I’m Amy Lind, I’m an analyst with IDC. I cover communication services and UCaaS, and I’ve been with IDC for 22 years as of next week. I can’t believe it. So today I’m going to walk you through IDC’s view of unified communications and collaboration market. We’re going to talk about big is good, but small customers are better.
So a couple of takeaways, I want you to think about it as we go through the presentation. First, is there 65 million small businesses in the United States with fewer than 100 employees. This represents a tremendous opportunity for channel partners. We’re going to go through and look at those opportunities. And I’m going to share some recent survey data we have that looks at small businesses and unified communications.
The second one is, after years of hype, UCNC is finally mainstream. According to our survey, one out of every two businesses in the United States has unified communications and collaboration. The third thing is that it’s all about the cloud. And by that, I mean cloud-based unified communications as a service. And really, the cloud changes everything. It changes everything for small businesses, and it changes everything for channel partners like you.
The last point is, simplicity is driving adoption. Solutions need to be easy to use, they need to be easy to deploy. But that’s the first stage. The second stage is really about usage. And driving usage is really the user experience and education, educating small businesses and their employees on the capabilities that exist and how to use them. And driving usage is really a critically important thing to do in the cloud market. And that’s because if you drive usage, you can increase customer satisfaction, you can reduce turn. And more importantly for you for channel partners, you can increase your revenue.
So I want to go through the agenda really quickly, I’m going to start with the small business opportunity, frame it out for you. And then we’ll look at the competitive landscape. From there, we’ll do a dive into the trends and buyer perspective. And then I’m going to present the future view, which is IDC’s typical forecast slide, I have to put one in, and then I’m going to end with some conclusions or recommendations.
So this is IDC’s view of how we segment the business market. So the SMB segment is businesses from five to 999 employees. But it’s really important to segment two sub-segments within the SMB market because when we start looking at some of the sub-segments, there are a lot of differences that come out. For the purposes of what we’re going to be discussing today. We’re going to be looking at small businesses, those businesses that have five to 49 employees.
It’s important to remember that for small businesses, many of them started as home-based businesses. That means that their technology acquisition is very similar to consumers, to consumer technology purchasing. Small businesses typically are not early tech adopters. And that’s largely due to resource constraints, and they just lack the skills within their organization. They typically are more likely to operate in an ad hoc manner, which means that when they are going out after technology, they’re not doing it in a conservative way, looking out three or four years and budgeting, they tend to go out and just buy it as needed. Many small businesses don’t have a dedicated IT person. And typically, when they’re buying technology or looking at technology, they’re focusing on implementing core technologies, PCs, printers, desktop phones, the basic tools that allow them to get their work done, but that you know, not really the cutting edge technology.
So diving into small businesses a little bit more and some of the metrics. So in this slide, we’re looking at the three pie charts in the middle, for the employees that are five employees up to 49 employees. And the key with this segment is that, on average, the revenue ranges from 300 to 400,000, all the way up to 1.1 million. And that’s at the high end of the segment. But when we look at average revenue per user, per employee, it’s more consistent somewhere around 25,000. The other thing that’s important to remember about this segment, as you move upmarket, that the percentage of revenue that these businesses apply to support current operations goes down, as they tend to invest more in innovation and in expansion.
So IDC does a survey every year, we survey businesses in the US that have five or more employees, and we just filled out our survey in September and so I have really great brand new survey data to share with you. So one of the things we did do in the survey was asked about technology investment and initiatives over the next three years. And this chart here is showing the technology investment for small businesses that are five to 49 employees, and then large, small businesses which are 50 to 99 employees. And as you can see, I mean, it’s fairly similar in the sense that they both ranked cloud services as being a top initiative or priority that they’re doing. For the small business segment, they said, upgrading their network infrastructure, and then improving WAN and network security, where the top three.
For both segments unified communications, the red bars, there were only 15%. And at first glance, it seems that they’re just not investing in unified communications. But that’s actually not true. The boxes that are in red, mobile access to corporate and business applications, real-time networking, and migrating call centers to IP platforms. I would argue those are really UC functionality as well or components of UC and so when you put it all together, UC starts to bubble up much higher. But the important thing to keep in mind here is that for both small businesses and large, small businesses, cloud services was the number one investment and initiative that they’re planning on doing. And I think that really signifies small businesses are becoming more comfortable and more interested in UCaaS and cloud, and that’s something that the provider channel needs to capitalize on.
