Analyst(s):Adam Preset, Mike Fasciani, Whit Andrews
The popularity of web-conferencing tools is indicative of a need for dynamic blending of communications, collaboration and content in the digital workplace. This report assesses 14 vendors to help application leaders pursuing digital workplace initiatives find the one most suited to their needs.
By 2019, WebRTC will be used for 15% of enterprise voice and video communications, up from less than 1% in 2016.
By 2020, 30% of meetings will be facilitated by virtual concierges and advanced analytics.
Web-conferencing products are real-time collaboration tools that support interactions over a network between participants in multiple meeting formats. The types of meeting and communication that come under the category of web conferencing include webinars, remote training, online meetings, and audio and video communications. Some vendors segment their product lines to target each of these use cases, while others offer broad solutions that can be used for each purpose.
Organizations often separate web conferencing for internal use — for collaboration and learning — from web conferencing for external marketing, and run products from more than one vendor.
Application leaders stand to benefit from web conferencing in various ways. It can help to reduce geographic barriers for teams that need to work on projects or specific business processes. Training can be rolled out virtually, to participants in multiple locations. There are potential productivity increases and cost reductions from reducing business travel. Web conferencing has become not only a way to cut expenses, but also the preferred method of communication (ahead of travel) in many organizations because it is cost-effective and efficient. Faster communication via web-conferencing tools increases agility and helps to create a more effective digital workplace. Web conferencing also provides a superior experience to audioconferencing alone because it enables a richness of information and interaction. In addition, with web-conferencing tools, enterprises can benefit from engaging more readily and fully with external constituents, such as business partners and customers, in order to build relationships with them.
Gartner predicts that virtual personal assistants (VPAs) will help support team collaboration in "smart meetings" enabled by web-conferencing tools. An algorithm will gauge from the amount of conversational traffic in chat rooms whether workers are reaching a point at which a meeting is advisable — to convey complex concepts or make crucial decisions, for example. The VPA will be able to schedule meetings between relevant parties, given its access to internal calendars, prioritizing according to project urgency, and then aggregating the necessary materials for discussion.
Whether joined live to meetings or using recordings, this type of artificial intelligence will relieve participants of the routine task of minute taking. Taking its cue from keywords or vocal inflection, it will note tasks for follow-up and decisions that have been made, before populating the relevant team workspace with that information. This will require more intelligent processing of metadata and more types of content.
Smart meetings will encourage more sophisticated use of audio, video and content over time, as people's etiquette and behavior evolve to take better advantage of the technology's increasing capabilities. These capabilities could advance from transcription making to intelligent tracking of actions and conversational dialogue and the handling of meeting decisions and actions (see "Predicts 2016: Smarter Collaboration via Algorithms and People-Centric Design" ). This evolution, combined with robust, flexible, easy-to-use conferencing, will shape a market for "meeting as a service" offerings.
Application leaders will find that video links between conference rooms, desktops, smartphones and tablets are essential for meetings as end users will expect more engaging experiences. Vendors' offerings increasingly enable users not only to participate in, but also to host, meetings from mobile devices with video capabilities. Business laptop PCs and mobile devices with built-in video cameras are common. Some vendors offer separate videoconferencing and web-conferencing solutions that work together, so that buyers can address different use cases, by, for example, prioritizing high-quality video for some and content sharing and collaboration for others.
The task of selecting audio options for web conferencing can be complex:
Audio can be integrated directly. Alternatively, it can be handled via conferencing services or by a first- or third-party provider, or by a combination of these.
Products often integrate voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) in a browser or client.
A separate telephone bridge is sometimes used for the audio, with a callback feature being desirable.
External audioconferencing options often have trouble synchronizing audio and video.
Audio experiences can be dissatisfying using built-in microphones, so the need for accessories such as headsets should be accounted for when making purchasing decisions.
Wise planning and investment will improve the quality of the user experience and foster adoption, so we advise application leaders to think through internet/VPN issues to support real-time communications, to consider the logistics regarding "consumable" add-ons, and to follow best practices for connections via LAN and wireless LAN (see "Growing Connectivity Challenges Necessitate Adoption of WLAN Best Practices" ).
Application leaders making web-conferencing decisions face a predominantly cloud-based market. Some buyers, however, still seek hybrid, on-premises, managed and dedicated deployment options.
