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Interoperability, the UC Undercurrent That Matters Most

The battle over interoperability versus a closed ecosystem approach certainly isn’t a new one. Microsoft’s critics have been howling about it for decades and, while the company has changed its tune of late, it remains to be seen how it’ll follow that up in its execution. It’s also an issue that we haven’t fully resolved in the unified communications and collaboration space. An archaic mindset still exists with some providers that’s holding businesses back from realizing their true productivity potential.
 
To a certain extent, I get it. Vendors need to make money and are always looking for ways to gobble up a larger slice of the total addressable market pie in order to grow. But when that comes at the expense of customers’ business efficiency, the ability to choose, and return on investment, a line is crossed in terms of making a quick buck by locking them into an ecosystem that doesn’t play well with others, rather than sincerely serving them and helping them solve business problems.
 
Even in the era of expanding UC portfolios, we’re still living in a best-of-breed world where customers should be able to evaluate and choose the enterprise chat, PBX/VoIP, or video communication solution that’s the best fit for them and augments or complements other technologies’ fortes. They shouldn’t operate in fear of being locked into proprietary cages where they don’t have the freedom and flexibility of choice, instead dealing with constant uncertainty about whether their various solutions can or will work together. The key to making that confluence of best-of-breed tools an effective, unified reality is to be sure they’re interoperable.
 
Most UC vendors have come down on one side of that fence or the other: They’re either broadly interoperable, or they’re not. When we talk about interoperability, there shouldn’t be a tax to get to that state – it should be baked into a provider’s DNA and portfolio. Here are a few questions to ask vendors under consideration that will help ensure the UC stack being constructed really will be interoperable and unified:
 
  • Does the software or service interop with our existing hardware and software implementations (or vice versa)?
  • Is the solution built on top of open standards like WebRTC and built to work with protocols like SIP, H.264 and Opus? (If not, there’s a decent chance it’s not as interoperable as they claim.)
  • Are there any hidden ‘interoperability fees’?
  • Beyond delivering its own ROI, how can this solution expand the ROI of other communication and collaboration platform investments?
  • Does this vendor seem to maintain an overarching spirit and culture of interoperability? Will they commit to being interoperable over the entire lifetime of the solution?
 
As with my previous list of security questions for vendors, this isn’t exhaustive but can serve as a solid foundation to cut to the chase on providers’ initiatives and intentions around interoperability. For our part, you can head to the Lifesize website to see some of the platforms and tools we’ve made a conscious decision to be interoperable with as well as a refreshed Microsoft Teams integration, and we’re adding more all the time. In our estimation, the more interoperability that transpires, the more unified UC will become.

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