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The Continued Rise of Unified-Communications-as-a-Service

We’ve all seen the explosion of UCaaS, both in the enterprise and in our personal lives. Zoom and Teams meetings became the norm to communicate and collaborate at work and at home, and experts predict a compound growth rate of 13.4% between 2021 and 2028 for UCaaS services.

Businesses handled the rise of UCaaS in 2021 admirably. Now the question managers must face is not if their UCaaS consumption will continue to expand—it’s what can be done to manage new and challenging dynamics around user needs, usage, cost of licenses and negotiating flexible and cost-effective subscriptions. 

Key Trends for Unified Communications

Looking at the UCaaS landscape, there are some important trends enterprises should consider as they work to control and optimize their spend.

  • Work-From-Home (WFH): It’s no longer a short-lived phenomenon. Triggered by 2020’s lockdown, the continued battle with Covid variants means WFH and hybrid work models are the new norm for many employees and employers alike. From video meetings to IM and content sharing, businesses will increasingly need to focus on managing the connectivity, security and usage of licenses in a dispersed, end-user centric model.
  • Collaboration through UCaaS: Teams, Zoom and Ring Central sessions open additional collaborative features. Users can easily spin up polls, solicit feedback, brainstorm on shared whiteboards and hold breakout sessions—all from one screen, anywhere they happen to be. Employees have already moved beyond traditional single-stream communications with UCaaS and their use of these enhanced capabilities will grow as new functionalities and integrations become available. 
  • Deployment of 5G technologies: Though still in its nascent stages, the broader availability and device compatibility of 5G is inevitable. The resulting ability to support more and faster connections to any end point (mobile, home-based PC, tablets, etc.) will enable the extension of the network edge to the virtual world. UCaaS capabilities are sure to grow as 5G becomes more commonplace, potentially driving enhanced capabilities that are less constrained by bandwidth.
  • Mergers and acquisitions, new players, strategic partnerships: The UCaaS and SaaS markets will surely evolve as providers struggle to meet the demands of enterprises and new innovations become a reality. We have already seen alliances between Avaya and Mitel with Ring Central, and the emergence of MS O365/Teams, Zoom, Ring Central as major players in this space. Newcomers to the field will likely tout additional capabilities and any consolidation of providers could drive unexpected integrations in the modern, cloud-connected environment.
  • Cost increases: Microsoft’s recent price hikes for O365 licenses—to the tune of 10% or more—were likely just the start. We anticipate more UCaaS providers will consider boosting their price tiers as new features hit the market and more enterprises use and rely on a growing bevy of services.
  • Need for greater control over spend: As enterprises pay more attention to their UCaaS services, we expect businesses will increasingly realize their need to focus similar attention on their broader SaaS application base. With cloud-based solutions displacing many traditional on-prem options, the emergence of tools to provide control of UCaaS will be deployed to manage other SaaS applications, too. Enterprises will want more control and management over SaaS licenses and subscriptions beyond the simple used/not used, with greater need for insight into how each is being used.

Next-Generation Solutions

Savvy enterprises are already seeking solutions to help them manage these trends in a way that delivers the best employee experience while offering the visibility and control to ensure that users, subscriptions, licenses and usage are understood and optimized. Fortunately, new tools are emerging that can better manage the growing field of UCaaS services. Next-generation solutions need to include some important capabilities, including:

  • Automation to:
    • push data loading, allocation, optimization and reporting at the user level
    • drive loading, validation, allocation and optimization of both native and bring-your-own-carrier plans (hybrid)
    • enable onboarding/offboarding of unused licenses and employees separated from the company
    • predictive analytics that can initiate policy-based actions or quantify and alert respective personnel
    • manage subscription usage and cost
This information exists only on specific APIs. Examples of some of these include:
    • Usage of licenses by user – last time logged in, used etc.
    • Call Detail usage for UC at the most granular level by employee
    • Calls made using cloud telephony – date, time, number, duration, type of call, calling plan vs. A direct routed call etc.
    • Detailed usage data for meetings, conferences webinars etc – host, attendees, start time, duration etc.

UCaaS and the broader SaaS market is continually evolving and adapting, providing new features and functionality even as it presents new challenges in minimizing or eliminating waste across the user base. New tools are needed to evaluate and respond to changing service and consumption levels, and these requirements can’t be met by existing methods using invoice information to drive any value. The traditional approach to spend management isn’t nimble enough to recognize and react to changes in a SaaS environment, where usage can change in days. Monthly bills my not contain details to uncover impending overages or other unexpected costs. With a growing wave of UCaaS use on the horizon, now is the time for businesses to take a more modern approach to managing spend.