Web-conferencing solutions include audio and video capabilities, and are increasingly a key requirement in purchasing decisions for unified communications and collaboration (UCC).
Providers of stand-alone audioconferencing solutions are increasingly focusing on web-conferencing enhancements. Gartner does not evaluate the stand-alone audioconferencing market in this Magic Quadrant.
Gartner does include video-as-a-service solutions (video-centric web conferencing) in the web-conferencing technology area.
Web conferencing is part of the broader conferencing segment of the unified communications (UC) market (see "Forecast Overview: Unified Communications, Worldwide, 2016 "). That segment, which was worth $2.6 billion in end-user spending in 2014, will grow to $3.7 billion by 2020, and its forecast compound annual growth rate of 6.5% for the period 2015 to 2020 makes it the fastest-growing segment in the UC forecast. Offerings in this segment range from low-end "freemium" to high-end premium services.
Traditionally, enterprise buyers of web-conferencing offerings have come from lines of business (LOBs) where support for specific use cases (such as training, and sales and marketing webinars) was needed. However, the strategic impact of web conferencing now makes its sourcing a strategic matter for most organizations. To optimize costs, web-conferencing decisions are made in the context of an organization's UCC approach, as well as of its investments in cloud office products with similar capabilities.
Application leaders are identifying high-impact use cases for web conferencing to understand end-user requirements.
Many enterprises take a tiered, multivendor approach, rather than using a single vendor to meet all their web-conferencing needs.
Source: Gartner (November 2016)
Adobe offers the following deployment options for its Adobe Connect product: SaaS, on-premises, hybrid, managed service and dedicated.
Adobe's web-conferencing offering is suitable for a full range of advanced enterprise use cases. It benefits from strong partnerships and a deep and rich set of APIs that add differentiated value.
Adobe's industry strategy comprehensively addresses the specific needs, including customization requirements, of the healthcare, finance and education sectors, as well as of government clients in the U.S.
Adobe reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant identified Adobe Connect's flexibility in terms of customization of the end-user experience as a compelling strength.
Adobe lacks local-market presence outside North America, so customers outside the U.S. and Canada must buy from distributors and value-added resellers.
The Adobe client experience still depends on Adobe Flash, Adobe's multimedia software platform, for its current set of premium features, although Adobe is investing to remove this dependency.
Adobe reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant reported that some advanced features, such as custom pods for different content types, are complex to use or unavailable on mobile devices.
Arkadin offers the following deployment options for its ArkadinAnywhere product: SaaS and managed service. Arkadin is a subsidiary of NTT Communications.
Arkadin's global presence enables large enterprises around the world to use its customized solutions. Its user interface is available in many languages, and there is localized customer service.
Arkadin offers web-conferencing services bundled with a complete set of unified communications as a service (UCaaS) offerings from leading UC technology partners for collaboration, videoconferencing and contact centers.
Arkadin's focus on helping customers succeed and its responsive customer support enable swift adoption of ArkadinAnywhere, according to Arkadin reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant.
ArkadinAnywhere is a horizontal web-conferencing solution that, relative to its competitors in this Magic Quadrant, has limited customization options for industries.
Arkadin does not offer capabilities to embed its product in other applications in support of workflows and communications-enabled business processes.
ArkadinAnywhere does not offer the ability to equip conference rooms with "soft" video endpoints, unlike many of its competitors. However, Arkadin has been investing in a new product that will address this gap, which is expected to be announced in 2017.
Blackboard offers its Blackboard Collaborate product as SaaS.
Blackboard has successfully executed its strategy to move to a cloud operating model.
Blackboard demonstrates a strong understanding of its target markets, such as higher education and corporate training, by offering accessibility features and a modern, browser-centric experience via WebRTC.
Blackboard reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant praised Blackboard Collaborate's focus on instructional scenarios, including its automatic captioning and tight integration with audio and video systems in classrooms.
Blackboard Collaborate is closely associated with Blackboard Learn, the vendor's learning management system, as part of its Teaching and Learning bundle. By contrast, competitors' offerings are typically acquired on a stand-alone basis or in collaboration or communications bundles.
Blackboard's market presence in regions such as Japan and South America is limited, relative to that of its competitors.
Blackboard reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant expressed concern at the time about the company's WebRTC-based experience, which lacked breakout rooms and polling capabilities, but Blackboard has since included those features in its cloud service.
