The UCStrategies Experts share their expertise in bylined articles, opinion pieces, blogs, and podcasts, to define unified communications, educate you about unified communications technologies, and help you make informed decisions about unified communications solutions.
UCStrategies.com defines unified communications as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes.” The definition of unified communications narrows significantly when you can read and hear about real-world examples that other companies are implementing right now—and apply them to your situation.
This section offers learning tools to help you plan your unified communications implementation.
This section provides a practical, vendor-independent service to any Enterprise that is seeking the benefits of Unified Communications. How do you pull everything together to implement unified communications? Use the tools in this sequence to define unified communications for your business.
The Unified Communications industry changes daily. We keep track of it for you.
UCStrategies is an industry resource for unified communications enterprises, communications vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing unified communications arena.
A supplier of objective information on unified communications, UCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of unified communications since its inception.
The UCStrategies Experts look back at the year 2010 in unified communications in this Industry Buzz podcast. Among the topics discussed: adoption and growth, social media, acquisitions, mobility, executive movements, tablets, and the cloud.
The UC expert panel includes Jim Burton, Blair Pleasant, Samantha Kane, Marty Parker, Michael Finneran, Russell Bennett, Steve Leaden, Art Rosenberg, Nancy Jamison, Jay Brandstadter, and Don Van Doren.
Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Industry Buzz. This is Jim Burton and I am joined by the UCStrategies team and today we are going to talk about the year in review—what happened in the year 2010 in unified communications. It has really been a very exciting year I think, because our industry has matured and I think with a number of important announcements which were made, some of the product positioning, and the evolution of those products, we have really seen our industry come to the next level. I will let my colleagues jump into that. Each of them are going to spend about a minute to explain their thoughts about what happened last year and what was important. We all have a lot of similar comments, but we tried to divide them up. I am going to start off with Blair Pleasant, talking about social software and social media.
Blair Pleasant: What I am the most excited about is the integration of social software in both the contact center and the enterprise. In the last year there have been some new offerings and we are starting to see some customer uptake, not too much yet, but it is starting – basically treating Twitter and Facebook posts just like another media channel for the contact center has been a big trend in 2010 and we are really just at the beginning of this and we’ve seen new products or services from quite a few of the vendors that tie in social media tools with their contact center offerings, Cisco, Avaya, Genesis, Alcatel-Lucent, Siemens, Interactive Intelligence, and I am sure I am leaving out plenty, because most of the vendors now are starting to do this.
Then on the enterprise side, IBM has a great social media offering that has been integrated with the enterprise also. I haven’t seen as much from the social media firms, as far as integrating realtime communications with their offerings but that is going to be part of my expectations for 2012. Samantha do you want to add to some of that?
Samantha Kane: I would. I was surprised to see folks like Amazon, who had purchased Global Alexa to get into the social media game. The other area in which we have started to see a lot of activity directly related with social media is in the 911 area, where we have a practice, and that is where people are using text to identify their need for help rather than making a 911 call, because they feel that they have 240 friends on Facebook or Twitter and they have a better chance of getting rescued. So social media is playing some very different roles that we perhaps did not expect to see this year, but certainly there is going be great and new percentages that will happen next year and it is growing about 44% a year in the stats that we look to. Marty, what about you?
Marty Parker: Yes, Samantha, thanks. My themes for 2010 in retrospect are adoption and growth. Even in the face of a recession, we hear the reports of significant double-digit annual growth percentages. While the vendors may not be specific, you can get the data through inference with Microsoft OCS, now has announced as Lync, growing rapidly; IBM reporting major wins; we see Cisco, Avaya, NEC, and Siemens increasing their emphasis on UC, often trying to expand into the category of collaboration, perhaps in response to Microsoft and IBM, who were already there. But intertwined with their IP-PBX model there is a lot of UC adoption going on. The ecosystems are growing. The evidence of this is shown by Polycom and Plantronics, with the variety of endpoints and video that is showing up in the conversation, plus all the interoperability companies: NET and Acme Packet and Dialogic, Audio Codes and others. You also see this reflected in the distribution channels, for example; ScanSource Communications, a major distributor and part of ScanSource, Inc. – has a major UC theme in their 2010/2011 marketing programs. We are seeing evidence of this through the rapidly growing case study library across the board. Just one example where 25 new case studies and customer testimonials associated with the Microsoft Lync launch. And finally I will emphasize the option showing up in CEBP—Communications Enabled Business Process category. I was impressed by Bob Hafner’s presentation at the Gartner Symposium where he went on for the better part of an hour with close to a dozen cases of customers building communications into their business processes and of course the Gartner UC Magic Quadrant for 2010 showed a further consolidation amongst the leaders: Microsoft, Cisco, and Avaya. So it's a year of adoption and growth and I think we will see more of the same in the coming year. Michael, you are going to talk about some of the things that have happened in the mobility space during the year.
