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UC in 2009: How'd We Do?

Last year at this time I wrote about my wish list for UC in 2009. Let's see how we did:1. Channel training and incentives for UC: A year ago the channel needed to be incentivized to go beyond selling switches to selling UC solutions, especially those that integrate with business processes and applications, and most VARs were still leading with IP Telephony rather than UC. This hasn't changed much, especially in light of the poor economy. To make things worse, several vendors took away incentives for selling UC licenses by bundling UC functions with core PBXs. I don't expect much of a change in 2010, although some vendors are working with their channel partners to assess their UC sales readiness and capabilities, which will help identify areas of strengths and weakness and where more work is needed. Grade: C.

2. Develop and provide ROI tools that demonstrate how UC will impact the bottom line. There has been very little progress in terms of creating ROI tools and demonstrating hard ROI from UC capabilities such as presence, click-to-call, etc., with the exception of Microsoft, which updated its ROI tools and published a large number of case studies identifying quantified benefits from UC. The real payback for UC to date has been from SIP trunking, web/video conferencing and consolidation of infrastructure. In 2010, I expect most sales teams to continued to focus on these types of cost savings. Grade: B-.

3. Federation and interoperability: Some headway was made, but we still have a long way to go. IBM and Microsoft are doing commendable jobs of inter-enterprise and inter-domain federation, and many companies are federating with their clients via OCS or Sametime, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Grade: B.

4. More involvement from line of business managers in UC: This isn't really happening very much; line of business managers still do not play a large enough role in UC purchase and roll out decisions. Business managers need to work with the IT managers, vendors and SIs to determine which business processes can be improved with UC capabilities. While some CIOs understand the business case and justification of UC in their environments, I'd still like to see more involvement from the business side. Grade: C.

5. Integrating UC with social networking: IBM has done a nice job of integrating its social networking products/services with UC capabilities, and Siemens showed a clever demo at VoiceCon San Francisco, but I still don't see a click-to-call button on my twitter or Facebook page (Phweet works with Twitter, but it's still in alpha testing). Grade: B.

6. More UC product offerings from applications vendors like Oracle, SAP,, etc. The business process companies, especially SAP, are slowly getting on board, and adding embedded click-to-call and other UC capabilities from within their applications. SAP is doing a nice job of integrating with Microsoft OCS, Siemens OpenScape and IBM Sametime. I'd like to see more activity from Oracle and Peoplesoft in 2010. Grade: B+.

7. Switch vendors need to find ways to add value to their products and remain relevant: Last year I noted that mobile phones and services are becoming the predominant means of communication even within the enterprise, and switch vendors need to find ways of proving the switch's value in support of mobility solutions. This hasn't really changed, and we're seeing more workers using mobile devices (mostly independently of their office voice switch) rather than their desktop phones. The iPhone is slowly becoming more accepted within the enterprise, and smart phones will continue to proliferate as the enterprise worker's device of choice, especially in light of Google's new Nexus One. Also, switch vendors are showing little creativity in creating or partnering for exciting new devices. Grade: D+.

Here's to Unified Communications in 2010--cheers!