Cisco offers Cisco WebEx Meeting Center, Cisco WebEx Enterprise Edition and Cisco WebEx Meetings as SaaS. Cisco Meeting Server and Cisco WebEx Meetings Server are available for on-premises deployment.
Cisco WebEx leads the market in terms of overall adoption, usage, sales execution and global infrastructure.
Cisco offers a complete portfolio of options, including software services and hardware endpoints, to satisfy enterprise use cases. It also has strong partnerships and rich APIs to enable complex integrations.
Cisco reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant consider WebEx to be advanced and scalable, and they praised its ease of use and interoperability across a variety of endpoints.
Cisco Meeting Server, a new product based on technology acquired with Acano in January 2016, is Cisco's lead solution for on-premises conferencing, while WebEx and Cisco Spark are positioned for the cloud. Buyers moving to hybrid deployments should closely monitor Cisco's progress toward further integrating meeting options across its portfolio.
Cisco WebEx integrates with Cisco Spark and calendar connectors to provide a team collaboration experience that blends content sharing, real-time messaging and online meetings, but Cisco WebEx does not include office productivity and content creation services, unlike some competitors' broader UCC offerings.
Cisco WebEx reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant expressed desire for additional improvements to the user administration and reporting capabilities, and to the speed with which Cisco responds to their issues.
Citrix's GoToMeeting, GoToTraining, GoToWebinar and GoToAssist offerings are available as SaaS. On 26 July 2016, Citrix announced a definitive agreement to separate its GoTo family of products and merge them with LogMeIn — an agreement that is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2017.
Citrix offers simple, clear and flexible bundling and stand-alone sale of its products and those of its partners.
Citrix satisfies enterprise use cases ranging from small meetings to massive webcasts, without depending on external partners.
Citrix reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant expressed satisfaction with their web-conferencing products' reliability, availability and scalability.
Citrix's market presence in regions such as Japan and South America is limited, relative to its competitors.
Citrix offers only cloud deployment, unlike competitors that also allow on-premises, hybrid and dedicated architectures.
Citrix reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant expressed desire for integration with more identity and access management providers' products. They also expressed desire for more detailed and timely reports, although Citrix has since implemented features to consolidate reports for multiple products in one console and to generate reports in the background.
Fuze offers its product as SaaS. ThinkingPhones acquired Fuze in November 2015 and subsequently changed its name to Fuze.
Fuze offers a bundled UC service that makes voice, video, persistent meeting spaces and web conferencing available through a single user interface.
Fuze offers solutions for a range of industries, including high tech, professional services, retail and media.
Fuze offers an easy-to-use, high-quality web-conferencing service that satisfies most enterprise use cases, according to its reference customers.
Although present in all regions, Fuze needs to grow its sales and service scale outside North America and Europe to match its competitors. Prospective clients of Fuze in other regions should confirm that it offers adequate support.
Fuze has standardized on three-year UCaaS licensing agreements for enterprise customers, with no options for alternative consumption models such as on-premises, hybrid and freemium.
Fuze would serve its customers better if it provided more collaboration integration options, according to the reference customers we surveyed for this Magic Quadrant.
Google offers Google Hangouts as SaaS.
Google Hangouts is attractive to organizations that have acquired the G Suite communications and collaboration bundle, because it is cost-efficient and easy to use.
Google's decentralized cloud infrastructure and local partnerships make Google Hangouts an appropriate solution for globally distributed organizations.
Google reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant praised Google's heterogeneous approach to its clients and support for many different operating systems and devices.
Google Hangouts is included with G Suite as part of a horizontal collaboration offering. As such, Google Hangouts has no customization for particular industries.
Google has announced the decommissioning of Hangouts On Air for large-scale live streaming, so customers must switch to alternatives such as YouTube Live or competitors' offerings.
Google reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant expressed concern at the widespread perception that Google Hangouts is unready for enterprise use, which they attributed to Google's weak marketing of this product and opaque roadmap.
IBM offers IBM Sametime for on-premises, managed-service and dedicated deployment. It offers IBM Connections Meetings Cloud as SaaS.
IBM's web-conferencing products support standard enterprise use cases and are tightly integrated with IBM productivity and collaboration products.
IBM supports all deployment models, with cloud, managed-service, on-premises and dedicated offerings.
IBM reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant consider its web-conferencing services to be scalable and stable.
