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.
Unified Communications (UC) is a term that is displacing “business communications” because it is a concept and technology approach that integrates user interfaces to support all forms of real-time and asynchronous contact and interaction with people involved in a business process. It is slowly replacing stand-alone business telephony technologies, integrating voice and text-based information. UC is particularly important in mobile environments, where the end user interfaces, both for initiating or receiving a contact, must work flexibly and efficiently within the context of a business process, for each individual user’s needs at the moment.
As a result, the trend towards implementation of UC capabilities is opening new opportunities for traditional technology sales and support channels to assist business organizations in planning and implementing their individual migration from legacy telephone communications to integrated UC capabilities. The key to success in this convergence will be strategic business partnerships with leading infrastructure technology providers and developers, established communications software and service providers, as well as application designers and implementation specialists that can work together to support all aspects of an integrated UC operational environment. UCStrategies calls such UC Business Partners “Solution Integrators.”
One major communication software provider, IBM, describes its UC strategy as being based on four pillars: an open end extensible platform capable of integrating with most leading collaboration and telephony products, technical expertise, industry knowledge and experience and, last but not least, a healthy ecosystem of business partners. IBM relies on business partners or Solution Integrators to build UC solutions on top of its UC platform and to provide the integrated functionality customers require. And because IBM Sametime software integrates out of the box with many Microsoft productivity applications, solutions integrators of a wide variety of backgrounds can find opportunities. IBM provides those partners with access to the technical expertise and integration tools they need to succeed, providing the added UC integration expertise that is lacking in most IT organizations, while giving business partners a key role in one of IBM's newest segments of its software business.
In order to recognize the enterprise business sweet spots for UC, it is important for every UC Business Partner or Solution Integrator to fully understand all operational perspectives and priorities for the different benefits that UC will bring to a business organization. This includes individual end user needs for communications and interactions with people both inside and outside the organization. Any UC solutions implemented for today’s modes of communication must also be ”future proofed’” for tomorrow’s communications.
Today’s enterprise UC migrations typically start with enabling more efficient and effective ways to initiate real-time phone contacts with other people, both inside or outside of any size organization. This may be done “contextually” from “click-to-call” information, coupled with availability information (presence), in a personal contact directory, provided through messaging contacts (email, IM, voice mail, SMS, etc.), or for selective access to live assistance within automated, self-service business process applications (Web, IVR applications).
Although operationally cost efficient, SIP-based IP Telephony that can integrate easily with other UC communication applications, is slowly but surely replacing legacy TDM PBX telephone systems. A big obstacle in migrating any organization to a UC environment is the challenge of ripping and replacing the many existing and expensive telephone systems that still function effectively for person-to-person voice conversations. Integrating existing telephony investments with business process applications and other UC communication applications software (email, voice mail, conferencing, IM, telephony presence, SMS, social networking, and mobile, etc.) has become a short-term target for UC payoffs.
As shown in the diagram below, IBM has made a concerted effort to bring its Business Partners on board to help integrate their customers into a UC services environment. There is a range of services business partners can provide. The greatest customer value – and the greatest revenue opportunity for business partners resides in - first, enabling business applications with unified communications services and, ultimately, enabling business processes in industry vertical scenarios.
UC Services roadmap – Opportunities for IBM Business Partners
What’s The Opportunity For UC Business Partners?
The evolving UC capabilities and technologies provide new opportunities and challenges to enterprises. Because most enterprise IT organizations typically have neither the evolving knowledge and experience for integrating converging legacy telephony with other UC technologies, they need lots of hands-on help to even start moving forward with migrations to real UC solutions. In addition to the challenge of integrating and interoperating with legacy telephony systems, most UC solutions will include:
Business organizations, large or small, will need hands-on support for planning, configuring, installing, integrating, and UC-enabling all the hardware and software pieces in the UC solution picture. This can’t happen overnight because UC technology elements are still evolving and slowing the migration from legacy telephony silos. There are a variety of issues that enterprises need help with from Solution Integrators due to the nature of UC solutions:
These are all areas that UC solution providers must take responsibility for dealing with in helping customers implement UC applications. The question then becomes how will UC Solution Integrators gain that expertise?
The voice or telephony industry is changing drastically. In looking for a strategic partner, UC Solution Integrators or Business Partners have to start thinking about the end results that their customers are looking for, which may require skills that the Solution Integrator doesn’t currently have. Solution Integrators in the UC arena, particularly those who specialize in voice communications, need to partner with leading providers of integration technology that provide robust and flexible integration platforms to help customers extract more value from what they already have and to give Solution Integrators the technological springboard to help those customers evolve when they're ready.
Because of its heavy experience with standards-based, open software, along with its strong role in developing collaboration software, IBM is well positioned to assist its business partners in the various areas of UC, especially in the business process perspective of UC activities.
IBM provides the necessary platforms and tools to enable Business Partners to easily develop and integrate customized, but flexible, business process UC applications. In addition to its UC offerings, notably Sametime and Sametime Unified Telephony, IBM provides a range of tools for its Business Partners, including:
UC is not a single product or application and evolves from the support and participation of different application specialist skills. As shown in the IBM Business Partners Skills diagram at bottom of page, UC will become an ongoing source of business from existing customers as UC software technology continually changes to match evolving customer needs. The following are steps that are recommended for potential UC Solutions Integrators:
1. Identify your current “expertise” within the technologies of UC, e.g., business process analysis, applications (telephony, IVR, contact center, etc.), IP telephony integration, business process integration, mobility;
2. Identify customer UC needs and associated skill requirements;
3. Learn additional UC skills required by your customers, or
4. Partner with others who already qualify in those other skills; and
5. Develop your additional skills as needed, leveraging the UC resources available at UCStrategies.com, or from specific vendors. For example, IBM’s Partnerworld is an excellent place for IBM partners to help grow their businesses.
As the UC industry changes, so too do the skills for Solution Integrators and Business Partners. Working with vendor companies that provide these partners with the tools they need to succeed is crucial. As a sponsor of UCStrategies’ UC Summit, IBM is investing in helping its partners prosper.
Services Roadmap – IBM Business Partners Skills
This paper is sponsored by IBM.
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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?