It never is terribly easy to quantify the size of the unified communications market, embracing as it does so many different communications and collaboration solutions. A new study by CompTIA of 500 executives has found that “collaboration” tools already are highly used by respondent firms, and well understood.

About 59 percent of respondents say the concept is well defined, while 80 percent think unified communications has high or moderate value.

With the exception of social tools, at 36 percent adoption, most constituent forms of unified communications are used by 60 percent to 94 percent of respondent firms. About 33 percent of respondents indicated that unified communications has “high value.” About 47 percent reported that unified communications has “moderate value.”

What the survey results indicate is perhaps less clear. You might infer that unified communications already has been embraced in the ways that users find most valuable, or that use of the various constituent UC components remains largely untapped.

You might argue that users understand the value, but differ on what it means. You might argue that “full” unified communications is viewed as providing less value than unifying some of the modes.

Or you might infer that much of the demand already has been met. All of those inferences might suggest a different set of prospects for future buying of unified communications.

The survey does suggest that investments in communications or collaboration will occur at a higher rate than investment in other areas of information technology. Some 44 percent of respondents indicated that spending on communications or collaboration will occur at the same rate as other investments in information technology.

Some 41 percent suggest investments in communications or collaboration will occur at higher rates than investments in other areas of information technology.

What that means likewise is hard to decipher, though. Does all collaboration or communications investment represent “unified communications,” or only the constituent tools? Growing investment in mobile communications or broadband, conferencing or IP telephony all are parts of those spending streams.

The point is that it remains hard to separate out the actual new demand for unified communications, as completely distinct from investments in all other communication, social or collaboration tools.

Even the fast-growing video communications or video collaboration tools seem highly used. Some 71 percent of respondents say they have adopted video conferencing, while 76 percent say they have adopted web conferencing.

Of course, you might note that full deployment to all employees remains limited. That might suggest there is some ways to go, or might be seen as an indication that users who derive the most value already are using the tools.