IBM's vision for cognitive support in online meetings, which would augment the meeting experience with the application of artificial intelligence, is at an early stage of development, compared with the broadly available support offered by some other enterprise competitors.
IBM has announced a significant partnership with Cisco, so customers must carefully evaluate which of the collective options that emerge from these companies will properly address their needs.
IBM reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant reported difficulties deploying both the rich client, due to its size and the number of files, and the web experience, which requires a plug-in for presenters.
LogMeIn's join.me offering is available as SaaS. On 26 July 2016, LogMeIn announced a definitive merger agreement with the Citrix GoTo family of products. The merger is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2017.
Usage of join.me is growing at a sustained pace, year over year, aided by LogMeIn's operational consistency and capabilities.
LogMeIn's approach emphasizes speed and simplicity, which eases the onboarding of first-time users and meeting guests.
LogMeIn's reference customers praised join.me's ease of use and the speed with which online meetings start.
LogMeIn focuses on the North American market and therefore does not have the same extent of global usage and market presence as many of its competitors.
LogMeIn's join.me product does not support some of the more complex and specific use cases addressed by competitors' portfolios. It lacks, for example, instructor features for training sessions and massive scalability for webinars.
LogMeIn reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant reported concerns about the client experience, including the need to install a plug-in for screen sharing and occasional problems with starting recordings.
Microsoft offers Skype for Business for hybrid, on-premises and managed-service deployment. It also offers Skype for Business Online as SaaS, and a dedicated deployment option for U.S. government customers.
Skype for Business Online is often bundled with Microsoft Office 365. It has benefited from the latter product's growth in adoption, which has made it attractive to enterprises wanting to procure communications and productivity products from a single vendor that offers a complete and integrated portfolio for both asynchronous and synchronous collaboration needs.
Microsoft offers Skype for Business solutions tailored to the needs of specific industries, such as sales automation, CRM, wealth management, patient monitoring and customer care.
Microsoft reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant expressed appreciation for the ease with which Skype for Business works with other Microsoft productivity tools.
Skype for Business Online is a bundle of communications solutions that includes Skype Meeting Broadcast, Skype Cloud PBX and public switched telephone network (PSTN) conferencing. Buyers face a challenge to understand what they need to purchase to satisfy their web-conferencing needs.
Skype for Business lacks some useful features that are common to competitors' products, such as cloud-based meeting recording and a management interface for meeting recordings. This means that end users must record locally and rely on third-party solutions.
Microsoft reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant reported concerns about network response times and insufficient notice for change management.
PGi offers the following deployment models for its iMeet and GlobalMeet products: SaaS, on-premises, hybrid and managed service. PGi was acquired by Siris Capital on 8 December 2015.
PGi has an extensive set of product features and capabilities, including iMeet Central's persistent meeting spaces for team collaboration.
PGi has a strong global service presence, which makes it appealing to large and multinational enterprise accounts looking for audioconferencing services worldwide.
PGi reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant gave it high marks for ease of user onboarding for its conferencing services and its strong service support.
Although PGi offers a broad suite of web-conferencing capabilities, its customers mainly buy audioconferencing services and use collaboration services from competing providers.
PGi's portfolio contains two web-conferencing products, iMeet and GlobalMeet, with overlapping functions. Buyers face a challenge to understand which of these products better addresses their use cases.
PGi has horizontal web-conferencing solutions, but limited customization options for industries, in comparison to competitors in this Magic Quadrant.
Vidyo offers VidyoCloud as SaaS and VidyoRouter for on-premises, hybrid, managed-service and dedicated deployments.
Vidyo offers a globally available, scalable, high-definition (HD) videoconferencing experience for participants in boardrooms and "huddle spaces" and at personal endpoints.
Vidyo has a rich set of APIs that enable its videoconferencing technology to be embedded in business, healthcare, UC and contact center applications.
Vidyo reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant praised its products' HD video quality and ease of deployment.
Vidyo offers fewer web-conferencing features than most of its competitors.
Vidyo does not address learning and training use cases with the same depth as its competitors, largely due to a lack of participant-testing, question-and-answer and survey features.
Connecting a "legacy" video room system to Vidyo's web-conferencing service results in a lower quality of content-sharing experience, according to Vidyo reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant . Vidyo claims that this issue is resolved with VidyoGateway version 3.4, so customers should ensure their Vidyo deployment is up to date.