So we’re going to shift now to looking at the competitive landscape. Before we do that, though, I want to put some definitions out there. So what is unified communications and collaboration? Many people have different definitions of it. For our sake, for IDC, we define it as the integration of advanced telephony, messaging, IM and presence, and conferencing services, audio, video and web conferencing with collaborative and mobile applications. Unified communications and collaboration enable real-time communications and collaboration, anytime, anywhere and on any device. Unified communications as a service is a cloud-hosted multi-tenant, public cloud, typically, UC&C service that is shared across multiple businesses and delivered, managed and maintained by a communication service provider, or by the channel partner, or even in some cases by a vendor. Their services priced on a per-seat user basis, with a standard suite of features included in the monthly subscription fee.
So with that, we’re going to take a look at the IDC market glance. This is our overview of the competitive landscape for unified communications and collaboration. So all of these different boxes, we put the top three to five players in terms of vendor market share into these boxes. And the one I’m particularly focused on is the one that’s in red, UC solutions and services. We’ve segmented that into two categories. One is over the top providers like RingCentral, 8×8, Vonage, Fuse, Nextiva, and the other one is UCaaS service providers, AT&T, Verizon, CenturyLink, The Carriers. With the OTT providers like RingCentral and 8×8, they all got their start in the small business segment. But they’ve all made a concerted effort to move upmarket into mid-market and enterprise sector. And they’ve really abandoned that small business customer, its transactional customer and they just feel that they can generate more revenue off of going after the higher value customers.
But that leaves those small business customers somewhat stranded in terms of their options. UC service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and CenturyLink, they’ve traditionally gone after large enterprise and multinational corporations. While they do offer small business solutions,
AT&T for instance has a partnership with RingCentral. Verizon is offering One Talk which is a mobile UCaaS solution, and it started with very small businesses. They traditionally have not been very good at serving that segment. I will say though, that there are two exceptions that have come out this summer. One is on the OTT side, and that is 8×8, they announced 8×8 Express. The other is CenturyLink, CenturyLink Engage. Both of those platforms are targeted to the very small business sector. They are e-commerce platforms or solutions. And the interesting thing with CenturyLink is they’re bundling it in with broadband, and they provide a Customer Success Manager to every customer that helps them walkthrough, you know, the beginning of the sales process all the way through to the end post implementations, and guides the customer through the whole process. And I think something like that is possibly going to disintermediate channel partners, but it’s something I think that you can take some learnings from and adapt that to your own business models.
So here’s another slide looking at the competitive landscape. Again, this is from our survey, and we asked of small businesses that we’re looking to implement UCaaS, which kind of provider would you be, you know, considering using. And we asked them to rank it on a scale of one to five. And so here I’ve got it listed by the most; the extremely likely and likely. Microsoft came out at the top, not surprising. They have, you know, good mindshare with small business sector there on the desktop. I thought it was interesting though, that web and video conferencing providers like Zoom and PGi actually had such high mention, and I think with Zoom, in particular, it’s an interesting case because they do the freemium model for video conferencing. And so they are, you know, attracting small business customers with something that’s a freemium model. It works for their purposes and it sucks them in and they find it, you know, a very good enjoyable experience because it’s simple to use.
Looking at the telecom service providers like Verizon, AT&T and the cable operators, like Comcast and Charter, with them, the interesting thing that they’re doing is obviously they offer broadband to the small business customer, and they bundle that broadband often with a digital voice service, and so they’re able to target that small business customer and lock them into that bundle. But our way of thinking in our definition, that’s not really UCaaS. That’s just a voice service bundled in with your broadband.
So where I think the opportunity lies for the reseller, and channel partner community is to really focus on becoming a trusted advisor to small businesses and focusing on possibly being a managed service provider. If you look at the managed service providers, if you look at extremely likely, likely, and neutral, they actually have amongst the highest mentions. And so I think pursuing that trusted advisor role helping small businesses with their strategy around migration, around voice, and using that as a pathway to unified communications, I think that’s one way that you can create additional value. Additionally, focus on bundling and value-added services and adding that customer support piece in and I think that you know, it’s really compelling in a differentiated offering.
