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UC: A Means, Not an End
Interestingly, however, when enterprise executives were presenting during VoiceCon, the enthusiasm was more muted. All expressed interest in UC and a general belief in its inevitability. Some provided important case studies about piloting and/or rolling out UC. But if there was one item on which there was consensus among the enterprise practitioners, it was that proof of ROI and implementation issues remain significant obstacles to deployment.
Some of those hurdles were addressed, although not entirely answered, during VoiceCon. On the interoperability front, Microsoft and IBM made major progress on the promise they made earlier this year to enable presence federation between OCS and Sametime.
While everyone in the business genuflects to the importance of interoperability, as we all know, it's honored more in the breach. My colleague, Eric Krapf wrote a great column recently that takes that reality into account and contends that while interoperability is an important goal, as a practical matter, interworking may be more important, at least for now.
Eric argues that interworking, "isn't as fancy as a presence-enabled, business process-integrated, unified communications system, but I'd argue it has more practical value in the near term. It helps you take costs out your network and serve the immediate needs of your workforce. It lets you slow-roll your TDM-to-IP migration in a tight investment climate, while still opening up collaborative technologies that also save on costs, such as conferencing in all its media."
The fact that the industry is tilting, albeit slightly, away from a focus on what full-blown interoperable UC can deliver and towards a more narrow focus what is achievable today reflects a new level of maturity within the UC community. But it also reflects the reality of what is likely to be a tough market in the months ahead.
During VoiceCon there were many presentations that emphasized how UC could help companies save money and improve productivity during these troubled times, but I didn't get the sense that the audience was taking those messages to heart. Instead, what I did hear from attendees, loudly and often, is considerable interest in finding low-cost solutions to real day-to-day problems.
In short, enterprises are interested in solving problems. If UC is the best tool, so be it; if it's not, the enterprise will quickly move on by.