West offers the following deployment models for its InterCall Unified Meeting products: SaaS, on-premises, hybrid, managed service and dedicated.
West's InterCall conferencing service is now bundled with its broader set of UC and video services. This streamlines the IT buyer's experience.
West has a strong global service presence, which makes it appealing to large and multinational enterprise accounts looking for conferencing services worldwide.
West reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant praised its audioconference controls and the convenience of its dial-out features.
Although West offers a broad suite of web-conferencing capabilities, its customers mainly buy audioconferencing services and use collaboration services from other providers.
West's InterCall Unified Meeting web-conferencing solution is a horizontal offering that, relative to competitors in this Magic Quadrant, has limited customization options for industries.
According to reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant, West needs to improve the customer experience through rich integration with macOS applications and quick resolution of audio quality problems.
Zoom offers the following deployment options: SaaS, on-premises, hybrid and dedicated.
Zoom's web-conferencing service offers a robust set of collaboration features to satisfy nearly all use cases, with integrated room solutions and the ability to accommodate third-party conference room endpoints.
Zoom's freemium business model and strong end-user satisfaction are key factors behind the company's growth.
Zoom reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant praised its video quality, ease of use and simple user onboarding.
Zoom's web-conferencing service lacks some key features found in other vendors' solutions, such as video search and support for asynchronous collaboration with team workspaces and document creation tools.
Zoom's market traction is mainly in North America. Its sales and service channels for the enterprise market in other regions are less well developed.
Zoom reference customers surveyed for this Magic Quadrant indicated that Zoom would serve them better if it streamlined its ordering and billing process.
We review and adjust our inclusion criteria for Magic Quadrants as markets change. As a result of these adjustments, the mix of vendors in any Magic Quadrant may change over time. A vendor's appearance in a Magic Quadrant one year and not the next does not necessarily indicate that we have changed our opinion of that vendor. It may be a reflection of a change in the market and, therefore, changed evaluation criteria, or of a change of focus by that vendor.
AT&T, as its AT&T Connect product has reached end-of-life status and customers are being moved to Cisco WebEx.
We used the following criteria to determine whether each vendor was eligible for inclusion in this Magic Quadrant:
The vendor's product(s) must provide at least the following functionality:
Presentation delivery: All participants can see an online presentation (usually delivered in Microsoft PowerPoint), which is under the control of one participant, who is designated the presenter.
Desktop or application sharing: All participants can see, but not necessarily directly interact with or modify, the presenter's desktop or a specific application on the presenter's system.
Text chat: Participants can exchange real-time textual messages with other participants or the presenter using an instant messaging (IM)-like interface.
Shared whiteboard: A meeting participant can add annotations — viewable by all — by typing or drawing on a whiteboard application, or on top of a presentation or shared application window.
Basic security: Encrypted data transfer and password-protected meetings.
Integrated VoIP audio: To remove or reduce the need for telephone-based audio, qualifying products must use a speaker and microphone (or a headset) to enable participants to listen and speak.
Video: The product must show live video feeds of participants or presenter from desktop webcams or mobile device cameras.
Mobility: The product must offer specific support for mobile devices and tablets.
The vendor's product(s) must support at least 25 participants. Products that support one-to-one interaction or small groups are generally aimed at the consumer market or at other specialized markets not covered by this Magic Quadrant.
The vendor must have generated at least $11 million in annual revenue in its most recent fiscal year from sales of web-conferencing products.
The vendor must identify at least five reference customers. One reference customer must have more than 1,000 internal users.
Sales and marketing efforts connected with the product(s) must not be limited primarily to a particular vertical or horizontal process (such as training).
The vendor must develop and market its primary web-conferencing product, not resell a "white label" product produced by another company in an OEM relationship. The product may be the result of an acquisition.
Service providers such as Arkadin, PGi and West are included in this Magic Quadrant because they develop and market their own web-conferencing offerings. They also resell other vendors' products, but those products were not considered in this evaluation.
Several factors contribute to the vendors' positions for Ability to Execute:
We evaluated the capabilities of the vendors' products separately for basic and advanced functionality.
As this market includes many small vendors with uncertain futures, financial viability was an important factor.
We evaluated pricing in terms of comparative pricing levels and the vendors' flexibility in supporting the kinds of pricing model that customers want (such as concurrent user, named user, per minute and flat rate).
