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2 Big Myths of UC, Debunked
Considering the expression “a camel is a horse designed by a committee,” perhaps the perfect UC tool is a unicorn -- a completely mythical product designed by marketing committees.
Wikipedia uses 73 words to define unified communications and lists 18 communications functions that are integrated under UC. Despite this, many UC vendors continue to tell us that they have the one-and-only communications and collaboration tool required, because this tool will meet all user needs. Although UC&C tools can improve productivity and sometimes even be transformative, the current products and the state of the industry prevents UC from living up to the definition of making communications “uniform or whole.”
The First Big Myth: One Tool for All
Despite the desire of most UC vendors, it’s difficult for most large organizations to find a single UC tool that meets the needs of all users. Unless the business has a singular focus and the vast majority of employees are knowledge workers with a common role (such as a professional services firm), it’s hard to align every employee’s communications requirements with one tool. In many firms, not all employees work at a computer or carry a smartphone, but everyone still needs to communicate.
In many organizations, there’s an ongoing battle between the IT group and business units. For logical (if self-serving) reasons related to control, support, and security, many IT leaders want to limit the number of communications tools in the enterprise. But when the IT team chooses a UC platform for IT reasons, often the business side of the organization disagrees with the choice and resists the change. This is especially true when a business unit has already deployed a collaboration solution for a specific need.
Many IT execs are finally listening to their internal business leaders and acknowledging that a single UC solution may not be appropriate for their businesses (and all their users). A single UC tool may be easier to support and offer a common experience, but forcing an IT-centric view on the business often leads to the problem of shadow IT, with users seeking tools that provide them a better and more customized fit. (See related No Jitter post, “Can an Enterprise Get to a Single UC Platform?”)
This topic came up during the Enterprise Summit panel earlier this year at Enterprise Connect 2019, as discussed in the recent No Jitter post, “Team Collaboration: Integration or Standardization?” During the panel, the speakers acknowledged the need to balance tools standardization with meeting diverse business needs. As one panel member put it: “… to focus on that one size fits all would definitely be the wrong way.”
Panelists also touched on one of the biggest roadblocks to UC adoption -- the proprietary nature of UC applications and the lack of integration. As a result, communications often become fractured and disjointed -- quite the opposite of “unified.” By comparison, any telephone can call and connect with any other telephone; any email client can send email to any other email client. But a common UC app is required to communicate with other users of the same app. For those users who need to collaborate with multiple external parties, the lack of interoperability among disparate collaboration solutions means having multiple tools for similar functions. Even the average user will find joining external conference calls often means having to download still another app or browser plugin. It gets even worse when trying to leverage the full set of UC tools with several different teams from various organizations.
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