It Matters Who You Dance With in UC
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
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.