We judged the customer experience by speaking to Gartner clients that use the products and by surveying users identified as reference customers by the vendors.
Product or Service
Source: Gartner (November 2016)
We evaluated the vendors' Completeness of Vision by examining customers' requirements for usage and purchasing, and by assessing how the products aligned with these requirements:
To evaluate vendors' marketing and product strategies, we looked at how they position their products and whether their products adequately address the chosen positioning.
We rated flexibility in supporting multiple deployment models more highly than a strategy of concentrating on a single deployment model.
We evaluated vendors' product innovation and ability to address the trends we expect to see in the web-conferencing market.
Offering (Product) Strategy
Source: Gartner (November 2016)
Leaders have achieved significant market share, relative to their competitors, while demonstrating an ability to respond to customers' needs. Leaders have robust, scalable products with a wide range of features, a large installed base, acceptable financial performance and good distribution. Leaders are doing well today and are prepared for the future.
Challengers are characterized by operational excellence and good standing in the market. Compared with Leaders and Visionaries, they may not have long-term roadmaps, or their products may lack some features.
Visionaries typically have important, unique and/or well-developed technical capabilities, and they provide key innovations that point to the future of this market. However, they have not yet developed the sales and support capabilities to address or influence the whole market.
Niche Players may have good technology, but are limited by their size, breadth of product line, track records in the market, vertical or horizontal focus, geographic niche, and/or financial circumstances. Some have chosen a niche strategy (for example, regional vendors with a local focus or targeted functionality intended to run on top of, or alongside, other technologies).
Web-conferencing services are often purchased by departments and LOBs. Application leaders responsible for collaboration, real-time technology and infrastructure should:
Assess and inventory their existing real-time technology assets.
Engage technical architects to map out a future architecture with respect to real-time technologies.
Influence sourcing/procurement officers to ensure that future investments in real-time technologies are aligned and can be integrated with the established architecture.
Web-conferencing decisions should be made together with other decisions about communications and collaboration infrastructure. Mobility, video and endpoint support are essential requirements for buyers evaluating web-conferencing offerings.
The popularity of web conferencing reflects a dynamic set of tensions that are the result of vendors trying to satisfy a diverse set of buyers. The permutations of their efforts are rich: from on-premises deployments to cloud services, from integrated VoIP telephony to traditional PSTN conferencing, from 180p to HD video — all mixed in with asynchronous and synchronous collaboration modalities. Furthermore, buyers for both whole enterprises and LOBs can select from freemium, best-of-breed stand-alone and bundled offerings to suit a range of needs, from the smallest online meeting to the largest webcast.
Meeting technologies have developed in the past few years to embrace the web. The market's focus is shifting away from narrow categories based on delivery mechanisms toward broader, ubiquitous access.
Vendors in this market include service providers (such as Arkadin, PGi and West), UCC vendors (such as Cisco, Google, IBM and Microsoft), collaboration and training vendors (such as Blackboard), specialist web-conferencing vendors (such as Adobe, Citrix and LogMeIn), and vendors that blend video and web-conferencing capabilities (such as Fuze, Vidyo and Zoom). Buyers tend to gravitate toward one or other of these groups when selecting vendors to investigate.
Web-conferencing services are deployed using several different delivery models. SaaS is the most prominent, but there are also options for on-premises, hybrid, managed and dedicated services, and there are buyers for all types. SaaS deployments enable organizations to receive the benefits of UCC without investing in UCC infrastructure. Good-quality audio, desktop sharing and desktop video can be preferable to HD voice and video, if it means sessions can start now, not in a year's time when the IT group has upgraded the network to support on-net collaboration.
Buyers have five basic deployment options for web-conferencing applications:
SaaS: Web-conferencing software runs on the vendor's (or a partner's) system on a multitenancy basis, and users access the capabilities over the internet (see Note 1).
On-premises: Software is installed on systems owned and operated by the client enterprise.
Hybrid: SaaS and on-premises models are combined by allowing segmentation of users across both environments, or failover from on-premises to SaaS, in either automated or manual fashion, in high-load conditions or when disaster strikes.
Managed service: IT management of the web-conferencing solution is fully outsourced and managed directly by the web-conferencing vendor or a third-party provider.
