IT technology and infrastructure


In July of this year, Gartner released the latest version of its magic quadrant for unified communications (UC).  This is an assessment of the key players in the Unified Communications (UC) industry.  As well as an individual breakdown of each supplier, the quadrant compares the key players based on two key factors: ability to execute and completeness of vision. The quadrant itself and Gartner’s summary conclusions for each of the key players are provided below.

The results make interesting reading in comparison to last year’s quadrant. One trend is continuing market consolidation. There is a reduction from 10 key players in 2016 to 9 this year, with Interactive Intelligence dropping out following acquisition by Genesys. Genesys does not feature in the UC Magic Quadrant as they position themselves very much in the customer experience / contact centre space rather than unified communications. The quadrant (or at least the research informing it) also pre-dates the Mitel acquisition of Shoretel so presumably next year’s quadrant will be down to 8 – unless any new entrants make the list.   It must also be noted that this magic quadrant is for enterprise solutions. Gartner also publishes a separate magic quadrant for Unified Communications as a Service. The most recent version of the UCaaS magic quadrant was published in August 2016, so presumably another is due soon.  The 2016 edition of the magic quadrant for (global) UCaaS included 16 key players. Therefore, it is interesting that there are now more key players in the cloud space than offering enterprise solutions.

The relative movements of the vendors is also interesting. Avaya drops out of the leaders quadrant, largely due to a perceived reduced ability to execute. This is unsurprising given the financial challenges currently facing Avaya. This leaves just three players in the leaders quadrant – Cisco, Microsoft and Mitel.  Avaya now joins Unify in the visionaries quadrant.  NEC and Huawei remain in the challengers quadrant but ALE is now classified as a niche player, joining Shoretel.

Whilst the magic quadrant is extremely informative, it is prepared from an analyst’s perspective and is necessarily generic in nature. It does not automatically follow that the solutions scoring highest in the UC analysis are the best fit for any specific customer’s requirements. 4C would encourage any organisation that is considering upgrading or replacing its enterprise unified communications infrastructure to carefully consider its own requirements and to take these to the market in a bespoke competitive procurement.  As one of the UK’s foremost independent unified communications consultancies, 4C Strategies is uniquely placed to assist any organisation to identify their business needs and to select the correct solution and partner for their specific requirements.

The objectives of this paper are to provide an insight into how a UC strategy should be developed with a particular focus on the relative influences of traditional telephony and emerging UC needs.




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Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise is now wholly owned by China Huaxin, following the company’s recent purchase of the 15% previously owned by Nokia. Key products include OpenTouch Suite, which is ALE’s flagship multimedia unified communications suite, and Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow, a cloud-based service only recently introduced to the market.


  • OpenTouch Suite can be operated on-premises, in the cloud, or as a hybrid.
  • OpenTouch Enterprise Cloud offers subscription on a consumption basis, in addition to a traditional license.
  • The company holds a strong share in the European telephony market and should, from this, be able to obtain investment in broader UC development.
  • Rainbow is now on general release and, with its integration into the voice portfolio, ALE has now better mapped out a long-term strategy with regards to product evolution for customers.


  • Despite the introduction of promising UC solutions, ALE may need to work hard in order to close the gap with rivals that have already introduced offerings with similar functionality.
  • ALE’s operations are condensing into the company’s Western European stronghold, somewhat limiting their exposure in, and support of, other regions.
  • It is now almost three years since China Huaxin purchased the enterprise division of Alcatel-Lucent, with the stated intention of doubling the business in five years, namely through expansion into new markets. However, limited investment into ALE thus far has put any long-term commitment to enterprise UC business into question.


Avaya is owned by private equity firms TPG and Silver Lake, but filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in the US courts in January 2017. Lead products are the Avaya Aura Platform and Avaya Equinox. The Avaya IP Office Platform is tailored more towards small to medium businesses (SMBs) with up to 150 locations. A recent addition to Avaya’s UCaaS platform is Zang Spaces, with workstream capabilities, persistent team collaboration and meeting solutions integrated with voice and video tasks.


  • Avaya benefits from strong brand recognition for its telephony and contact centre businesses, which remain central to its portfolio.
  • As a wholly owned subsidiary of Avaya, Zang has quickly developed a plethora of cloud communications services.
  • The introduction of consumption licensing has made it easier for businesses to outsource their Avaya infrastructure and application services through Avaya and its partners.


  • If the process of bankruptcy protection lasts for longer than a year, it will make the task of recovery a more challenging one.
  • Despite Zang’s offering of public cloud solutions, Avaya’s key focus continues to be meeting customers’ needs for private ones.


Cisco has a broad selection of unified communications offerings, encompassing on-premises, hybrid and cloud deployment capabilities. Cisco offers its unified communications manager to enterprises with as many as 80,000 users, which helps to simplify and centralise the management of large, distributed deployment.


