Mark Herbert shares his view on the year ahead and the opportunities in the UCaaS market.
“In 2022 it is likely we will see further change in the channel, as the line between voice and IT continues to blur, as Microsoft continues its drive and hybrid working, together with macroeconomics impacts business decisions.”
Microsoft will continue to disrupt the market
We will see some big changes in the market over 2022, primarily driven by Microsoft, who have ambitions in Voice, UCaaS and CCaaS. The rise of Microsoft will continue, and it is reasonable to expect that Teams may in the future become the number one UC provider.
Microsoft’s plans for the UC space have yet to take full effect; we are yet to see the full disruptive force to this market sector by Microsoft.
Microsoft Operator Connect will further disrupt and disintermediate the voice channel in 2022. Customers can now buy direct from operators, through the Teams interface. They don’t need a partner to support them with the purchasing process. This brings greater competition at the operator level, as customers can purchase from multiple vendors
This will have a knock-on effect on SBC and basic Direct Routing providers. With customers using an Operator’s central connection to Microsoft Teams, the need for customer-dedicated SBCs will reduce. SBC manufacturers will have to think carefully about how to secure their position. Direct Routing is here to stay though, as any level of customization ‘in the call path’ or value-add (such as CCaaS) sits firmly outside of Operator Connect – for now.
Whether businesses take Operator Connect or a large UC platform to deliver the telephony via a Teams endpoint, relies on the channel moving its mindset to using the cloud.
From Microsoft, I think we will see a consolidation of Teams in 2022. I think we will see them joining their other products into their Teams solution beyond the Office 365 suite, such as AI and Dynamics, making Teams less siloed.
The rise of Microsoft Teams will continue
We have seen an explosion of Microsoft Teams within the SMB sector and enterprises that have been agile and adapted to hybrid working. The next chapter will be the adoption of Teams by larger enterprises. Teams putting pressure on Zoom and Slack is reaching a tipping point. Teams delivers intercompany working and collaboration, making it more attractive. Incorporating office capability inside one collaboration suite, no one else can do that.
Front line workers and mobile workers can also access Teams. So it is not just for desk workers. The introduction of Microsoft Teams company-wide within larger organizations I think will become more prevalent in 2022.
And for the end-user, with Teams being shipped with Windows 11 we will see the use of Teams extending from a work-based application, over to personal use. Teams is already heavily used by the education sector, meaning for those entering the workplace, Teams will already be familiar. So, looking to the future Microsoft Teams will become more familiar and established as a day-to-day tool for both work, education, and home life.
The UCaaS market is set to grow at the expense of on-prem
In 2022 we will see all UC providers gain, probably at the expense of on-prem. The move to hybrid working is further driving the decline of the on-premise PBX. Channel providers that are anchored to delivering on-premise equipment need to consider how they respond. And in the UC space we could see some consolidation, through acquisitions and mergers, so reducing the number of players in the market.
There is still a place for on-prem PBX, for meeting specific requirements, but we will see further acceleration away from on-prem to the cloud in 2022.
For on-prem PBX providers, they will need to work hard to find the niches for their high-value offers. UC providers have the advantage, delivering the functionality that Microsoft can’t come close to, whilst delivering their solution onto a Microsoft Teams endpoint, means they can provide a hybrid offer. It is a compelling proposition, to have the UC call control with a Teams end-user experience.
Hybrid working will continue to drive technology
The market, with hybrid working, is moving beyond just home-enabling the on-prem PBX.
Hybrid working is a change that presents opportunities to the channel. It requires investment from businesses. They need to consider infrastructure, security, policy management, and equipment, presenting plenty of opportunities to the channel.
The cloud lends itself well to hybrid working. Channel providers that are anchored to delivering on-premise equipment need to consider how they respond.
Businesses have become much more accepting of cloud services. Cloud solutions have become more capable and with Microsoft leading the pack on cloud services, the barriers to adoption that enterprises faced 2 – 3 years ago are no longer there. Businesses are seeing the cloud as a utility solution, and adapting business processes to suit off the peg cloud services.
Looking ahead there are questions around: What would happen if Microsoft Teams were more embedded with mobile telephony? Is Microsoft looking to move into running mobile infrastructure, building on their Azure for operators, and their recent purchase of Metaswitch?
Will the market be driven by cost?
In 2022 we’ll have to see where the market goes in terms of macroeconomics and inflation. Are we going to see a return to a focus on cost?
Teams is here to stay, it is built into Office 365, it is included in the package. But in terms of the voice capabilities around that, some UC platforms, that run alongside and with Teams can come in at a much lower price point than Microsoft. Providing an alternative for the cost-conscious customer. In 2022 we may see some interesting dynamics around pricing.
Cost pressures could also prompt businesses to utilize fewer vendors for services, helping them to reduce administration costs. Businesses do not want the distraction of managing telecoms in-house, seen as a utility service, it is not core business. When vendors bundle solutions, providing greater value, then customers are more likely to buy and remain with that vendor. If your UC provider is providing all minutes, call capability, analytics, compliance reporting, Microsoft licensing, call center, then as a business customer you are likely to stay there, as once it is set up and part of your business process you are unlikely to change, avoiding the disruption that this brings.
There is an opportunity for the channel to get involved in the Microsoft licensing, it is a revenue stream, a commodity that is delivered and supported by Microsoft. As a telco provider all you need to do is bill for it, so why not? If a customer has a voice problem on Teams they are going to call you anyway. So you’ve got the support load already, so you may as well get the revenue for it.
The line between voice and IT will continue to blur
2021 was an interesting year for those working in the channel, and I don’t see market change and disruption slowing down any time soon. In 2022 it is likely we will see the line between voice and IT continue to blur, as Microsoft continues its drive and hybrid working, together with macroeconomics impacts business decisions.
For on-prem PBX providers, they will need to work hard to find the niches for their high-value offers. UC providers have the advantage since they can provide the functionality that Microsoft can’t come close to, whilst delivering their solution onto a Microsoft Teams endpoint means they can provide a hybrid offer. It is a compelling proposition, to have the UC call control with a Teams end-user experience.
Here at Qunifi we are excited about continuing to collaborate with our channel partners; to bring new products and services; to help differentiate and drive growth; to help channel providers to stay ahead in changing markets.