Dedicated: SaaS and managed-service models are combined by fully outsourcing the management of web-conferencing services directly to the vendor, but with dedicated hardware resources allocated solely to the enterprise customer.
Buyers of web-conferencing offerings are increasingly interested in converged solutions that offer bundles of audio, video and web capabilities without requiring careful license segmentation of meeting hosts. This has led to some adaptation by vendors — some now offer flexible, unmetered subscription plans for bundles, to appeal to LOBs and IT departments that want predictable costs. As such, in addition to VoIP audio, almost all web-conferencing vendors in this Magic Quadrant offer integrated PSTN audioconferencing capabilities, although they implement these in different ways:
Some vendors, like Adobe or Zoom, are open to third-party audioconferencing.
Some vendors integrate into their products audioconferencing capabilities from a single, well-established partner, as in the case of LogMeIn, which uses TurboBridge.
Some vendors who primarily offer audioconferencing, such as Arkadin, PGi and West, favor their own audioconferencing capabilities.
Some vendors rely exclusively on audioconferencing from multiple third parties — Google, for example, relies on UberConference, RingCentral and West for audioconferencing.
Taken to another level, the cost-effective bundling of web conferencing with cloud office services like Microsoft Office 365 and Google for Work is representative of the additional convergence of synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. The momentum behind cloud office services is one factor exposing more end users to web conferencing for collaboration. It also affects stand-alone web-conferencing vendors as buyers seek to optimize costs by buying bundles.
The Freemium Influence
The influence of the freemium model, which has fueled rapid growth for vendors such as LogMeIn and Zoom, is stronger than ever in this market.
With this type of model, vendors use free services for smaller, less-complex meetings to drive viral adoption of their platforms, often by LOBs. They then upsell more complex, enterprise features, such as higher capacity, integration with room video systems and provisioning via directories, which appeal to IT and procurement buyers.
Enthusiastic uptake of the freemium model has contributed to downward pricing pressure in the web-conferencing market. In addition, exposure to free or inexpensive offerings from vendors such as Microsoft (with Skype) and Google (with Hangouts) has increased users' familiarity and comfort with chat, video and content sharing. Furthermore, the consumerization of IT has encouraged broader adoption of web-conferencing technology within enterprises.
Support for Collaboration Modes
Web conferencing is merging with asynchronous office collaboration, social networking and the use of CRM applications. It is becoming more common to see capabilities associated with these areas only a single click away, to improve responsiveness, time to market or collaboration with partners.
Vendors that initially came to market with synchronous collaboration offerings have made acquisitions to gain capabilities to support asynchronous collaboration on projects and content.
Integration With UCC Infrastructure
Integration of web-conferencing capabilities with UCC infrastructure gives UCC vendors strong leverage in enterprises. Best-of-breed web-conferencing vendors must ensure integration with UCC offerings to gain further traction in enterprises beyond individual LOBs.
The democratization of video by the use of mobile endpoints — whether through bring your own device (BYOD) or corporate-owned, privately enabled (COPE) schemes — is complicated by requirements to support multiple form factors, mobile operating systems and browsers.
Deployments of inexpensive room video systems backed by web-conferencing technology are preferred to new builds of expensive telepresence.
Vendors and digital workplace leaders are paying more attention to the "huddle room" use case by addressing requirements for smaller work/conference areas that accommodate up to four people and are suitable for ad hoc collaboration.
Conferencing capability is a basic expectation with regard to enterprise-class digital whiteboards, which, given a sufficient level of sophistication, qualify as immersive team collaboration systems (see the "IT Market Clock for the Digital Workplace, 2016" ).
A desire for absolute consistency of user experience in any meeting context is driving enterprises to acquire converged web-conferencing and videoconferencing solutions that support diverse endpoints.
Large-scale webcasting is the domain of specialist streaming and enterprise video content management vendors. It is increasingly common, however, for high-end web-conferencing vendors or enterprise video content management vendors to handle live streaming requirements at a more modest scale — for example, for a few hundred or a thousand attendees at a company town hall meeting or a quarterly shareholder meeting.
Browser and Application Options
Rich-client applications on the desktop and native mobile apps offer the most features and functionality for presenters, more intelligent handling of network variability, and better telemetry for service operators.
A common expectation is that guests in a browser-only mode with no plug-ins will receive a reasonable experience. Expectations are growing, however, as offerings are now available that give meeting hosts more control via the browser.