  • New video collaboration endpoints and the Cisco Meeting Server are successfully providing on-premises video solutions, in additional to Cisco Jabber.
  • Cisco’s hybrid solutions facilitate the integration of on-premises solutions with the Cisco Spark Cloud. Additionally, hybrid deployments can offer a smoother transition, should consumers choose to switch to purely cloud-based consumption.
  • Cisco has a strong financial foundation, with good revenue growth, strong profit margins, the ability to generate cash and a favourable balance sheet.


  • Overlapping functionality in Cisco’s UC portfolio provides flexible deployment, but can make understanding their UC solutions challenging.
  • Cisco provides three licensing options: traditional software licensing, Enterprise Licensing Agreements and the Spark Flex Plan. This can create the challenge of ascertaining which option will best meet each procurement department’s deployment needs.
  • Cisco products are typically priced higher than those of its competitors.


Huawei has a broad offering, supporting telephony, presence, messaging, conference room endpoints, video collaboration and contact centre functions.


  • Huawei’s UC offerings encompass the carrier, large enterprise and SMB segments, leading to scalable and cost effective UC solutions.
  • A diverse portfolio of UC products offers a greater choice.
  • The UC solution suite is often combined with a wider range of IT services, enabling the consumer to manage fewer vendors.


  • Despite substantial innovation and growth, Huawei exhibits limited visibility in a mature market.
  • The majority of the firm’s business is in Asia, the Pacific and in emerging economies, so enterprises would need to check that the necessary resources are available locally.
  • Huawei suffers from political, trade-related and intellectual property-related disputes within the US market.


Microsoft offers unified communications solutions under the umbrella of the Skype for Business brand. The cloud solution offered is Skype for Business Online, part of the Office 365 platform. Skype for Business continues to be expanded through partnerships with the likes of Polycom, Logitech and Creston.


  • Office 365 enables Microsoft to capitalise on its dominance in the market for IT and office productivity solutions.
  • Much like that of Cisco, Microsoft’s financial situation is very strong.


  • The telephony functionality of Skype for Business Online is still maturing and remains new to the market.
  • Although Microsoft’s partnerships are improving, choosing which partner to select remains a challenging factor.


Mitel has a long-standing presence in the field of virtualisation, with a flexible set of delivery offerings for unified communications, often deployed on virtual systems with flexible delivery.


  • Mitel’s UC solutions are offered at competitive prices.
  • Flexible delivery within Mitel’s UC portfolio allows customers to acquire UC solutions in their desired deployment modes.
  • Mitel has been very successful in specific segments, including hospitality, healthcare, state and local government, and education.


  • Mitel has made a few substantial vendor acquisitions of late and, therefore, has a mix of UC solutions and partners. Customers would need to clarify that these partners’ expertise are suited to their specific project before implementation.


NEC is a global provider of IT and communications products and services, with a distinct primary focus on “empowering the smart enterprise”.


  • NEC is also in a strong financial position. It is a global company with established UC sales operations and support channels in multiple regions.
  • NEC has a strong network of channel partners, alongside a good distribution of sales across multiple geographic markets, with particular success in Japan and the US.


  • NEC’s products and services are not always consistently available between regions, making it difficult for multinational enterprises to converge their UC strategy.
  • NEC’s UCaaS offering, Univerge Blue, is only available in North America.


ShoreTel competes in the unified communications market with ShoreTel Connect, which has all the UC functionality that most firms desire, but does not provide multipoint video, relying instead on a partnership with StarLeaf.


  • ShoreTel Connect Onsite provides all the desirable UC solutions in a reliable and intuitive solution.
  • ShoreTel offers flexible provisioning, thanks to common user interfaces between the on-premises, cloud and hybrid versions of ShoreTel Connect.


  • ShoreTel’s limited influence outside of the US means that, in most regions, its expertise is not widely available.
  • Although ShoreTel’s UC offerings would satisfy most midsize enterprises, its video capabilities are not as feature-rich as those of its market rivals.


Unify is a wholly owned subsidiary of Atos, a global system integration and outsourcing business. Unify’s OpenScape suite offers a broad and fully integrated portfolio of UC functionality.


  • OpenScape, whilst already offering a full range of UC functions, is available in a flexible variety of configurations for different market segments.
  • Collaboration solutions make up a key component of the Atos Digital Workplace proposition, allowing Unify to benefit from Atos’ broader digital workplace services.


  • Unify continues to invest resources into its next generation UCaaS solution, Circuit, but has been slow to capitalise on growth within the market for workstream collaboration.
  • Unify is yet to offer a designated UCaaS platform, limiting customers’ ability to transition from on-premises solutions to cloud and hybrid ones using the existing technology.


4C would encourage any organisation that is considering upgrading or replacing its enterprise unified communications infrastructure to carefully consider its own requirements and to take these to the market in a bespoke competitive procurement.  As one of the UK’s foremost independent unified communications consultancies, 4C Strategies is uniquely placed to assist any organisation to identify their business needs and to select the correct solution and partner for their specific requirements. To find out how our expertise can help you, call us on 01858 438938 or email

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