No global organization has taken on the task of defining Unified Communications (UC) in a non-biased manner. While the Internet brings access to an incalculable amount of information on almost any subject, conducting a search for information on UC will not solve the mystery surrounding the definition of UC, or its advantages & disadvantages. Viewing UC Wikipedia entries will also not solve the definitional dilemma – there is simply too much random and biased information online. It is difficult to find an objective perspective of UC on the Web that does not dissolve into a murky, convoluted, and/or biased presentation subsidized directly or indirectly by a major UC vendor. Most vendors define UC in terms of their current offering, describing the pieces to the general UC puzzle they currently have either developed or have on the near-term drawing board. It is therefore imperative that each organization first evaluates the components of UC that best suits their needs and requirements, and then seeks a UC vendor (UCV) that can accommodate such needs.
FINDING THE APPROPRIATE UC SOLUTION
When kicking off a UC project, both corporate IT (CIT) and corporate end users (CEUs) should approach it from an introspective point of view. What does the IT organization need? What does the individual CEU need? The old adage, “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it,” applies here. UC implementations do not have to be an all or nothing proposition. It is possible to blend pieces of UC into the organizational IT infrastructure seamlessly. Unfulfilled needs of both the CEU and CIT can be identified and a staged plan developed and applied to the organization in phases, thus merging the needs of both CIT and CEU over time. This budget-friendly approach has the additional benefit of revealing UCV commitment by incrementally deploying UC solutions rather than launching a comprehensive infrastructure re-build.
A phased approach to implementing UC sounds easy, but there is more often than not, a conflict between what the end user needs and what the vendor wants to sell. The end user wants the simplest UC solution that will make them more efficient, productive and that may even enhance their quality of life. However, vendors have a vested interest (time, research and development) in delivering their full suite of Unified Communications solutions to all of their clients – whether they need it or not! Often, the result is a painfully complex installation of an overly complicated UC solution that is difficult to use and exasperating to maintain. Therefore, it is imperative that the organization itself defines UC based on its needs and chooses a vendor with both the solution and the flexibility to implement such needs.
With vendors describing UC from the paradigm of their own solution there are multiple definitions of UC. Additionally, CIT may define UC to mean ensuring their own users having email, instant messaging (IM), presence, and voice served by a single vendor. One consequence of these powerful, cost-effective solutions is the merging of our personal and professional communication. CEUs may define UC as having presence on whatever device they are currently accessing whether it be a bring your own device (BYOD) or a corporate issued device, or a mixture, e.g., smart phone (work), laptop (personal), desktop (work), tablet (personal), etc. wherever or whenever they want to be available, in an effort to balance their personal and professional life. UC and its components are fluid and ever evolving. Even the term “presence” has come to mean different things to different audiences. For instance, to a CEU it might mean the location and availability of someone, while to CIT it may be functionality buried in an application that aids in identifying someone with a certain skill set or capability.
Regardless of how vendors promote or companies deploy Unified Communications, this is clear: Vendors small and large have the technical expertise to deliver full-fledged UC solutions that seamlessly scale up from the smallest businesses to the largest corporations.
UC White Paper
William Lane, President and CEO of Startel Corporation, recently released a White Paper titled: The SME = The Enterprise with Unified Communications. Intended for business and IT decision makers, the White Paper clarifies the purpose and benefits of Unified Communications and discusses how organizations are leveraging UC to solve current and future challenges.