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What I'd particularly like to figure out is how these newcomers are approaching the issue of Unified Communications. Which brings me to where I'm really going with this post: The UC buying decision. Thinking back to yesterday's post on IBM, I'm thinking that the difference between UC and IP-telephony, and a major reason there's so much confusion about UC, is that different enterprises come to the UC buying decision for different reasons.
In that IBM post, I quoted Ruchi Prasad of Nortel and Craig Schuman of Microsoft talking about how, in some organizations, UC considerations are driven by the buying decision around messaging systems (and, by extension--so to speak--desktops). But other UC decisions may be made for other reasons. For example, a financial institution may adopt enterprise IM for compliance reasons, and may not touch their email platform. On the other hand, as in Ruchi's and Craig's email example, they may use the occasion to explore UC more broadly.
Marty Parker of UC Strategies talks about 3 kinds of paths to UC: Extend telecom; extend desktops; extend applications. Not only is this a useful way of categorizing the different vendors playing in this space: IP-PBX (extend telecom) vs. IBM/Microsoft (extend desktops) vs. SAP/Oracle/Microsoft (extend applications). It's also the way to think about where the buyers are coming from.
I can't emphasize enough how little consensus I see in almost every aspect of UC. When I interviewed Simon Gwatkin of Mitel for a podcast that I'll be posting shortly, he said he wasn't seeing presence as a particularly important driver for UC adoption right now; yet most of the marketecture drawings put presence at the core of a next-gen UC system. In a way, those 2 positions are perfectly compatible: In UC, it's much more likely that enterprises will work their way into the core rather than out from it. Still it suggests that UC is not a platform decision or something that you can or would put out an RFP to build as a comprehensive system.
Do you need a comprehensive, multi-year, multi-stage UC plan? Could you create one even if you thought you did need it? For IP-telephony, it's (by comparison) more straightforward: You're making a plan to roll out a specific, well-defined set of functions more or less ubiquitously. With UC, there are tons of variables affecting what you roll out, where and when.
It's going to take some time to sort out, but VoiceCon next week wouldn't be a bad place to start. Just saying.