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Time to Get Jiggy With UC Management at EC13

I, like so many of you reading this blog, are at or heading to Orlando for the 2013 edition of Enterprise Connect. It appears we'll have the normal hot themes such as video and Cisco versus Microsoft, but UC management should rear its head this year in a much bigger way. I've got a number of sessions related to UC management including Tuesday at 4:45 (UC? Mobility? FMC? BYOD? SIP Trunking? Video? WebRTC? It's Time to Take Control), Thursday 8am (Software Defined Networks: Impact on Communications) and Thursday at 9am (UC Management: Does it Really Exist?)

So after all these years, why now? Well I think Towards end of last year, I ran a joint ZK Research–Tech Target UC survey to gain a snapshot of where companies are with deployments and what the primary barriers are. One of the first questions I asked was "What is the status of UC in your organization today?" and 23% responded that it's fully deployed across the company. Another 26% claimed to have it partially deployed across the organization and 12% have it deployed to a small number of workers. That's over 60% with production UC deployments.

Clearly, UC has reached mass adoption and that's when management becomes more important. Early adopters can stitch solutions together and create custom management tools, but the majority of IT organizations just do not have the skill sets.

This thought is confirmed by the survey as well. When we asked what was the top obstacle towards a broader UC deployment, the responses, "Lack of trained IT staff", "Complexity of deployment", and "Requires significant organizational changes" scored high.

This has played out in other markets as well. Normally the management of "stuff" usually precedes the stuff by a few years; it's just with the UC industry it's taken longer, probably because of the continually changing nature of UC.

The first Enterprise Connect press release I received today was from UC management vendor, VOSS, who is actually the sponsor of the "Take control" panel. The press release announced the company's "UC Overbuild" solution, which is designed to help companies optimize the UC deployment that is already in place. From the survey we know that's over 60% of companies today.

UC Overbuild is designed to help IT automate many of the administrative tasks that are too cumbersome or that take too long to do manually. This includes multi-vendor provisioning, mobile administration and MACDs. Automation has actually been a big theme across IT over the past half decade and is finally becoming a more important component of the communications world.

Also, UC Overbuild is a componentized solution that allows organizations to apply management to the areas where IT departments actually need the support. Since no two deployments are exactly the same, the customization capabilities of UC Overbuild should allow almost any company to deploy it and apply it to the areas of the most pain.

To achieve this higher level of manageability, the solution has three core components:

* Centralized management. This gives IT departments a single pane of glass to view all of the network components, users, devices, services and other UC resources. Historically this has been done with separate management tools, and the only way to create a common front end was through a significant amount of custom software.

* Decentralized administration. While it's important to have a central view of the UC deployment, management tasks should be distributed to enable a sub-set of tasks to be done by local administrators. Branch administrators, field engineers or other local administrators can access UC Overbuild through a web portal or even a mobile phone.

* End user self-care portal. Again, here's another theme that's been growing across IT and has been late to make its way to the communications industry. Through the portal, users can manage many of the service settings that are typically done by an IT department. This can bring the administration costs of management way down. In other industries, I've seen self-service knock support costs down by as much as 30%.

This continually evolving market we call UC brings with it continually evolving complexity as well as a stream of new skills that need to be added. It's time that companies got serious about management tools, and there should be no shortage of them at this year's Enterprise Connect.

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