Unified communication used to be marketed squarely at big enterprise clients, with ease of management at the core of its benefits. Big companies, with multiple sites, tend to have expensive, legacy PBX systems, so unified communication provides obvious benefits in comparison: less support, less complexity, lower overheads.
But SMEs have been slower to adopt unified communications, when taken as an average across the market. That’s unusual, because SMEs tend to be very quick to give new technologies and innovations a chance, and this has been proven time and again with other types of cloud solution.
What has changed? Why have SMEs suddenly started to tap into unified communications as a service? The answer is all in the marketing and maturity of the services available today.
Comparing SMEs and Enterprise
Every new solution goes through a period of evaluation in its target market. During this phase, the media gets excited, but it then begins to report on the drawbacks as the solution begins to mature. Smart businesses only choose to adopt once the dust has settled, so they can contain the risk and avoid having to change their strategy if the solution fails to live up to the hype.
In the cloud, we’ve seen SMEs pick up cloud technologies first, in many cases. SMEs have fewer barriers to adoption, in terms of regulatory compliance, and they tend to be attracted to the bite-sized pricing model that makes the cloud so accessible.
As such, SMEs tend to be the guinea pigs who are keen to try new technologies.
Unified communications is different. It’s been marketed almost solely to large businesses, leaving SMEs to rely on consumer grade products like Skype, or Google Hangouts. These aren’t true unified communications solutions, and they lack many of the key benefits, like presence awareness and capable IP telephone hardware.
But for many SMEs, that’s all they need. Unified communications have never been effectively marketed as a productivity-enhancing tool. It appears to be too complex, too expensive, and too murky a market. And if Skype does the job – why change it?
An Evolving Market
We’re slowly seeing unified communications providers understand what SMEs want, and this is making a huge difference to the way these solutions are sold. This, in turn, helps SMEs to see real potential for ROI.
A simple set of changes is driving this shift: a better description of unified communications, more accurate definitions and reference points, and an approach that’s more targeted to the needs of small businesses.
Unified communications is still a valid alternative to the PBX, but it’s developed its own USPs that deliver benefits to SMEs who may not be entering the market via that route. We now know that unified communications solutions can be compact and simple, without dropping the core features of more complex solutions. In turn, this has helped to refocus marketing campaigns and tailor unified communications to the small businesses.
SMEs are finally realising what unified communications can offer them, and resellers and vendors are finally understanding which of the benefits are most important. When it comes to adopting new technologies, or marketing new and innovative solutions, we can all learn lessons from the way the market for unified communications has evolved.