Unified communications (UC) is at one time a nebulous and fluid concept and something that is increasingly necessary as communications platforms and devices proliferate.
UC also is changing over time, both in the technical approach and what is supported. It now incorporates social media and deals with a far more diverse universe of end-user devices and a population of users who often use gadgets that are unknown to the IT and telecom departments.
Accenture CIO Andrew Wilson used a Baseline commentary to address social collaboration, which is a related part of UC. Wilson makes the point that video conferencing, IM, blogs and wikis now are considered the norm in the enterprise. To get your company off on the right foot, Wilson believes it’s important to establish an agenda, be willing to experiment and provide support from the top down.
As the world of UC is growing more sophisticated, Marty Parker, the principal and co-founder of UniComm Consulting, used a post at InformationWeek to explain how the use case for UC differs according to department. In other words, one size does not fit all, and categorizing is appropriate. Parker encourages the creation of usage profiles among the disparate enterprise business groups:
These profiles let you change the question from "What enterprise communications products should we buy?" to "What do we need?" They help you break up your communication system into manageable pieces. You no longer have to implement one communications "solution" all at once. You can approach communications as a set of solutions that can be implemented in increments. Select the technology set needed for each usage profile, and then roll all of it out in a sequence that captures wave after wave of business improvements and returns on investment. Such an approach lowers risks and produces benefits faster.
Seven generic categories Parker suggests for these profiles are mobile field sales/service workers, collaboration teams, administration/information processing workers, retail workers, production teams, contact center agents and corporate staffs.
For other enterprises that fear the undertaking of creating such a complex network of communications solutions, UC lends itself well to hosted approaches. Like most hosted services, it frees organizations from almost all capital expenditures and the need to oversee the platforms. However, an organization going this route must be sure that their provider is performing optimally.
David Byrd uses a post at Telecom Reseller to lay out what organizations should look for in their hosted providers. The five elements he recommends are reliable network/software infrastructure, automated OSS/BSS, test labs that closely duplicate real conditions, LAN/WAN assessment tools and, of course, integrity.
The importance of UC is nowhere better illustrated than by Bright House Networks’ new offering. The cable operator is offering UC as a feature for its hosted voice business service, according to CED. The story says that the service includes video calling, IM and presence, desktop sharing and Web collaboration and it offers mobile apps for some Apple and Android devices.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at email@example.com and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.