An emerging area of interest, investment and, most importantly, public commitment by vendors is HTML5 and related protocols, such as WebRTC (see Note 2). Gartner believes that, by 2019, WebRTC will be used for 15% of enterprise voice and video communications, up from less than 1% in 2016. The promise of WebRTC is that real-time communications, such as video, can occur in the browser and between browsers. Although it is still early days, WebRTC is already disrupting conferencing delivery models, for which a majority of offerings require users to download a client. The more recently a vendor entered this sector, the more likely it is to have less legacy code and therefore to favor an approach using WebRTC. However, this preference limits those vendors' potential markets because not all browsers support the WebRTC standard equally. It is becoming common to see modest web-based collaboration services come to market with basic web-conferencing capabilities embedded as a feature of their platform. We expect WebRTC first to impact consumer use of real-time capabilities in browsers and then to impact the enterprise.
As services such as Atlassian HipChat, Cisco Spark, Microsoft Teams, Slack and Unify Circuit, and many emerging competitors, blend multiple collaboration and communication modalities (such as messaging, content and conferencing), these workstream collaboration solutions will both augment and displace traditional web-conferencing in the enterprise by enabling more fluid execution of nonroutine work.
Gartner defines software as a service (SaaS) as software that is owned, delivered and managed remotely by one or more providers. The provider delivers an application based on a single set of common code and data definitions. The application is consumed in a one-to-many model by all contracted customers, at any time on a pay-per-use basis or by a subscription that is based on usage metrics.
Product/Service: Core goods and services offered by the vendor for the defined market. This includes current product/service capabilities, quality, feature sets, skills and so on, whether offered natively or through OEM agreements/partnerships as defined in the market definition and detailed in the subcriteria.
Overall Viability: Viability includes an assessment of the overall organization's financial health, the financial and practical success of the business unit, and the likelihood that the individual business unit will continue investing in the product, will continue offering the product and will advance the state of the art within the organization's portfolio of products.
Sales Execution/Pricing: The vendor's capabilities in all presales activities and the structure that supports them. This includes deal management, pricing and negotiation, presales support, and the overall effectiveness of the sales channel.
Market Responsiveness/Record: Ability to respond, change direction, be flexible and achieve competitive success as opportunities develop, competitors act, customer needs evolve and market dynamics change. This criterion also considers the vendor's history of responsiveness.
Marketing Execution: The clarity, quality, creativity and efficacy of programs designed to deliver the organization's message to influence the market, promote the brand and business, increase awareness of the products, and establish a positive identification with the product/brand and organization in the minds of buyers. This "mind share" can be driven by a combination of publicity, promotional initiatives, thought leadership, word of mouth and sales activities.
Customer Experience: Relationships, products and services/programs that enable clients to be successful with the products evaluated. Specifically, this includes the ways customers receive technical support or account support. This can also include ancillary tools, customer support programs (and the quality thereof), availability of user groups, service-level agreements and so on.
Operations: The ability of the organization to meet its goals and commitments. Factors include the quality of the organizational structure, including skills, experiences, programs, systems and other vehicles that enable the organization to operate effectively and efficiently on an ongoing basis.
Market Understanding: Ability of the vendor to understand buyers' wants and needs and to translate those into products and services. Vendors that show the highest degree of vision listen to and understand buyers' wants and needs, and can shape or enhance those with their added vision.
Marketing Strategy: A clear, differentiated set of messages consistently communicated throughout the organization and externalized through the website, advertising, customer programs and positioning statements.
Sales Strategy: The strategy for selling products that uses the appropriate network of direct and indirect sales, marketing, service, and communication affiliates that extend the scope and depth of market reach, skills, expertise, technologies, services and the customer base.
Offering (Product) Strategy: The vendor's approach to product development and delivery that emphasizes differentiation, functionality, methodology and feature sets as they map to current and future requirements.
Business Model: The soundness and logic of the vendor's underlying business proposition.
Vertical/Industry Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of individual market segments, including vertical markets.
Innovation: Direct, related, complementary and synergistic layouts of resources, expertise or capital for investment, consolidation, defensive or pre-emptive purposes.
Geographic Strategy: The vendor's strategy to direct resources, skills and offerings to meet the specific needs of geographies outside the "home" or native geography, either directly or through partners, channels and subsidiaries as appropriate for that geography and market.