So, this slide here, we’re shifting gears, looking at UC trends. I’m not going to go through all of these on this slide, we’ll go through each one of these individually, but I wanted to kind of put it out there so you can see that. So the first trend is voice migration. So migrating from TDM Voice to IP is really the foundation for unified communications, voice migration is happening. It’s happening gradually. It’s not happening nearly as rapidly as we’d expected. According to our survey, 89% of small businesses use voice over IP. But if you look at the next line, 85% of small businesses still use and value TDM. And so what that says to me is that there are very few businesses that have the only TDM, or only voice over IP, many businesses have a mix and that we’re still in that transition point where eventually they will move completely off of TDM to voice over IP.
The reason small businesses aren’t migrating to Voice over IP, they don’t see the business value in VoIP, they also feel that it’s too expensive and other projects have higher priority. And what that says to me is, it’s really more a mentality of if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. They have other priorities. They feel that voice is complicated. They’re not quite sure what they should be going with. It seems costly to them. They have a system that works for them. So there’s no need to upgrade it. But if you look above that 47% of small businesses said that they purchased their phone system four or more years ago. And so we’re getting to the point where these systems are going to start becoming the end of life are not supported. And so I think that’s another opportunity for the channel. To help those small businesses, figure out what their migration strategy should be, help them make that move, and move them to the cloud.
So the next trend is using UC as mainstream. So this is three years of survey data, where we asked about usage of the adoption of unified communications. So what we really see is that one out of every two businesses has unified communications in their organization. I think it’s interesting to note though that 40% say that they plan to adopt UC&C within the next year. But where it gets really interesting is when you start looking at it by the size of business.
So if you look over at the five to 49 segment, only 25% of small businesses have UC. And I think that that is really pertinent because that shows that there’s an untapped market out there that is right for the channel to really help those guys come in and get UC. So that brings me to the next point. The investment drivers, why should small businesses invest in UC and why are they investing in UC?
So we asked small businesses that have UC and those that plan to adopt UC, What were the reasons that you are looking at UC? And the top reasons were, support a mobile and remote workforce, help employees feel more connected, increase employee productivity, and improve communications and collaboration. The interesting piece to this is that cost saving is relatively low down. And this is the first year of the first survey where we’re seeing cost savings not being the number one reason that they invested in UC. And so I think it signifies that there’s a shift in the market, businesses are starting to look at different use cases and the benefits differently. They’re not looking at, you know, the hard cost savings, they’re looking at softer reasons for migrating or for investing in UC, and again, I think that there’s a role for the channel partners to play in helping them with that, and helping them to focus on use cases and benefits of UC so that when you’re engaging with small businesses, rather than talking about the technology, start by talking about the use case, helping them figure out what problems they need to solve and figure out what that use case is. Do they want to support their mobile, you know the workforce? Do they have a mobile workforce? Do they want to support remote workers? Do they want to increase employee productivity? I think being a trusted advisor and a partner and helping them figure out some of those issues. I think that that is where the channel should be going and focusing because that’s the way to then ensure that the small business is loyal to you.
So we also asked of that 27% that do not have UC and are not planning on adopting it, why they don’t want to invest in UC, and the top reasons are, it’s too costly to justify the investment, other projects have higher priority and there’s a lack of in house expertise. And you think the key here for the channel, in particular, is to, again, approach these businesses and present yourself as a managed service provider, helping them to understand that when you move to the cloud, then you’re giving up management to the channel to the person that’s providing you the service. And it frees up their employees, they don’t have to worry about it and it gives you some added value because now you’re a trusted advisor. And you can help them with other things. You can sell them adjacent services, you can upsell them on other things, you know, whether that’s, you know, bundling value-added services in whether it’s doing video conferencing or collaboration, whether it’s expanding into the collaboration stack, I think there’s a lot of potentials there. And you think the problem is that these businesses that said that they don’t want to invest in UC, aren’t really understanding, you know, what it means. And again, that comes back to demonstrating use cases and benefits to them.
