business case
for which to justify OCS/Lync (42%) and lack of management buy-in (40%). Results
were similar for non-OCS platforms, although more pronounced. For example, 54% of
respondents indicated that the up-front cost of non-Microsoft unified communications
solution was an inhibitor or serious inhibitor to the use of these solutions, while 61%
cited on-going costs as this much of a factor.
A SLIGHTLY BETTER PERCEPTION FOR OCS/LYNC?
Our research showed that OCS/Lync is perceived as being somewhat less difficult to
justify than some other unified communications platforms in the context of both up-front
and ongoing costs, the level of IT expertise required to manage them, the ability to get
management buy-in for deployment, and overall ease of use. However, the results also
indicate that some other unified communications platforms cause fewer performance
problems and friction between the IT and telephony groups in the organizations that
have either deployed or considered deploying these systems.
On balance, however, the results for both the OCS/Lync and non-OCS responses were
largely similar and point to several significant issues that are potentially slowing the
adoption of unified communications in many organizations, including a lack of IT budget
related to the recession, the up-front cost of deployment and the ongoing cost of
managing the system.
THE NEED TO HIRE ADDITIONAL STAFF MEMBERS
One of the inhibitors to adopting unified communications for many organizations is the
need to hire additional IT personnel who possess unified communications expertise and
experience. We found, for example, that 26% of organizations had to deploy additional
staff (or they plan to deploy additional staff) to support their unified communications
deployment. Not surprisingly, this would be a particularly difficult expense to justify in
difficult economic times, especially in the large proportion of organizations that have cut
back on their IT budgets.
However, the additional staff requirements (which are likely underestimated by many
organizations) when deploying unified communications are only the tip of the iceberg.
The complexity of unified communications systems and the new paradigm that they
represent in many organizations, coupled with the wide array of functionality that they
include, leads to costs that many organizations would like not to absorb.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Clearly, the current economic climate has taken its toll on the deployment of unified
communications in many organizations: decision makers rightly perceive that unified
communications can sometimes be difficult to implement as an on-premise or private
cloud system and so many have not taken advantage of unified communications as a
result. Many prospective OCS 2007 customers are looking to Lync Server with the
expectation that the Microsoft “Version 3” effect and the new Lync features and
functionality – including virtualization, the need for fewer servers and a single client to
manage – will make unified communications more affordable and approachable than it is
Considering a Managed Service Approach
MOST WANT UNIFIED COMMUNICATIONS TO REMAIN ON-PREMISE…
Our research revealed that the vast majority of decision makers anticipate that their
unified communications deployments will remain on-premise: 80% of unified
communication systems are on-premise today and that figure will be 75% by early 2012,
despite the gains for both private cloud and public cloud/SaaS deployments during this
Deployment Models for Unified Communications, 2010 and 2012
….BUT THERE IS LOTS OF UNCERTAINTY AND CONFUSION ABOUT
Although the research revealed that organizations anticipate most of their unified
communications functionality will remain on-premise for at least the near future, most
organizations also told us that public cloud/SaaS-based unified communications solutions
either offer the same level of functionality as their on-premise counterparts or they
weren’t sure if this is the case. This reveals that many (possibly most) decision makers
still lack much of the knowledge they will need to make a fully informed decision about
public cloud/SaaS-based or managed solutions. It also reveals the relative lack of
maturity in the decision making process by many organizations and the uncertainty
about how unified communications functionality will ultimately be deployed.
Osterman Research believes that a greater proportion of unified communications will
ultimately end up being deployed as cloud-based solutions than decision makers
indicated in the figure above. We believe this will be due to two factors:
There is still much uncertainty about the details of deploying and managing unified
communications. For example, many enterprises that would like to deploy
VoIP/enterprise voice simply do not do so because it’s too hard to manage. As
evidence of this, our research found that the cost savings from VoIP is a top-three
business driver for deploying unified communications, but only one-half of current
unified communication deployments actually implement voice services.
• As decision makers learn more about cloud-based unified communications solutions,
their resistance to deploying this model for at least some of their users will ease and
demand for the cloud will increase.
Unified communications has the potential of providing significant benefits to IT and end
users alike. However, organizations find the costs associated with licensing, deploying
and managing unified communications to be quite high as evidenced by the fact that the
leading inhibitors to deployment are lack of budget, up-front costs and ongoing costs.
Further, while many organizations want to deploy voice services as part of their unified
communications solution, they find it too difficult to manage as evidenced by the
relatively low penetration of voice in these systems. What organizations need is a way
to realize the benefits of unified communications without