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Want True UC? Go Native
The desktop phone, for as long in the tooth as it is, sure does cause a whole lot of trouble for enterprise communications strategists.
"Endpoints are always the crux of the conversation," as one UC consultant told me just the other day (see related post, Microsoft, Voice & the Cloud: A Partner Perspective).
That consultant is Tim Harrington, principal Skype for Business architect with ConnectSolutions, a managed services provider and Microsoft cloud partner. After our conversation, I visualized communications consultants the world over crossing their fingers -- and maybe their toes, too -- as they sat down for UC discussions with their clients. Harrington put it this way:
"I'll walk into a conversation about UC, and I hope that they haven't made the decision in their heads already that they need to keep the endpoints that they're using -- because, if they have, it's going to be a big struggle."
The thing is, "companies want this shiny new UC object, but they want to use it with a really old endpoint," he explained.
And that, of course, is illogical, in that it breaks the intended user experience of UC.
As so often happens within the context of enterprise IT, this is a case of the ideal vs. the real world. That's the very issue explored by No Jitter blogger Tom Brannen, an independent communications consultant and member of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants, in his July 15 post, Skipping UC. On one hand you've got a "wonderful world, full of exciting promise in all its paradigm shifting glory." But unless you're dealing with a greenfield deployment, that promise becomes laughable in the face of budget, resources, and other business realities.
That good old endpoint, and the voice attached to it, is one of those realities.
How often have we heard the story of UC decisions mired in corporate infighting? It's a familiar tale of legacy voice folks championing legacy PBX-inspired Cisco UC solutions and desktop overseers advocating voice integration into the Lync clients (now Skype for Business) originally brought in for instant messaging and presence. As Harrington pointed out, such realities tend to result in development of UC architectures aimed at providing the best of both worlds. However, while such decisions might ease internal discord, they really are misguided, he added.
Yes, integration is possible. You can use Cisco phones as well as Skype for Business clients, but don't count on that dual ringing, presence aggregation, or unified voice mail to work that way you envision, especially at enterprise scale. "You never ever actually meet the goals you intended to reach when you started the UC conversation," Harrington said.
That's why he always advises clients to "go native," Harrington said. "While I get that we will have to do these integrations in the short term, I feel in the long term that native UC is definitely the way to go as much as possible. It just makes the most sense."
Since Harrington is a Skype for Business architect, you can assume he has his biases -- but I do think he makes a good point. Not only will an all-in-one UC stack get a company closer to a truly unified state of communications, but it should help lower costs, reduce complexity, and streamline support.
Brannen, perhaps, would say, "Who cares?" As he wrote in yesterday's post, he's pinning his hopes on a turning point in the making. It's a turning point fueled by a couple of trends: the rise of young corporate leadership not so enamored with their desktop phones, and the development of easy-to-use mobility-first team collaboration tools a la Cisco Spark and others. And it's a turning point, he noted, that could give good reason for even the most conservative of companies to "ditch their old PBX and voice mail with a social-based collaboration ecosystem, completely skipping generations of UM/UC/UCC."
I can't help but think that's a bit pie in the sky, especially within larger enterprises, but I do agree, something has to give!
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