Michael Finneran: Yes, I will Marty, and thank you. Well I tried to think of the hottest things that have happened in three areas: devices, networks, and policy. On the device front, probably the biggest thing is tablets, but Russell is going to be talking about that next, so I will leave that to him. The other big story, of course, from the device front has been the amazing flurry of adoption of the Android operating system. That’s really been a big story and certainly to impact the enterprise. Of course the other big question is whether Microsoft is going to have same degree of success with their Phone 7 – it's a little early to call that one.
On the network front, well certainly 802.11n has been a good boost to business for the WiFi suppliers; a major refresh, and an obvious choice for anyone who is buying a wireless LAN today. Of course, in the wide area networks, it’s 4G, though really 4G is going to be a topic for next year. For the time being it’s a much higher capacity, advanced technology solution, but focused only on laptops. It's really when we get the smartphones involved that 4G is really going to take off and that is probably going to happen during the next year.
On the policy front, it's tiered pricing. The end of all-you-can-eat data plans is certainly coming about from the mobile operators, at least the major ones, AT&T and Verizon. Of course for the enterprise the other major policy issue is a move toward more individual choice versus corporate dictates with regard to what mobile device people use. That being the case, we will expect to see a lot more variety, rather than “everyone gets a Blackberry” as the mobility choice. So things are certainly happening on the mobility front. And I know Russell, you want to chime in on the tablet topic.
Russell Bennett: Yes, thanks Michael. The tablets were a bit of surprise for me this year. At first I didn’t get it, I have to admit, and it took me a while to figure out what it is that tablets can actually contribute to UC. Then maybe I even figured out some things that weren’t actually being talked about in terms of maybe the tablet taking over from the desk phone. I don’t think anyone has pushed that one really hard, but I think that that is probably what is going to happen to the tablet. People will stop buying desk phones and will start buying value added mobile devices that are very capable around the office and maybe even around the wide area network. So I am very optimistic nowadays about tablets.
The other thing I want to talk about is executive movements. I have seen a number of hirings, new CO’s in companies like Polycom. There is a very interesting enterprise team being assembled at Skype. This all bodes well for competition and innovation in that a lot of companies are seeing the opportunity and now starting to assemble the executive teams that they think they’ll need to succeed in the UC era. So this is all very positive stuff. I really enjoyed 2010 personally and am looking forward to 2011. Let me hand off to Steve Leaden.
Steve Leaden: Thanks Russell. So it's been a year of a lot of dynamics despite a recessionary period and a lot of acquisitions and a lot of new positioning going on in the market. As Marty had mentioned, Microsoft Lync and their strategy of rebranding of their OCS product and I have seen a real concentration of video conferencing really maturing and becoming part of the core landscape going forward. So for example, you’ve got Cisco with the Tandberg acquisition, Avaya with its Flare device, but it’s of course a tablet being promoted as a video conferencing device. You have Polycom and Lifesize and Adtran now adding UC elements into their product lines, if you will. And all of this really on the cusp of, again I think, new capital being raised in the market to show new opportunities I think as the market continues to evolve in 2011. Art?
Art Rosenberg: I think that what we’re starting to see now is that we’re moving to being able to communicate any way we want; not just persons to persons, but it’s also going to be automating various business processes where a process can initiate the contact and have an exchange with a person and there won’t be a conversation. I think that kind of capability is starting to show up at various levels, so the goal of what we always had in mind for UC is I think ready to be realized. And when that happens, there is nothing going to hold anybody back in terms of moving forward.
Nancy Jamison: I would like to add onto what Blair and Samantha have said about social media, not so much because social media is so interesting, but because…well, it’s social, and because it is so consumer-driven, unlike anything we have ever seen before. I’d like to think that this year all of the vendors that Blair mentioned, and then some others that I have talked to that have things in the works, such as Convergys and Syntellect, for example, they’ve done a splendid job of really getting that there is this social media phenomena out there, that can’t be ignored, but better yet can be really harnessed. And they’ve been working on adding products, like the monitoring and all that stuff, and then being able to pass that information off onto appropriate parties, and all sorts of other things that we haven’t even seen yet.
Samantha also makes a good point with the 911 calls. When we have an earthquake here in California, do I pick up the phone? Nope, I don’t do that anymore. I don’t pick up the phone and tell somebody we had an earthquake. I tweet about it and then I put it on Facebook, and it’s amazing to see how many dozens of other people do the same thing. And we have heard stories of rescues as a result of similar happenings first on Twitter and Facebook.
