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.
A couple recent articles point out several reasons why the writers claim that unified communications is a failure, although VARs and system integrators stand to benefit from UC’s biggest failing, which is interoperability. I usually don’t write articles about articles, but I’m getting a bit tired of reading about the “UC is a failure” meme.
Recent articles by a Gartner analyst and a CRN editor highlighted the point that UC vendors do not provide the interoperability needed for customers to deploy UC solutions, and the responsibility for ensuring interoperability falls on the shoulders of the channel.
The CRN article points out several issues, some of which I agree with, and others that I disagree with.
1. “Five or so years after it burst on the scene, UC is still a term that engenders bafflement among end users.”
Really? I think most people understand what UC is all about by now. Whereas two years ago I still began my UC presentations talking about the definition of UC and what it does, I rarely do this any longer. I sometimes provide information about the way I view aspects of UC, such as describing how we’ve identified two types of UC (UC-User and UC-Business Process), but generally everyone gets what we’re talking about when discussing UC. Each vendor has their own spin on it as they try to differentiate themselves from their competitors, but I think we’d be hard pressed to find IT managers who are baffled by UC.
On the other hand, as Jon Arnold points out, UC is not static and continues to evolve. Jon notes, “A key focus should be on the idea that UC is never really finished. Unlike buying a phone system, where the features are pretty fixed, clients need to see constant evolution as a key value driver for UC.” Perhaps because of its flexibility and ability to adapt to new communication trends and demands, UC is confusing to some people. It’s not as specific as a voice mail system or a key system, for example, and there are lots of elements involved, which can certainly be confusing to enterprises and they struggle to understand the changing nature of UC.
2. “A lack of co-operation among the major vendors is making implementations a nightmare for resellers.”
This I agree with – especially the part about “the major vendors.” Yes, integrating Cisco, Microsoft, and Avaya systems can be quite challenging, and this is definitely impacting UC deployments and sales. When adding video to the mix, interoperability becomes even more complex. Vendors like Cisco and Microsoft don’t have a compelling desire to interoperate as they want to own the stack. Until more customers demand it, interoperability will be elusive, causing problems for vendors, their channel partners, and customers.
However, vendors such as Siemens Enterprise Communications and Aastra are more open and not as difficult to integrate. Enterprises can and should carefully evaluate their vendors based on their level of openness and ability to integrate with other products, and work with the products that meet their needs for interoperability.
3. “The cost and complexity of rolling out a true UC solution - even when it is from a single vendor – is still viewed as a barrier to adoption by many.”
Yes and no. UC is not simple, and the complexity does scare off some potential customers. And cost is generally cited as the main barrier to purchasing and deploying UC systems. However, costs have certainly been coming down in the past two years, with vendors bundling capabilities together so that purchasing a UC solution, including voice communications, is no more costly than buying an IP PBX. In fact, according to Marty Parker’s article based on findings from his RFP sessions at Enterprise Connect, the leading UC vendors can all provide UC as an overlay onto any installed PBX, without the need to upgrade or replace the PBX in order to install UC. He notes that on average, these overlay solutions provide UC for 40% less than the cost of replacing the PBX in order to get UC, with the average price at $96 per user per year, with Siemens coming in at $35 per user per year for 2,000 users for five years.
Stephen Leaden wrote that UC is now, on the most part, bundled with standard desktop phone end-point licensing, which makes the acquisition of UC part of the VoIP environment pretty painless, if you’re buying new phones. He also found that most manufacturers are allowing the enterprise to use their own servers if desired, which allows the customer to use their enterprise-class virtual machine platforms rather than having an island of communications servers; i.e., the customers want to put UC into their ‘VM server farm’ rather than just running it on their own (yet still dedicated) hardware. Some vendors won’t support that, but it’s what customers really want.
In terms of complexity, we’re seeing more “all in one” solutions that are easier to deploy and implement. Companies like Interactive Intelligence, Shoretel, ADTRAN, Aastra, and Mitel offer solutions that are less complex to roll out. However, integration with solutions from third parties may still be an issue.
4. “End users are more commonly opting for pilots and proof-of-concepts or just buying voice with the ability to do more when the business case is proved.”
And this is a problem, because…??? I often tell clients and enterprises that I speak with that they should start with pilots and proof of concepts in order to see how end users are using the UC tools, and to identify how UC changes the way in which people work and get their jobs done. I generally recommend that companies start by figuring out the use cases that make the most sense and let users get comfortable with their UC tools. Gradually roll out UC to other users in the organization, based on user roles (mobile worker, executive, etc.) or use cases, and then expand. This approach makes deployment easier for the VARs, the IT department, and the end users.
Lastly, I was surprised to see a writer for CRN complaining about interoperability, as this issue has been a boon to VARs and SI’s. While I’m sure many of them would rather be spending their time and effort on more exciting projects than getting UC products to interoperate, solving interoperability problems has been a large part of what many of these organizations do, and has provided them the opportunity to sell more than boxes.
Yes, we’d all like to see UC systems easier and less expensive to deploy, and the need for interoperability is a given. There’s no excuse for the lack of interoperability between vendors, and the vendors really need to work together to benefit not only their customers, but also their own bottom lines. However, that’s not likely to happen any time soon.
But this shouldn’t impact the ability for enterprises to deploy UC solutions, as many UC resellers and SI’s now have the necessary expertise and experience in terms of integrating products from Cisco, Microsoft, and others. While it would be nice if interoperability was simpler, that’s not the case, but there are many VARs and SI’s that are fully capable of doing the integration work.
The good news for channel partners and system integrators is that they will play a key role in the UC market, becoming not just resellers, but trusted advisors that organizations need to work with in order to achieve success.
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?