Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
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Eric Krapf | April 24, 2008 |


Organizational Issues for Unified Communications

Organizational Issues for Unified Communications We've been talking to our friends at as we prepare for VoiceCon San Francisco, and one of the things we're trying to get our arms around is how the organizational challenges will play out as enterprises move from TDM to IP telephony to Unified Communications.

We've been talking to our friends at as we prepare for VoiceCon San Francisco, and one of the things we're trying to get our arms around is how the organizational challenges will play out as enterprises move from TDM to IP telephony to Unified Communications.

We've been talking to our friends at as we prepare for VoiceCon San Francisco, and one of the things we're trying to get our arms around is how the organizational challenges will play out as enterprises move from TDM to IP telephony to Unified Communications.Marty Parker of UCStrategies believes we ain't seen nothin' yet when it comes to organizational upheaval that's attributable to communications technology migrations (I'll get to more on Marty's views in a moment).

The first-generation organizational challenge was straightforward: Voice vs. Data. The old problem was that telecom people knew nothing about LANs, and LAN people knew nothing about telecom. Neither was interested in learning about the other, and mutual suspicion was the rule in many (though definitely not all) enterprises.

When VOIP first loomed over the enterprise, the assumption was that telecom people didn't want to put voice traffic on the data network because of the then-prevalent consensus that voice would sound bad on IP, and that LANs and servers had a tendency to crash, an attribute that was absent from TDM voice systems. It turned out that not only were the telecom people resistant; so were the data people. They didn't want that voice stuff mucking up their network, which carried a lot of traffic but did so with imperfect performance. They really didn't know what voice would do to their networks, but they weren't keen to find out.

Technology solved that problem, for the most part, and self-interest took care of the human side; voice people realized that TDM was a dead end and knowing at least something about switches and routers was a pretty good career move.

With the advent of Unified Communications, another set of IT people comes into the equation: Application/desktop people. If voice is going to be integrated into business process applications, and there's going to be a tighter integration between call control, presence management and messaging interfaces, this brings in a whole new set of people who previous handled these tasks with relative unconcern about real-time traffic.

In yesterday's AVST webinar on interoperability, Marty Parker sketched out what I think is a pretty groundbreaking analysis of how the organization may break down into a new set of layers as UC starts to permeate the enterprise. Marty segments it into three layers:

  • User Experience
  • Applications and Servers
  • Network

    I don't know that many enterprises are going to rush to formalize this kind of a change--for that matter, how many folks still have the world "telecom" in their titles? My research, gleaned from looking at people's badges at VoiceCon, indicates that the answer is, "Lots."

    But what it means to be a "telecom" person is different now than it used to be, and I'd be shocked to find any telecom person today who knows nothing about IP.

    In fact, telecom people's skills really plug them into all 3 of Marty's layers: You know User Experience; in fact many people have pointed out that one advantage telecom people have over datacom people is that the telecom department has a history of supporting the end user directly, and so has some built-in skills here. But of course the IP-PBX and other communications-related functionality will reside at the Applications and Servers layer, while the demands of QOS and network management will be met at the Network layer.

    Marty Parker predicts that the transition to this new structure will be enormously more disruptive to the organization than was the simple voice-data convergence. That may wind up being true, but I remember that voice-data divide as being a really big deal. I was in the audience and later on stage when old-time telecom people howled for blood when Cisco debated Nortel on the viability of IP-telephony. I conducted birds-of-a-feather sessions where open hostility was expressed from either side. It came almost as a revelation when Dave Stever from PPL, a Pennsylvania-based utility company, got on stage and described how he actually managed to successfully merge the voice and data divisions of his IT shop.

    So while the technical challenge of reorganizing for UC may outstrip the voice-data convergence challenge, I think people will be more open to the changes that will have to come, precisely because many of them lived through the voice-data convergence and wound up benefiting from it.


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