Unified Communications White Paper

Executive Summary


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



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.


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.


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

their users.


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



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%.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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



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