So, the next trend is the shift to the cloud. So I would argue that cloud is not quite as mainstream as UC&C, but we’re getting really close. This slide here is showing that 53% of businesses that either have adopted UC or attending to adopt UC is planning to do a multi-tenant cloud solution. As you can see only 36% wanted you premise-based and 11% are looking at dedicated hosted. And I’m actually surprised that the dedicated hosted is as high as it is, my guess is that some of the small businesses either didn’t understand what that is, or they’re probably at the upper end of our segmentation.
So one of the other trends along with Cloud is Hybrid, Hybrid is gaining traction. Three out of four small businesses said that they plan to deploy or have deployed a Hybrid UC solution. And the reason that hybrid is gaining traction is that it enables businesses to leverage their existing assets to quickly scale UC, and they have the flexibility to really roll it out where and when they want, and how it makes sense for them. And again, I think that there’s a role for the channel to play on this by working with these small businesses on their Hybrid strategy and helping them with that migration and helping them to do an assessment of where they are, where they want to go and what they ultimately want to get to as their end goal.
So the next trend within the shift to the cloud is, we see business dynamics driving the shift to the cloud. So, for instance, things like accelerating business growth, there are a lot of businesses that are growing very rapidly. And cloud isn’t the ideal solution for those businesses, cloud is very easy to scale and click to scale, and then enables those businesses that have high growth trajectories to add, you know, new users whenever they need them. It also helps because you can also bring it down. So for seasonal businesses, it’s useful because, you know, they don’t have to pay for a sunk cost for half of the year whenever the year they’re not using those licenses, and so they can scale up when they need to and scale down when they don’t need to, or when they don’t need them.
Distributed businesses as well, so there are a number of small businesses that have multiple locations, and they have mobile and remote workers. And cloud is ideally suited to distributed business. It allows the small business to roll out the capabilities to the employees wherever they happen to be located and it’s very easy and flexible to do that. One of the other points here is outdated equipment. Many small businesses are struggling with outdated equipment and dissatisfaction with their current system. And again, there’s a role for the partner to play in this, in terms of helping them to migrate, not just to a new solution, but to migrate to the cloud.
So, there are some benefits to UCaaS and we’re going to talk about those benefits for both the small business and for the providers, sorry, the channel. So there are new market demands happening. So customers’ buying behavior is changing. They’re looking to buy more on value and on business outcomes and use cases. They also want solutions faster. They want off the shelf products, but they also want customization and this is true even for the smallest businesses, but at the same time, end customer budgets are tight, and service reps, not service providers, but channel partners need to keep that in mind. They need to understand that customers want solutions that are easier to use, and that deliver value faster and cheaper. And you need to tailor those solutions and how you approach those small business customers in a flexible way that meets their needs. And when you’re engaging with them, you need to be cognizant of the tight budgets and the different needs that they may have.
So for small businesses, the benefits of UCaaS and the importance of choosing the right partner is critical. So again, in our survey, we asked small businesses, what their perception was of the benefits of UCaaS, and then we asked them what their concerns were about UCaaS. And it’s really interesting for the small business segment five to 49, scalability and flexibility was the top number one thing that they pointed out, whereas, for the large small business segment, they were looking more at cost savings.
I think for the Small Business segment, skill-building and flexibility is key, pitching it to them as a managed service that you manage for them, they don’t have to worry about that it eliminates the need for management, for maintenance, for upgrades. It’s incredibly flexible and scalable. It can go up and down to meet their needs. So for instance, you know, seasonal businesses, landscaping, ice cream stores, retail, this is ideally suited to them, because it allows them to, you know, scale up when they need to, scale down when they don’t need to, and they’re not paying for those licenses. Again, along with that is the shift from a Capex to an op ex-model. That’s critical and I think that that’s something that the partners need to focus on with small businesses to encourage them to make that shift and explain to them that you know, the value of monthly recurring revenue model, it may seem scary at first, but in fact, I think it is better for them in the long run rather than sinking all of your costs into, you know, one time Capex on-premise system.
So there are benefits to your cash for partners as well. You know, small businesses want integrated, affordable and easy to deploy solutions. They don’t want siloed services, they want really more integrated solutions. And they want flexibility and they want that optics, not Capex model. For the partners, making that shift to monthly recurring revenue also helps them because it helps them to invest in their future, it helps them be more competitive, and it helps them to meet small businesses where and when they really need to be. The other issue for channel partners is project revenue is not replicable and it’s hard to invest in your future and grow your business really with more of a project-based revenue model.
