Presence Plays a Part in Unified Communications
On the nojitter site recently, a couple of my fellow analysts wrote some interesting pieces about the role of presence. I completely concur with their assessments that presence is the foundation of UC. In fact, I believe that presence is one of only three or four elements that are necessary for a UC solution. While there are many elements or components that make up a UC solution, there are only a few that I consider essential in order for something to be considered unified communications. I don’t want to give away my criteria, but suffice it to say that presence capabilities, including both the presence server and client, top the list (here’s a teaser – the rest of the list is in my new market study, “Unified Communications Market 2007-2012”).
When I talk about presence, I mean one of several types of presence – including telephony presence, IM or online presence, and mobile presence (this can be based on whether or not the mobile device is turned on). In order to achieve the many benefits of unified communications (increased revenues, enhanced customer service, reduced costs, and operational improvements), presence is required.
The biggest problem with presence right now is the lack of federation and interoperability. Here’s a short extract from the report that discusses some of the challenges in the UC market facing users and vendors:
Using email as an analogy, it doesn’t matter what email system you’re using, you can send and receive email from anyone regardless of what email system they’re using. Enterprise-class IM and presence systems and services do not yet work the same way – today, there is little or no federation between different enterprise IM and presence systems, although some of these systems offer federation with a few public IM systems, such as AIM and Yahoo.
For UC to be used successfully outside of the enterprise walls to customers, partners, suppliers, and others, federation is required across different types of IM services, and across different presence/IM servers and systems from different vendors (whether Microsoft, IBM, Cisco, Avaya, Alcatel-Lucent, etc.). For presence to be effective, it needs to work in a multivendor environment, especially when being used across company boundaries. This can happen either by system-to-system communications or by linkages to a central clearing house, and either way will require adoption of standards
Microsoft and IBM are working on interoperability, as per the “VoiceCon Handshake,” but it will take a lot more work to get the disparate presence systems to work together. In order to communicate effectively and efficiently with people and stakeholders outside of your company, like customers and partners, the ability to detect presence regardless of which presence system or service someone is using is required. While presence is extremely valuable within the enterprise and helps workers better communicate amongst themselves, we need to go to the next step – beyond the enterprise.