Are Gartner’s Unified Communications Observations on the Money?

Rebekah Carter

Assessing the Gartner UC Magic Quadrant as a research tool

Insights
Are Gartner’s Unified Communications Observations on the Money?

The Gartner Magic Quadrants are among the most respected reports on the market. 

These “MQ” documents cover things like CCaaS, UCaaS, Service Management, and Video Conferencing every year. Many companies throughout the UC community rely on these quadrants to understand which vendors are leading the industry, and which still have room to grow.  

Gartner’s observations on Unified Communications are often best demonstrated through the UCaaS Magic Quadrant, the most recent of which emerged in November 2020.  

The Magic Quadrant is where Gartner offers insights into the growth of environments like UCaaS, and provides assessments on top players that buyers may want to consider investing in. But how accurate are these evaluations? 

How much stock should companies really put into the opinions of a single analyst? 

Let’s explore the accuracy of Gartner’s observations on UCaaS.  

Defining UCaaS: The Gartner Way 

According to Gartner, UCaaS (Unified Communications as a Service), is a cloud-delivered model for UC that supports at least the following 6 functions: 

  • Communications-enabled business processes 
  • Mobility 
  • Instant messaging and presence 
  • Unified messaging 
  • Meetings (video, audio, and web) 
  • Enterprise telephony 

Using this definition, Gartner creates its UCaaS Magic Quadrant, where it ranks providers based on their ability to execute, and completeness of vision. Depending on how well each vendor performs according to Gartner’s assessment, they can achieve positions as a Niche Player, Visionary, Challenger, or Leader.  

It seems simple enough, but Gartner’s understanding of UCaaS can be difficult to understand, as the goalposts seem to be constantly moving. In 2019, for instance, Gartner completely eradicated the Magic Report for Unified Communications. The company also tightened the criteria to determine which companies could be included in the UCaaS MQ.  

Today’s entrants must have infrastructure that they own, operate, and maintain themselves. Plus, Gartner is beginning to look more closely at things like multitenancy in UCaaS, data centre availability, networking opportunities, and portals for provisioning.  

What Makes a Good UCaaS Vendor? 

With a strong background in delivering successful templates for vendor assessment, the Magic Quadrant remains one of the most respected documents around. However, it may be difficult to use this report as more than just a starting point for vendor evaluation.  

A lot of the analytics involved in choosing where vendors are positioned on the Magic Quadrant reports are confidential. This makes it difficult to determine whether Gartner’s opinions are accurate or driven by factors that customers may not consider.  

The changing definition of UCaaS on a market-wide scale also complicates matters. Gartner currently defines UCaaS as meetings, messages, and voice. However, not every customer will weigh these features equally when choosing a UCaaS solution.  

The most recent Gartner Magic Quadrant (at the time of writing) emerged in November 2020. The latest report has a few key points to note. For instance, Gartner offers 3 strategic planning assumptions: 

  • At least 5% of the on-site employees in an organisation will switch to remote working roles. This is quite a low assumption, given the sudden shift to remote work
  • Direct cloud connectivity will increase from UCaaS providers 
  • By 2024, 74% of new UC licenses will be purchased in the cloud. Cloud adoption is therefore accelerating at an incredible rate 

In 2019, Gartner noted that by 2023, around 40% of licenses would be attributed to G-Suite or Office 365 bundles. However, this advice didn’t appear again in the 2020 MQ.  

How Accurate are Gartner’s Insights? 

The accuracy of the Magic Quadrant and other insights from Gartner depends heavily on who you ask. It’s no secret that many companies have spoken out about how they consider the report to be unfairly weighted in one direction or another. Though people can often disagree with other market reports, Gartner seems to get a lot of negative attention. 

You could argue that Gartner has been particularly generous lately with companies that offer a lot of meeting and messaging technology, placing reduced voice on voice. The arrival of Microsoft Teams as a UCaaS leader may have confused buyers, as much of the voice technology available at the time the report was published was only accessible through direct routing. 

Other companies appeared to get less preferential treatment. Vonage wasn’t rated very high on completeness of vision, despite its constant dedication to strategic acquisition and innovation in areas like CPaaS. Even Dialpad only made it into the “niche player” position.  

These changes could be a reflection of the fact that UCaaS is becoming increasingly less “voice-centric”. However, the inability to fully understand Gartner’s decisions makes the report more confusing for many buyers.  

The Possible Problems with Gartner 

Gartner and its Magic Quadrant reports have seen a significant level of controversy over the years. Many companies have made complaints about the way that features are considered, and whether it’s fair to treat one capability with more respect than others.  

It’s also worth noting that Gartner is highly invested in nurturing and supporting enterprise clients. These are the companies that pay the most to Gartner with consultancy and research fees. There’s a risk that the Magic Quadrant might be unfairly directed towards companies that serve what Gartner defines as “big business”, which means that companies serving the mid-market and smaller arenas are less equipped to compete.  

Some companies have even questioned whether the strong marketing and hype capabilities of bigger businesses might have a bigger impact on the way that Gartner chooses its leaders. Of course, it’s difficult to know whether any of these suggestions have any truth to them.  

Should we Rely on Gartner’s Assessment? 

Many organisations still see Gartner as the go-to analysts for insights into the communication landscape. However, it’s worth remembering that they’re only one source of information. The issues analysed by Gartner may differ drastically from the points considers for other reports, like the Forrester Wave. Gartner’s Magic Quadrant isn’t intended to be a set of instructions on which products to buy, and which to ignore.  

Instead, it seems that Gartner’s assessments of the Unified Communication market work best when they’re defined as a launching point. You can use the information to determine which companies are trending right now, but it’s also worth doing your own research, based on your specific goals.  

 


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