It Matters Who You Dance With in UC

It Matters Who You Dance With in UC

By Joseph Williams November 3, 2016 3 Comments
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It Matters Who You Dance With in UC by Joseph Williams

A month does not go by without hearing of a stalled, cancelled, or diminished UC project at some large multinational company. It really doesn’t matter which vendor platform is involved, the truth is that global deployments of unified communications are complicated.

UC is attractive because it offers so much power and flexibility for companies looking to move into the digital era using technology that works on any platform and on any device from any location. UC is all about enabling new workstyles that emphasize collaboration while not sacrificing corporate accountability. And UC offers a lot of interesting options for on-premises, cloud, and hybrid deployments that can be architected to work with almost any company’s operational and security requirements.

But the simple truth is rolling out UC across the globe, spanning a plethora of regulatory regimes and national infrastructure inconsistencies, can be challenging. Most multinational enterprises moving to UC are doing it for the first time, and it may have been years, even decades since they had to do the global planning for their incumbent PBX / VoIP platforms. And, in my experience, 100% of multinational enterprises really, truly do not know [no matter what they say] how well their internal networks are going to perform under the demands of a fully enabled UC solution. So there are a lot of unknowns when going into a UC platform that plant the seeds for its failure.

Adding to the technical complexity of UC is the whole set of operational and economic decisions that must be made. Does the enterprise operate UC itself or use a managed services provider (MSP)? If it does operate its own UC platform, will it do so with its own employees or with contract employees in some or all markets? If it uses an (MSP), how will that work? Do the economics favor a license/purchase regime or a subscription model? How is support going to be handled globally? When things do go wrong in a complex global environment with dozens, if not hundreds of moving parts, how will activities like root cause analysis or even platform upgrades be handled?

Now start thinking about all of the switches, routers, and session border controllers (SBCs) that exist or must be deployed into the infrastructure. All of the various implementations of MPLS, SIP trunks, edge devices, monitoring and reporting systems. All the different desktop devices and endpoints that have to be connected and managed. And all the security and performance issues that must be addressed.

We haven’t even started talking about peculiarities or requirements that are unique to verticals or to rules governing privacy and/or discovery that literally vary from state to state, nation to nation.

It is no wonder that UC projects so commonly go off the rails. Microsoft has just tried to address this complexity by issuing its Skype Operational Framework (SOF) to provide guidance and tools that aid in planning and deployment. Cisco also offers a broad library of similar help guides. And still many UC projects, particularly the large global ones, falter.

But some of these global UC deployments do go pretty well. As often as I hear about the stalls, I also hear about the successes. What makes the difference? Experience. And that experience is most likely going to come from a partner that has had success at a global scale and is able to reproduce that success.

I recently had the chance to talk with Tony Gasson of AT&T about this. Tony is the AT&T Director with responsibility for UC internationally. AT&T has had a number of notable successes helping their multinational customers deploy UC globally. According to Tony, what helps AT&T to be successful is their global design perspective. They entered the UC market thinking globally from the moment they jumped in. Architecting at a global level is a lot different than having to figure out how to scale out from a national or regional service. As an experienced global enterprise architect myself, I appreciate how much easier it is to scale down into a local solution from a global platform, than scale up to a global one from a local platform.

Tony also confirmed that global enterprise deployments have their own nuances that benefit from having a UC provider with the business agility and technical expertise of AT&T. AT&T hasrelationships with the major UC vendors that run deep at the engineering core, and their own testing labs across the globe enable them to understand and better engineer for UC performance. A global scale provider like AT&T understands regulatory environments, as well as the unique requirements of specific verticals. All that experience and capability matters.

I also think it is the ability to abstract the platform from the service that really differentiates a UC provider that can help enable a successful global UC deployment. The typical modern enterprise is moving to UC to transform or transition its workforce and its workplace. The company wants to focus on its core business and the benefits of UC, not on discovering and managing all the potential ugliness of the UC deployment. A good UC provider de-risks the platform for the enterprise. A common element in these successful global deployments of UC is the good UC provider. One last thing I’ll mention about global UC providers like AT&T – they have the business depth to do more than just react to product releases. They have the ability to invest in strategies and solutions that go beyond the UC vendor’s product vision to increase the likelihood of success. As good as Microsoft’s and Cisco’s UC products are, these vendors also need help getting it all figured out at scale.

This paper is sponsored by AT&T.


3 Responses to "It Matters Who You Dance With in UC" - Add Yours

Brian McNeill 11/6/2016 9:19:36 AM

AT&T is a network provider, they enable UC but they don't provide UC. So much baggage associated with a carrier centric solution. In my experience, it works better when UC is organic, not off the shelf, If you want to dance, dance alone!
Tony Gasson 11/8/2016 9:32:37 PM

The benefit of carriers offering UC solutions for multi national corporations is that by offering them with their global networks they can help assure performance and security which in turn helps adoption, and further ensure regulatory compliance around the globe which de risks the deployment.. Not sure of the context of the term organic used here but certainly working with a partner can help minimise the unpredictability of organic adoption by developing meaningful adoption programs that help users adopt UC in a context that has maximum benefit to both their own personal, and their company's overall productivity. I have seen organic adoption work well and also fall flat on it's face, it depends on multiple factors including the customers culture. If you don't get good adoption you don't get a good return on investment. Good partners can help you achieve strong, rapid adoption and have the project realised as successful as a result.
Maria Phillips 11/14/2016 8:42:37 AM

I had every intention of forwarding this article to others in the industry due to its spot on portrayal of UC deployment pit falls. Unfortunately, it digressed into an AT&T ad. Very disappointing.

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