So the concerns with UCaaS, we did survey small businesses about their concerns. The number one concern that came out was security and specifically for the small business segment, they said data security. It was two times more of a concern for them than it was for the large small business segment but for both segments, security was a top of mind concern. And I think it’s critical for partners to really address concerns that small businesses have about UCaaS. One of the things to be cognizant of, again, is to focus on use cases and benefits, but also to demonstrate for small businesses the value of moving to a monthly recurring model, and increases in customer satisfaction, reduction in churn some of those benefits, it’s vital to really kind of point those out and work with the small businesses in a consultative sales approach.
So the new work experience mobile and remote workers, more workers are becoming mobile, distributed and virtual. There’s this proliferation of BYOD devices in the business as well. Many users, you know, it’s the device of choice. They want to be able to work wherever they are, wherever they are and on whatever device they want. And really, it’s this notion of this anytime anyplace worker that requires ubiquitous mobility. But the challenges that many workers are still using old tools, email, audio conferencing, faxing, paging, and to date, we have not really seen a truly mobile UC&C fixed-mobile convergence solution, it really does remain nascent. And I think that that’s where there’s again, some value that the channel can provide, in terms of really pushing that mobile piece.
So we also asked about the features and capabilities that small businesses are interested in. And this is really interesting to me because This is the first year we’ve seen collaboration, email, cloud-based file storage, video conferencing, file sharing and collaborative applications bubbling up to the top. In the past, it’s been voice calling voice over IP, IM chat, audio conferencing. And we’re really seeing an increase in interest and usage of the collaborative applications. And I think that demonstrates that small businesses are becoming more sophisticated. They want integrated solutions, they don’t want just with telephony-based UCaaS, they want to have Slack, Zoom video conferencing, collaborative applications, bundled in and are integrated with their solution. They see value in that. I think the other one that’s valuable is a cloud-based file storage Box, Dropbox, integrating all of that in, and then file sharing, of course. What I find most interesting and we see this every year though, is the mobile client app is relatively low. And I think that’s because most businesses when we survey them, don’t understand or just don’t think of it as a separate feature, they think of it as just being automatically incorporated in. And I think that’s probably the same with presence as well.
To that point, what I find interesting for small businesses is they’re not that particularly interested in the integration of business apps, like CRM and ERP, at least for the five to 49 segment. But when you look at the large-small businesses, that 50 to 99 segment, they’re much more interested in presence, integration of business apps, even FMC and call recording. So you start to see this difference in the features and capabilities that they want as you go upmarket and become larger.
So the death of the desktop phone is greatly exaggerated. I was at Enterprise Connect a number of years ago and the buzz at the show was all about how the desk phone was dead, and it was just going to go away. And yet, many of us still have desktop phones on our desks. And I think, you know, looking at the survey, small businesses would say the same thing. The desktop phone is the number one device, mobile and smartphones are growing, it’s 54%, and then web browsers are 52%. And I think that there are a number of providers and platforms out there, like SkySwitch with their Reach UC Mobility, and Reach UC Connect product, those are offerings that are softphones and web browser-based.
And I think we’re going to see an increase in those categories. I think mobile and smartphone is going to increase as well but I think it’s going to take a long time. And the key here for partners to walk away with from this slide is that you need to meet the small business where they are. There are some small businesses that are going to want desk phones for the foreseeable future. There are others that are going to be mobile-first. There are others that are just going to be interested in just a cell phone, and you need to be flexible and present them with whatever option they want.
This is the piece that I find most fascinating. So we asked small businesses in the next year, do you think your organization is going to increase their use of desktop phones or decrease, and 57.6% said they expected to increase, that just blows me away. I don’t think it necessarily correlates to what we’re seeing on the vendor side in terms of IP phone shipments. But I do think it’s really a compelling piece that just says that the desktop phone is going to be around for quite a while longer.
