A report released by analyst firm IDC earlier in the week noted an increasing amount of interest by SMBs in unified communications technologies. This ranges from VoIP (voice-over-IP), conferencing technologies such as those that incorporate Web and videoconferencing, as well as unified messaging solutions that integrate voice and data messaging.
Titled "Unified Communications in U.S. Small and Medium-Sized Business, 2011: Growing Demand for Communication, Collaboration, and Connectivity - But Integration Remains Elusive," the report presented a broad overview of various unified messaging components on platforms ranging from the desktop to mobile devices.
Not surprisingly, IDC concluded that relatively few firms have implemented a unified communications (UC) system that successfully meshes the various core components into an integrated offering for heightened value.
Note that IDC considers a small business to be one with less than 100 employees; a mid-sized firm is considered to be one with 100-999 employees.
"SMBs are interested in both underlying capabilities and specific UC technologies," observed research manager Justin Jaffe in a statement. "The real challenge for vendors is to effectively connect the benefits of unified communications to improved business performance. Show how UC can make a real difference in productivity and efficiency and SMBs will flock to it."
Though the IDC report is obviously positioned towards vendors, the evidence is clear that SMBs are waking up to the benefits of unified communications. Without having to wait for the arrival of the perfect offering, there are two simple ways today that SMBs can get onto the UC bandwagon.
The easiest way to start repeating some benefits would be to implement VoIP in the office, or barring that, with remote workers. The industry-wide acceptance of the Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) means that SMBs no longer have to fret about the risks of acquiring hardware or software proprietary to a particular provider. The shift on this front is rapidly gaining steam too: Instead of splurging tens of thousands of dollars on an IP-PBX, it is far more common for new small and mid-sized businesses to leverage external VoIP providers.
Most SMBs are unlikely to be interested in enterprise-grade telepresence solutions that seek to recreate the dynamics of an actual meeting room. It is important, however, that businesses are made aware of the existence of affordable Web conferencing services that deliver equally compelling value. Moreover, their quality and user-intuitiveness have seen the use of Web conferencing increasing greatly, fueled by the curbs on travel resulting from the economic downturn.