Unified Communications 2.0 and how to get there

At FOX GROUP we have been working with early adopter clients to develop unified communications (UC) strategies, architectures and migration plans since 2008. We have also been involved in multiple project implementations including our own internal conversion last year.

So what? you are probably thinking!!! You are absolutely right to think that.

Our VP and Chief Technology Advocate recently attended the 2012 UC Summit from May 6-9th, in San Diego, CA organized by UC Strategies.

This is an annual prestigious event designed to bring together leading consultants, solution integrators, VARs, Telecom Dealers and manufacturers including Avaya, Audio Codes, AVST, Cisco, IBM, Ingram Micro, IntelePeer, Interactive Intelligence, Microsoft, NEC, NET, Plantronics, Zeacom Communications Center to share trends, tips, and best practices.

Jim Burton, co-Founder of UC Strategies defines Unified Communications as “Communications integrated to optimize business processes”. We totally agree with his definition.

To help understand what UC is all about, we have develop our own visual to help highlight the various technology and business elements required to successfully evolve to next generation UC solutions.

UC 2.0 is the integration of computing, telecom and mobility technologies developed and delivered based on defined business user profiles.

By this visual we also highlight that one size does not fit all business users, nor do all business users need to have the same devices or applications in order to do their jobs.

During the various technology and business workshops, the participants discussed the different approaches to technologies.

Some of the alternative approaches in how to evolve to future UC environments include:

Migrate by rip and replace proprietary telecom systems and applications to next generation IT or telecom vendor solutions (single or multiple vendors).

Replace telecom technologies with telephone applications on computing systems, PC and mobile devices developed on customer owned equipment or hosted/cloud offers from single vendor.

Co-exist with legacy and replacement telephony and IT UC applications integrated together from multiple vendors.

The attendees also discussed and agreed that:

Vendors are still evolving and changing their products and solutions.

UC is still and emerging technology with emerging and competing standards with battles between telecom or IT owning the customer wallet.

Innovation can be a competitive differentiation for companies that can embrace UC solutions.

There are lots of gotchas for customers to be aware of for their acquisitions and to manage these next generation technologies.

What was Stephen’s takeaway from the various sessions he attended and what do I believe are the risks and benefits for business customers to invest in UC technologies?

1. Communications hardware is becoming a lowest cost commodity, the same as what has happened to computers, and low cost consumer applications have changed the thinking by business IT organizations and senior leaders to expect lower cost solutions.

2. As things move to the cloud and web-based applications, IT departments will no longer be required to design and deploy complex in-house technologies. Instead, they will need to develop the skills and abilities to gather and analyze business requirements and required technology functional requirements so that future vendors will be able to design, price and install appropriate UC technology solutions.

3. Vendors will, and continue to, struggle to design and deploy these complex customer-owned UC solutions that involve IT, telecom hardware and applications integrated together.

4. The cloud vendors will have challenges to get and manage the technical resources and skills required to design, install and successfully integrate the various telecom, computing and web-based applications together for various business organizations and user profiles.

5. What revenue will future VARs be able to obtain from business customers in this future world, and more importantly, what value will they be able to deliver?

6. Lastly, we wonder what future Canadian IT/telecom professionals’ skills, roles and organizations will look like within our own businesses. The evolution from technology controllers to technology enablers could be a tough one for some IT organizations.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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