So finally, adoption versus usage. So simplicity and education are critical to overcoming uses barriers. We asked of small businesses that have unified communications deployed, what percentage of your user base is using the capabilities. Only 48% came back and said that 48% of their users were actually using the capabilities. And the reasons that they weren’t using the capabilities were IT staff was not prepared to support or deploy the capabilities and users were not trained on the technologies, or where the capabilities existed was expensive, and years of users have adopted workarounds. And you think that this is critical.
Simplicity is key to driving adoption. It has to be simple to use, it has to be simple to be deployed. But education and good user experience are critical to overcoming barriers to usage, and usage is going to be the next step in the market, in terms of development. And the problem with the cloud model is if you don’t get people using the capabilities, then they’re going to turn, and so it’s critical to really push that usage so that they don’t turn so that they increase their customer satisfaction, and they use the capabilities. I think one of the challenges is really trying to figure out how to educate and make these small businesses and these users aware of the capabilities. And one of the things I think, to focus on is adoption services, and working with the small business customer, with the customer success manager to really push education training videos, get the word out, these capabilities exist, this is how you use them, and help guide that small business through the whole process from pre-sale, post-sale, post-implementation, and get there usage up, because otherwise we’ll be at risk of losing that customer. Once they turn, it’s twice as hard to get them back.
So here’s my obligatory forecast slide. The US telephony-based UCaaS revenue snapshot. So in 2019 in the U.S., I am estimating that at the end of the year, the UCaaS market telephony base piece of it will be 5.4 billion. It will have a five-year kicker of 10% and it will grow to 7.3 billion in 2023. I’ve also segmented it for the small business market. And the forecast for small business telephony-based UCaaS expands from 2.1 billion in 2019 to 2.7 billion in 2023. It’s roughly somewhere around 30-35% of the forecast. I’m pretty bullish about the small business market because I think that there’s a lot of room for growth there. There is an untapped market. There are 65 million small businesses, and many of the providers have backed away from that segment. And so I think it’s a really great opportunity for the channel to capitalize on. And once again, just to recap, the delivery model is a fully managed multi-tenant cloud solution, the pricing model is spot rate monthly recurring and the keys in terms of the market perspective are it’s a highly fragmented ecosystem. Like I said, It ranges from network-based and over the top providers, to vendors serve as eyes, managed service providers and the channel. But I do think that specifically, the small business sector is right for the channel to take and own, but one of the key things, as I said before, is education and adapting the business model is really critical to channel success, particularly in the small business segment.
And so with that, I’m going to turn to my recommendations. The first one is the value proposition for many small businesses remains unclear around UC&C. The channel needs to focus on solution selling, demonstrating use cases, positioning itself as a trusted advisor. You know, many on the channel you’re in your local community, you understand these businesses, you know what their needs are, you know them and that’s something that differentiates your ability to target them from Verizon, AT&T, RingCentral, and 8×8. They don’t know these customers, they don’t know what their needs are. They’re not in the local community, they’re much more of an anonymous type of provider. I think it’s key for the channel to create conversations around how UC&C can benefit small businesses, I think you’ll find greater receptivity if you do that.
For many of these small businesses, decisions are past due, in terms of migrating from TDM to voice over IP. And I think the channel can play a critical role in helping these customers to migrate, help them establish a migration roadmap, figure out what it is that they want to go to in their end state, help them to get there, work with them and define near term and long term goals. We have seen a growing level of comfort with cloud-based solutions and while cost savings are not as high in terms of investment priorities, I do think emphasizing the total cost of ownership and the return on investments for small businesses is still critical. They are still very conscious of cost. You know, budgets are tight. And so if you can demonstrate, some cost savings, especially around moving from a Capex, one-time type of model to an op-ex model, I think that that will be compelling. Partners also need to prove that UC translates to benefits for the business and that will help to stimulate their competence. And again, that comes back to use case.
To capture new revenue opportunities and growth profitability partners do need to expand their horizons, they need to move beyond their core value proposition, what they’ve been used to delivering. They need to provide integrated bundled solutions, they need to move into value-added services and customer support. And customer success is a key area where you can focus on that as well as position yourself as a managed service provider, that’s a trusted advisor. And then finally, as I said, simplicity is key to driving adoption but the user experience and training are key to driving usage. Solutions must be easy to buy, they must be easy to install, and they must be easy to use, particularly for small businesses.