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Thoughts from the Road: Siemens' Open Minds Events

I'm participating on a series of UC road shows with Siemens and Information Week, and the first one kicked off this week in Houston. (For a list of the other venues, and to register, please visit During these half-day seminars, we're exploring the value of unified communications; the best way to deploy the technology; and the best practices needed to achieve maximum success.Here, a few thoughts that came up or popped into my head during the first event:

* During a recession, what matters isn't that you cut, it's what you cut--and more important, what you don't cut. (Thanks, Mike Lewis, SVP & Area GM, Indirect Channel & Federal Sales at Siemens.)

* Despite the recession, many IT leaders aren't really scared--they've seen this before, because all they deal with is change; that's what IT is about these days. And the smart ones recognize that with that change comes opportunity. (Thanks Kirk Laughlin, Contributing Editor at InformationWeek.)

* There's still a great deal of scrutiny around the business value of UC, as well as how it can help companies get closer to the customer and reduce churn.

* IT needs to provide leadership in this area-it's IT's job to bring people to the new technology, knowing the value it can deliver. Don't wait for end users to ask for it, or until it's simply a requirement of doing business.

* FMC isn't gaining a lot of momentum yet-despite the ever-present hype. But once Millennials enter the work force en mass, won't most of them be happy with a single, mobile phone device? And, if FMC is a reality, won't that allow companies to ditch their desk phones once and for all? (Thanks to UC clients on the PC and mobile device...)

We also got insight into some of the hard dollar savings companies are seeing with UC. Siemens, which hired an outside firm to audit its own internal deployment, is saving more than $2 million a year in audio conferencing costs alone, for instance. Rick Puskar, Siemens' VP of Sales for Unified Communications, says companies will save 30-35 percent on SIP trunking, right out of the gate. And here's a really interesting idea: replacing desk phones with soft phones can save organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars in electricity costs, since they no longer have souped up (and plugged in) desk phones drawing from the grid.

My key takeaway is UC is in a strange position right now: It continues to be a very nascent market, with the demand for cost justification top of mind. On the other hand, I truly believe the move to UC is inevitable. In 10 years, "UC" will simply be "C"--it will enable the way most people communicate. Companies that understand that, and deploy the technology now, will get a first-mover advantage (and, admittedly, some of the implementation headaches that come with it).