UC | Research

Schools Begin Moving Unified Communications to the Cloud

Public K-12 school districts have begun shifting their unified communications solutions over to the cloud. In fact, according to new research released this week, a quarter of them either have done so already or are in the process of doing so.

The research is the latest installment in the annual CDW-G Unified Communications Tracking Poll. For the 2011 report, O'Keeffe & Co. surveyed 900 IT professionals across sectors, including higher education and K-12. All participants were involved in unified communications for their organizations at the decision-making level.

Cross-Sector Findings
The survey found that, on the whole, UC adoption has doubled since the previous year's poll. A full 16 percent of all organizations have "fully implemented" unified communications, up from 8 percent in 2010 and 6 percent in 2009 (with a margin of error of ±3.2 percent). The remainder are in the process of implementing UC (18 percent), planning a UC implementation (33 percent), or assessing a possible UC implementation (33 percent).

Among the specific technologies that had been deployed at the time of the survey were:

  • VIdeoconferencing (69 percent);
  • IP telephony (66 percent);
  • Mass notifications (63 percent);
  • Unified messaging (62 percent); and
  • Presence (47 percent).

All were up from previous years except presence and mass notification, which were statistically flat (within the poll's 3.2-point margin of error) between 2010 and 2011.

The report also showed that 76 percent of those organizations that have completed their UC implementations have experienced a return on investment that "met or exceeded" their expectations, up 5 percent from the 2010 report.

"Across industries, organizations are embracing 'anytime, anyplace' access to information to boost productivity. They also continue to look for opportunities to use budget dollars more effectively," said Christine Holloway, vice president of converged infrastructure solutions at CDW, in a statement released to coincide with the report. "Unified communications delivers on both of those objectives."

Findings for K-12 Education
In K-12 public education specifically, 19 percent of respondents indicated their organizations had fully implemented unified communications. Owing to the large margin of error for sector-specific findings in the report (8 points), that's statistically flat from last year's 13 percent figure. The percentage of campuses in the process of implementing UC (26 percent) was also statistically flat from 2010's figure of 18 percent. Those districts that reported they were planning for an implementation (21 percent) was down significantly from the previous year (30 percent in 2010). The percentage of districts reporting they were still just assessing the benefits of unified communications, 34 percent, was statistically flat from last year.

Among K-12 public education institutions, 4 percent reported they've have deployed cloud-based UC solutions. Another 21 percent said they're in the process of deploying a cloud-based solution, and 46 percent reported they are at least evaluating a cloud-based UC solution.

According to the report, the top UC features cited by respondents in the K-12 public education sector included:

  • Access to work e-mail and voicemail via smart phone;
  • The ability to send mass notifications via phone and e-mail; and
  • The ability to receive voicemail and e-mail.

The top benefits cited by K-12 participants included:

  • Increased productivity;
  • Reduction of operating costs; and
  • Reliable communications.

The 2011 Unified Communications Tracking Poll was conducted in February 2011. Forty-three percent of respondents were top IT leaders, including CIOs and directors; 38 percent were IT supervisors, specialists, or engineers; 11 percent were telecom supervisors, specialists, or engineers; and 8 percent were telecom directors or managers.

In higher education, 44 percent came from institutions with fewer than 2,500 students; 27 percent represented institutions with 2,500 to 9,999 students; and 29 percent came from school districts with 10,000 or more students.

The full report is publicly available now. Further details can be found here.

About the Author

David Nagel is the former editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal, STEAM Universe, and Spaces4Learning. A 30-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art, marketing, media, and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/davidrnagel/ .