So it’s been very interesting and enjoyable to watch the response of vendors in incorporating social media into both their contact center and collaboration offerings as well as, of course, unified communications. So just hinting at 2011, I am sure we will be talking about that. I think we’re going to see a whole lot more of that out there.
Jay Brandstadter: It was a very interesting year. To me, there’s three areas of interest. One is the continued explosion in cloud solutions of all types, including UC-type solution provided by cloud services. The Federal government, for example, has strongly been an advocate of the cloud, and late in the year a number of agencies went to cloud solutions for their email and in some cases other messaging needs. Certainly a sign of UC-type solutions via a cloud in the future. Further, the CIO of the Federal government has put into language for Federal IT organizations to seek cloud solutions as the first option when looking at new IT projects.
The second are of interest in UC is the ongoing debate in some of the outlets that look at unified communications about what’s going on with UC, is it growing, is it shrinking, what about it? There have been everything from a lot of disappointment, much of it driven by the economy, to a rather polarizing statement by Nick Jones of Gartner to considered UC to be some sort of Ponzi scheme. A lot of reaction to that in the various blogs. In general I think the UC tag has been abused, certainly overused, and there’s a lot of uncertainty I believe in the marketplace as to what has taken place. Advocates of UC saying, “trust me, UC is doing great,” doesn’t seem to work. And you’ve heard some of that already in this year-end review. The economy has really had a significant impact in IT growth of all kinds, not the least of which is UC, and UC suffers further by a lack of definition by both the vendor community and most everyone else looking at it.
One of the reasons for that is there’s been high interest in personal communications systems, devices, and what have you, everything from social networking to smartphones and pad devices, which have captured the attention of a lot of people, and the media as well. It raises all kinds of questions as to why this presume explosion in personal communications options, and a rather tepid performance it would seem in enterprise communications options including UC by any definition. It also raises a significant challenge for the IT organization in enterprises and other end user groups as to how to integrate personal communications devices such as smartphones, et al, which folks will really not give up, and how to integrate them into their enterprise communications solutions.
Don Van Doren: Jay, this is Don Van Doren, and I’m one of the advocates for UC. And I’m not going to say “trust me,” I’m going to say “read the case studies and look at the use cases.” There are companies that are reporting 10%, 15%, 30% hard dollar benefits, plus a lot of soft dollar productivity as well. What’s important here, I think, is that the nature of communications, and voice communications in particular, is permanently changing. We’re embedding communications into everyday workflows and business processes; it’s taking less time for this ecosystem now to learn how to embed these capabilities than it took for the CTI changes in contact centers, oh, 20 years ago. So I think this is going to be a huge change going forward. We’re starting to see this fully emerge in great volume, and I think 2011 is going to be the time when we will see significant growth in this area.
But I would also like to pick up on something else that you mentioned. I agree with you about the dramatic opportunity for cloud computing. Last year, everyone was sort of anticipating that cloud would be extending UC opportunities and capabilities, but primarily to small businesses. The ability to go to a vendor and get bundled together a broad variety of these kinds of capabilities, meant that small businesses, of course buying by the drink, can get as much of the same of the functionality that some of the big organizations enjoy. And I think that clearly, that is going to be an opportunity going forward. What I really think is fascinating, is the hybrid models that most of the vendors are coming out with, where they have their on-prem solutions, and also their offerings that they have in the cloud, plus bridging capabilities that will go between them. Now Cisco of course has been running in this direction, and IBM, but now Microsoft of course has announced Office 365, and it’s got some, as you know, pretty aggressive pricing in it, starting at about $6 announced list, and moving into the mid-20s and those prices. What’s interesting about that of course, is that gets you all the UC capabilities, a lot of the web applications, all the Office pro-plus capabilities, as well as voice. And when you look at that, it’s a tremendously different business model, I think obviously, for Microsoft going forward, and I think that’s going to be very interesting just to see how they emerge with this, how some of their competitors are going to react and respond to it, and what other kinds of opportunities we’re going to see from different vendors going forward. It’s going to be a really interesting year. And by the way, that means that I think it’s going to start encroaching on the space of people like Google and some of the other players that we’ve been watching and see what they’re going to be doing about the whole UC space as well. I think 2011 will be interesting from that perspective, too .
Jim Burton: Thank you all for your time today. Next week we are going to be talking very specifically about our thoughts about what is going to happen in 2011. Until then, thanks everybody.
All Content Copyright © 2013 UCStrategies.com. All rights reserved.
Communications Integrated to Optimize Business Processes.
UC integrates real-time and non-real time communications with business processes and requirements.
Uses presence capabilities for coordination, and presents a consistent unified user interface and experience across multiple devices and media types.
Learn more at What is Unified Communications all about?