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Dimension Data Discusses UC and Cross Stitching

A recurring theme during the conference was about how workers have capabilities like chat, IM, and video conferencing at home and expect these same tools to be in the workplace to help make them more productive. Other trends mentioned are the same ones we've been hearing about from users and vendors - virtualized communications, process enablement (bringing presence into the process), and IT strategy being driven by user demand.

I was impressed with the company's implementation and usage of UC throughout the organization - from executives to operations managers to administrative assistants and everyone else in the company, enabling all workers to use capabilities like click to dial, ad hoc conferencing, video conferencing, and more.The internal rollout of unified communications is completed in four regions, with the last region is nearing completion, enabling all the domains to be federated with UC capabilities.

The company has expanded on its standard methodology for deployment of IP telephony solutions, and offers a UC Development Model (UCDM), a tool customers can use to "help prioritize their investment in unified communications, to assess their competence and capabilities in UC, and to develop a roadmap for implementation."

The UCDM is used to create a road map and help ensure that the organization's people, process and technology areas are "business relevant" and prioritized correctly. This model isa strategic tool to help customers produce UC strategies and execution plans, taking into account user segmentation, the network architecture, business integration, strategic value of the solution, the user experience, and more. I was glad to hear about the focus on business relevance, which of course is a key part of a UC solution.

During his session, Mark Slaga, CTOand CIO, noted that implementing UC without a roadmap is like "cross stitching in the dark - it can be bloody, and when you turn the lights on, not pretty." He stated that "Everyone gets the 'C' part of UC, but not the 'U' or unified part," and most customers are learning about UC on the fly, often getting a particular vendors' point of view. However, one of the analysts rightly pointed out that Dimension Data itself has taken Cisco's point of view on UC (UC begins with the network) rather than Microsoft's view (UC begins with the desktop application), although it makes sense that Dimension Data would have this viewpoint or perspective since the company has its roots and strengths in networking.

Dimension Data has expertise with both Cisco and Microsoft solutions, and has implemented a number of UC solutions requiring integration of those companies' products. While Cisco and Microsoft implementations account for a good deal of the company's business, it also offers UC solutions across multiple vendors (often times utilizing Genesys' GETS product to integrate with diverse PBXs).

In the presentation I gave at VoiceCon and other venues, there is a slide with columns listing the various types of vendors offering different elements or components that make up a UC solution. The last column shows the system integrators, who I state are the key players that put "all this stuff together." Since no one vendor can provide a complete UC solution, integration is critical, and it's the SI's role to not only help integrate most of the components, but to tie them to the business processes and applications. This is where a company like Dimension Data can really shine.