UC Now More Than Ever
In these turbulent times, Unified Communications (UC) is a safe haven where you can find excellent returns from moderate investments. The turbulence is coming from two directions, economic and technical, and UC is the best response in both cases.Economically, the recession appears to be global and is likely to last for several years based on government forecasts in both the US and European Union. In this situation, companies need to economize, of course, and probably need to adjust their business models. UC solutions can be the answer to these needs. Software-based UC clients, both desktop and mobile, enable tele-working to cut office space costs, as well as telephone tolls and cellular bills. Presence keeps these remote resources visible and accessible. Click-to-communicate or conference via IM, voice, or web-sharing, with video options allows business to proceed as needed without the time and expense of travel. UC has also dramatically reduced costs for external audio, video, and web conferencing services, while improving conferencing experiences using the new software clients.
UC enables extension of the enterprise value chains to include contractors and partners much more easily and effectively. In the past, companies seldom provided their suppliers with telephones and extensions on their PBX, but that's changing: Enterprises increasingly include suppliers and partners in UC applications, whether through guest accounts or through UC federation for presence, IM and click-to-communicate.
UC also enables breakthroughs in business processes, by eliminating communications "hot spots" that often accompany traditional telephone-based methods. With presence and software resource locators, expertise can be found without delay, enabling transaction acceleration and collaboration enhancements. Case studies show this in many industries, with highlights in manufacturing, financial services, health care, and government.
Technologically, this is also a time of great uncertainty. We see forecasts that social networking is the new communications medium, with Facebook replacing meetings and Twitter replacing the coffee break. The Siemens demo of Twitter as a communications console at VoiceCon San Francisco 2009 is just one example of this type of change. We see other new themes in communications such as Cisco's emphasis on collaboration as the new communications paradigm, with major elements provided with WebEx extensions "in the cloud." The future of the PBX is up for grabs, too, driven both by company mergers (InterTel into Mitel, Ericsson into Aastra, and now Nortel into Avaya) and by the evolution to SIP-based service architectures, both of which adjust the product roadmaps. (See Jim Burton's article on the new "SAX" concept.) Avaya Aura Session Manager is one example of this evolution of communications networking and applications.
Selective UC investments make great sense in response to these technology risks. The library of UC case studies provides the proof points of and recipes for UC success. Since almost all UC applications are focused on a specific user group and business process area, the investments can be contained and specific with direct links to the benefits and ROI. Also, most UC products such as IBM Sametime, Microsoft Office Communications Server, Cisco's WebEx, and most of the IP PBX vendor's UC elements (presence, conferencing, video, mobility) can be implemented as overlays to voice infrastructure. This buffers the UC investments from much of the technological uncertainty suggested above.
To learn more about your UC investment opportunities, please join me for two important sessions at VoiceCon Orlando 2010, both on Monday, March 22. In the morning, the "UC Deep Dive" will provide design and configuration details of the most common types of UC implementations. In the afternoon, the "UC Options--Who's Offering What?" session will review the UC offerings and pricing from a dozen leading suppliers. This much information just isn't offered anywhere else. I hope to see you there!In these turbulent times, Unified Communications (UC) is a safe haven where you can find excellent returns from moderate investments.