Submitted by: Ira Brooks, Director of Business Development, IPC Technologies, Inc.

Organizations are primed for broader use of unified communications solutions, although some barriers remain.

Deployment of unified communications solutions is poised for growth as organizations build on a foundation of voice and data applications to include more video, collaboration and social communications tools, according to new research from CompTIA, the non-profit association for the IT industry. Unified communications seamlessly blends these communication tools within a single user interface to improve employee collaboration, productivity and customer service and boost the efficiency of the IT infrastructure.

Nearly half (49 percent) of the organizations surveyed for the new CompTIA study, “Unified Communications and Collaboration Market Trends,” said their expenditures on unified communications technologies will grow relatively faster than their overall IT budget over the next 12 months. Large firms (500 or more employees) are significantly more likely to increase their unified communications investment relative to the overall IT budget than the smallest of firms (1-49 employees), 64 percent vs. 35 percent.

“This likely reflects the complexity of communications at a large firm compared to a small firm,” said Tim Herbert, vice president, research, CompTIA. “More staff, more locations, more endpoints and possibly more IT systems make for a more complex communications landscape and a stronger desire to simplify through a unified communications strategy.”

Technology providers express similar positive sentiments about growth in unified communications adoption. Among IT firms with a unified communications practice, 31 percent expect significant growth in their practice over the next 12 months, while 59 percent expect modest growth. Few expect a drop-off in their unified communications business.

Defining Unified Communications

While IT companies and their customers are bullish on the future of unified communications, the CompTIA study indicates that greater clarity about what constitutes unified communications is needed. Customers and their technology partners are fairly consistent when asked to define unified communications. For each group, core areas include email, web conferencing, unified messaging, videoconferencing, audio conferencing and IP communications. But despite the media attention on technologies such as social communication and location-based services, they are not yet strongly associated with unified communications, according to the study.

Additionally, fewer respondents have made the leap from viewing unified communications as an incremental improvement for interaction and sharing to higher-level, communications- enabled business process