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Frustrating and Annoying, But Not Necessarily Bad

Enterprises can’t just gobble up the latest "new thing." Those sticky issues like security, interoperability, scalability and manageability--not to mention ROI--need to be addressed before any new product or service makes it into the mainstream.

On a warm, muggy, late summer’s day, a not-so-young-man’s fancy turns, inevitably, to...UC! What else??

Two recent posts on NoJitter are of particular interest. The first is by Melanie Turek, who provides important perspective about expectations for CEBP. Melanie writes, "CEBP is most advantageous when companies identify key elements of their processes and use communications to improve them in unique ways. But most organizations don't have the time, know-how or patience to do that."

That gets to the heart of the issue with CEBP and, by extension, to UC. It's one thing for an enterprise to add IM or presence, even video, to the communications tool kit it provides to its employees. It’s quite another to undertake a major overhaul of key business processes and embed communications into those processes.

Given that reality, Melanie argues for a more turn-key approach--pre-packaging CEBP apps, deliver them more like SAP and Oracle. But even this strategy has its limits, in part because the migration to IP communications still has a long way to go--she estimates that no more than 50% of the lines in enterprises are IP today. While it's certainly true that UC and CEBP can be implemented over TDM, it's also true that widespread rollout of these advanced communications capabilities won’t occur until IP communications has widely penetrated an enterprise organization.

Of course many of UC's hoped-for benefits seem already achievable in the consumer market, and Dave Michels' post "Google Goes VoIP" gives an important update on the package Google is assembling for non-enterprise customers. He explains, "By adding VoIP to Gmail, the Gmail client is a Skype alternative enabling its users to make and receive calls.

"Call Phones in Gmail is a blend and improvement of the existing services from Gmail, GChat and Google Voice," he continues. "It's a new feature in Gmail that enables voice calling, and it is (or will be) available to all Gmail users--at least in the US. To access the feature, a voice and video plugin must be installed. Gmail's Contacts are integrated and contacts can be selected/searched or digits can be entered in the simple keypad."

Michels sees this most recent Google announcement as only the first wave (whoops, Google pulled the plug on Wave), as only the first step in a much more involved offering. He notes, "The plugin in question is used for voice and video, likely using codecs from GIPS, a company Google recently acquired. This does indeed suggest that video calling may be in Google Voice's future. Currently video calls are only supported between users with the plugin, but considering both that Android is controlled by Google and the progress demonstrated with Apple's Facetime, it doesn't seem unreasonable to predict broader video calling. GIPS demonstrated such functionality prior to acquisition by Google with Video Engine Mobile. Google Voice can continue to tie Android with other Google services. A strong partner might be T-Mobile, which needs a patch to fill its iPhone and Skype holes."

These two posts tell us a lot about where UC and advanced communications-based apps like CEBP are--and aren’t--as the summer of 2010 begins to draw to a close. We hear a lot about the "consumerization of IT," but Michels notes that none of the brass from Google Enterprise participated in the recent announcement. And with its retreat on Google Wave and its continued reluctance to talk to enterprise audiences about Google Voice, there's no reason to think that Google is going to aggressively move into the enterprise communications and collaboration market soon. Eric Krapf wrote an excellent piece on this issue here.

The longer it takes Google to come into this market, the better off competitors like Microsoft, Cisco, Avaya and others will be. But Google’s hesitation isn’t good news for enterprise customers who have yearned for another big player to come into this market and stimulate much more competition.

The longer Google delays, the longer the delay also for any hook-up between enterprise communications and the "cloud." And for the same reasons. There are plenty of service providers already offering cloud-based communications services, but the uptake so far remains slow and low.

And "slow and low" uptake brings us back to Melanie Turek's thesis. Enterprises can’t just gobble up the latest "new thing." Those sticky issues like security, interoperability, scalability and manageability--not to mention ROI--need to be addressed before any new product or service makes it into the mainstream. That can be frustrating and annoying, but not necessarily a bad thing.